As well as the various well known Hound breeds such as the Wolfhound, Foxhound, Staghound and Beagle, Britain has a long tradition with its “home grown” Gundogs which have been developed for specific hunting purposes over the centuries; breeds such as the Pointer, English and Irish Setters, Irish Red and White Setter, Gordon Setter, Golden Retriever, English and Welsh Springer Spaniels, English Cocker Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Clumber Spaniel and Sussex Spaniel.
The Labrador Retriever, possibly the most iconic of gundogs in Britain (even though it originally came from North America) is still the most popular gundog breed with in excess of 35,000 puppies registered with the English Kennel Club in 2013. The English Cocker Spaniel with 22,943 and the English Springer Spaniel with 11,316 registrations maintained their continued popularity.
While there will always be a place in the UK sporting field for its native dog breeds, more Guns, Beaters, Pickers Up and Field Trial competitors are turning to European gundogs especially the Hunter, Pointer, Retriever (HPR) breeds such as the German Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers, the Korthals Griffon, Weimaraners, Viszlas and Spinone. The versatility of the HPR breeds makes them an ideal driven and rough shooting companion.
While the main shooting and trialling season in the UK extends from mid August to the beginning of February, the summer months are taken up with introductory and corrective training, fitness work and competitions like Spring Pointing Tests.
Spring Pointing Tests are an excellent way to assess a dog’s working drive and its ability to hunt and point game, in particular, pheasant and partridge. Spring Pointing Tests are primarily held to give young dogs and novice handlers an introduction to field hunting and trialling and are meant to be conducted in a relaxed, social environment.
As the name suggests the Spring Pointing season in the UK is March to April, the crops being just high enough to “hold” birds thus giving the young dogs the chance to hunt and point them.
UK Field Trials and Gundog Working Tests
The following passage was extracted from the UK Kennel Club website. The Kennel club is the governing body in the UK for all canine related activities.
“Field Trials were developed to test the working ability of Gundogs in competitive conditions.
Trials resemble, as closely as possible, a day’s shooting in the field and dogs are expected to work with all manner of game, from rabbits and hares, to partridges and pheasants.
Many of our best loved breeds were traditionally developed to help man in hunting. Labrador Retrievers gathered game in the field; Cocker Spaniels flushed and retrieved game; Pointers and Setters ranged over the fields helping us seek out birds and rabbits for the table. A great many still help us in shooting and hunting today.
Field Trials are very popular, attracting hundreds of competitors and are still very much part of our countryside sports. If you have a love and understanding of the countryside and like to see dogs working as they were intended to, this friendly and relaxed sport may be just what you are looking for”.
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