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Working Wednesday: The Clumber Spaniel

The 'Bentley of spaniels' Clumber Spaniel is an ever more popular spaniel in the field. He is the heaviest of the spaniel family is used to flush game from thick heavy cover. They make great companions, with their temperament making them ideal all-round working and family dogs.

Working Clumber Spaniel:

People who own Clumber Spaniels swear by their ability. Once they get going on a shoot/training day they need little to no pushing on by their handler as their incredible natural instinct kicks in. They nose their way through the thickest of cover and are excellent game finders. However can take up to 2-3 years to mature.

Clumber working in thick cover

These chunky Spaniels are being bred back into the great working dogs they once used to be. In the Clumbers history, Victorians wanted a dog that was fit to work - many of these had patches of the sought after lemon/orange markings in working Clumbers - nowadays they have mostly been bred for showing which has made the majority of these spaniels a solid white colour. More recent careful selective breeding has led to smaller, more agile dogs where the traditional lemon/orange markings are more prominent in these spaniels.

Although they don't necessarily have the speed that a working Cocker or Springer has, if you are looking for a genuine rough shooting dog then these spaniels are definitely worth some consideration. A well-bred working Clumber have excellent noses with genuine enthusiasm towards work, as well as the ability and willingness to go all day long in all weather conditions.

Clumber History:

The clumber spaniel is a breed of dog that, after the war, was all but extinct. But since the establishment in 1984 of the Working Clumber Spaniel Society there are now a hundred or more clumbers working in the shooting field.

The clumber spaniel was originally introduced from France by the second Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire in the late 18th century. They are noted for being able to work steadily in dense undergrowth, they can be strong swimmers and all have pink noses. Although the early history of the clumber spaniel is sketchy, their voice suggests their forebears may have included basset hounds, Alpine spaniels and even St Bernards.

Look at the wonderful Victorian paintings of Clumber spaniels and you will see a dog that has only a passing resemblance to the Clumbers that dominate the show benches today. This sporting spaniel was developed by the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire as an active, agile dog, bred for working in the beating line. The original Clumbers were reputed to weigh no more than 30lb: today’s show spaniels weigh more than twice as much.

The Clumber reached its peak more than a century ago: it enjoyed royal patronage, with Prince Albert, King Edward VII and King George V all Clumber enthusiasts. Sadly, its popularity declined in the 20th century, and if it wasn’t for the dedication of the show community the breed may well have become extinct. However, the demands of the show bench led to the development of a much bigger, less sporting animal. Until recently the breed standard even required a “massive spaniel”.

Royal Connections:

Clumber Spaniels have been favoured by royalty being kept and bred by Prince Albert, King Edward VII, King George V and more recently HRH Princess Anne the Princess Royal. The breed became popular, particularly with the nobility. His Majesty King George V kept a large team of Clumbers on the Sandringham Estate.

Clumber Fun Facts:

  • They are classed by the UK KC as a vulnerable breed.

  • Current registration colours are Lemon & White, Orange & White, White & Lemon and White & Orange.

  • They are surprisingly heavy and can weigh up to 35kg!

  • They are very rare with less than 300 new dogs being registered each year.

  • The name has been taken from Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire

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