Our good friend Alfred O. King
did such an excellent job researching and accounting "The Llewellin Setter"
Origin & Historical Development in America in his book it only seemed
natural to use his writings about the American Llewellin Setters here with
What is a Llewellin Setter?
By Alfred O. King, Sr.
March 21, 1945 - October 14, 2011
(reprinted with his permission)
The Llewellin descends directly
from the longest existing breed of Setters in the world. The Laverack base
of the breed goes back to the 1500's.
By the early 1900's in the USA
there were no lines of English Setters that did not have the Llewellin
bred into them. The Llewellin blood proved to be so superior in competition
that there were no strains of Native or English Setters left pure. The
Llewellin was recognized as a breed on its own. All other strains were
recognized as English Setters. From the beginning a Llewellin and English
Setter bred together resulted in the registration of the pups as English
For years the Llewellin was the
dominant dog in competitions. The changes in the format of trials and the
use of Pointers are the factors which resulted in the change of opinion
of what Setters truly are.
The Llewellin, a pure bred strain
of English Setter is I believe superior to all other breeds of Setters,
both recent imports and continental breeds, for bird hunting in the US.
I do try not to be prejudiced BUT I have hunted the Llewellin for 35 years
and have hunted against pretty much all other setting pointing dogs. I
honestly can't remember when my dogs have been 2nd best. They have been
bred for over one hundred years to hunt our type of Game Birds and cover
and terrain. More and more dedicated foot hunting sportsmen will insist
that they have the best nose of any dog.
Truly their sense of smell is
the most important factor in their breeding. Their single minded ability
to find game birds is as good today as it was over one hundred years ago.
Bird hunting for centuries was
for sport and food. For me that is what it has always been. Competition
first began as a medium to make available the best of the best. Because
of the change of direction of the Trials the wider running dogs became
THE FOLLOWING EXERPTS ARE FROM
THE LLEWELLIN SETTER - ORIGIN AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT, WRITTEN BY ME
(Alfred King) AND PUBLISHED IN 1992.
The first setting dogs were introduced
in England and the British Isles for the art and sport of Falconry by Royalty.
The art of Falconry was quite a popular thing in those days. The Setters
of that time, known as Land Spaniels, went with the hawking party to the
field, they quartered the hunting area, as dogs do today, and would show
the group where the birds were. Then the Hawks hood was removed and he
was unleashed to circle above whereupon the birds were flushed to be caught
and killed by the Hawk. The actions of Falconry are shown in the writings
of Richard Suflet, in 1600, by his description of his dog setting birds;
as quoted in THE AMERICAN BOOK OF THE DOG, in 1891, "Warning of what he
scenteth, and to prepare himself and his hawke for the pleasure he seeketh,
and when he is assured of his game, then to quest out loudly and freely."
"The hawker trained his Spaniel
to set; then he cast off his hawks, which ascended in circles, and 'waited
on' until his master roused the quarry from its concealment, when the hawk
pounced upon it like a pistol shot."
LOUIS XVIII of France loved to
hunt with his Falcons and had an extensive kennel. It is said he was a
great breeder of dogs. The old writers mention his dogs as being speckled
all over with White and Black, with mingled colours inclined to a marble
blewe which was used to point game birds which were then flushed to be
killed by Falcons waiting overhead. This "MARBLE BLEWE" is what we call
the Blue Belton color. This coloring is seen in Llewellin Setters.
In 1624, Louis XVIII, King of
France sent England's King James I, (1603-1625), some of his setters and
one of his servants to instruct King James the French method of Falconry.
Mr. James Hay, the Earl of Carlisle, was a personal friend and keeper of
the royal kennels of King James at this time. This is undoubtedly where
he acquired his "Blue Belton" strain. Mr. Hay played a major role in developing
a portion of the Llewellin blood. You will learn more about him and his
castle's line later on. As mentioned before the art of Falconry was strictly
a sport of royalty and titled men. In those days the common man was not
allowed to hunt or kill any game whatsoever. All the land belonged to the
King, as you probably remember in the old English novels. In the statutes
of King James 's law it is interesting to see how highly he valued his
setting dogs and was determined to keep them from being mongrelized by
the common man. It is recorded in CLASSIC ENCYCLOPEDIA in 1880, "That no
person shall be deemed qualified to keep setting dogs who is not possessed
of an inheritance of the value of Pounds 10 per annum, a lease for life
of Pounds 30 per annum, or who is worth Pounds 200 per annum, unless he
be the son of a Baron or Knight or Heir apparent to an Esquire."
When netting birds replaced the
hawk in England in latter years, the use of Falcons declined and the art
of Falconry, for a period, was just about lost. Netting required the same
type and style of dog. Dr. John Caius describes the procedure used in his
1570 writings, ENGLISH DOGGES; as recorded in CLASSIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, "The
place being knowne by the means of the dogge, the fowler immediately openeth
and spreadeth his net, intending to take them, which being done the dogge
at the accustomed becke or visuall signe of his master ryseth up by and
by, and draweth neerer to the fowle that by his presence they might be
the authours or their owne insnaring, and be ready entangled in the prepared
A quote from THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
DOG, under the heading SPORTING, in 1904 gives a more detail description
how they netted the birds. "Subsequently the use of a net was brought into
practice, being sometimes drawn towards the place when the Setting dog
marked the game, and at other times cast, like a fishing net by some of
the skillful handlers in the east, over the suspected spot."
THE BOOK OF THE DOG, written
in 1880, by Mr. Bernard Shaw, talks about netting and the Setter; and states
"It is, of course, perfectly well knew that the modern Setter usually points
his game standing up as a Pointer does, and the abandonment of netting
is unquestionably responsible for this alteration in the method of a Setter
carrying out his work, before, when the sportsman was anxious to net as
many birds as he could, it was most essential that they should be as undisturbed
as possible, and the presence of a dog would, increase the chances of their
being frightened away before the net was fired for their capture, the chances
of the dog being seen by the game were naturally lessened when he would
lay down, and this, no doubt, was the reason for his being broken to do
so. Now things are much altered, and the sportsman only wants the whereabouts
of the game to be indicated, so that he may walk them up. There is, however
A PALPABLE TENDENCY TO CROUCH STILL OBSERVABLE IN MANY OF THE BEST BRED
SETTERS , which is unquestionably accounted for by the former of the breed."
Dr. Johannes Caius's writings
of 1570 titled ENGLISH DOGGES, contains one of my favorite descriptions
of a setter with the same distinct characteristics of the Llewellin Setter
of today. The Llewellin still retains this instinct to crouch and sometimes
freeze on point at whatever angle the fowl is first discovered, then advancing
further to discern the exact current location of the birds. The act of
laying his belly to the ground was for the use of the net. In this document
his use of the word "Setter" was the first time the "Setter" name was given
as a generic name. Dr. Caius wrote, "Another sort of dog be serviceable
for fowling making no noise either with tongue or foot whilst they follow
the game. These attend diligently upon their masters, and frame their conditions
to such beck's, motions and gestures as it shall please him to exhibit,
inclining to the right hand or yielding to the left. In making mention
of fowl my meaning here is of partridge or quail. When he hath found the
bird he keepeth sure and fast silence, and stayeth his steps, and will
proceed no farther, and with close, covert, watching ere, layeth his belly
to the ground, and so creepeth forward like a worm. When he approacheth
near to the place where the bird is, he lays down, and with a mark of his
paws betrayeth the place of the bird's last abode, whereby it is supposed
that this kind of dog is called a Setter; being a name both consonant and
agreeable with his quality."
Doesn't that sound like that
old Llewellin you once owned or someone you knew owned. "These attend diligently
upon their masters and frame their conditions to such becks, motions, and
gestures as it shall please him to exhibit, (for you), with a mark of his
paws betrayeth the birds, last abode."
Haven't you ever watched an old
Llewellin; when he points game as you approach him casually. His old eyes
roll over toward your direction and looks up at you and seems to be saying,
"Careful they're right here". I believe these old bird-dogs were the main
foundation for the Llewellins. In the old writings giving characteristics
of a "Setter" they coincide with the characteristics of a Llewellin. I
want to reiterate that I try not to be to prejudiced with my writing, but
facts are facts.
Another good description of a
Setter of this same period is shown in Richard Suflet 1600 writings, as
recorded in THE AMERICAN BOOK OF THE DOG. He is, "Gentle, loving, and courteous
to man, more than any other sort of dog whatsoever; he loved to hunt the
wing of any bird, especially Partridge, Pheasant, Quail and such. You choose
him by his shape, beauty, mettle, and cunning hunting, good composition,
round, thick head; short nose; broad breast; short and well knit joints;
round feet; a short, broad backe. His beauty is discerned in his colour,
of which the Motleys or Pied", (Belton Colored), "are the best. His mettle
is discerned by his free, untiring, laboursome ranging, beating a field
over and over, and not leaving a furrow untrodden, or one unsearched, where
any is likely hidden; and when he doth it, most courageously with a wanton,
playing tail, and a busie labouring nose, neither desisting nor showing
less delight in his labour at night than he did in the morning. The Land
Spaniel called the "Setter" must neither hunt, range, nor retaine, more
or less that as his master appointeth, taking the whole limit of whatsoever
they do from the eye or hand of the instructor.", (No whistle necessary).
"They must never quest (bark) at any time, what occasion soever may happen,
must hunt close and mute," (When they find game), "they shall suddenly
stop. Then shall your Setter stick, and by no persuasion go farther till
you yourself come in and use your pleasure." Again here, allow me to say,
these dogs definitely had the same characteristics of today's devoted Llewellins.
There are enough written sources
and documents to prove their origin. They originated from the Kennel of
James Hay the Earl of Carlisle, who was noted for having Beltons. His was
a excellent breed of Setter. As I mentioned, each Castle, that was interested
in Game bird hunting developed their own breed or line of Setter. They
kept extensive records. If you have read many Edwardian and Victorian novels
you will understand the extent to which each Titled Gentry kept tabs on
every detail of life on their estates. This procedure served to establish,
record and improve each of the strains, before Kennel Clubs existed.
The Setters that France's Louis
XVIII sent to England's King James I in 1624 were "SPECKLED ALL OVER WITH
WHITE AND BLACK, WITH MINGLED COLOURS INCLINED TO A MARBLE BLEWE". This
is what we call a "Blue Belton" today. As you may remember he sent some
of these Blue Setters to the care of James Hay the Earl of Carlisle, in
Mr. Edward Laverack in his book
THE SETTER, writes under the heading of, "THE NAWORTH CASTLE, AND FEATHERSTONE
CASTLE BREED OF SETTERS. There is a very fine old breed of setters, of
present but little known. It has been, and still is, in the possession
of the Earl of Carlisle, Narworth Castle, Brampton, Cumberland.
This breed of setters I remember
fifty years ago, when I rented the moors belonging to the late Earl of
Carlisle, in the vicinity of Gillesland, ... "This rare old breed has probably
been retained in the mentioned families as long as any other strain has."
In 1825 Mr. Edward Laverack went
to Carlisle to meet Rev. A. Harrison, who was noted for his Beltons. He
had been told from a number of sources that Rev. Harrison had some excellent
Field Setters. In 1880, the CLASSIC ENCYCLOPEDIA also comments on these
dogs, "The Beltons, famous in the Northern Counties, are a superb race,
and form the great base of the now famous Laverack Setter, on which again
is founded the majority of the great kennels so favorably known throughout
the Country, and which has an immense popularity with American Sportsmen".
Stories were told about Rev.
Harrison's dogs uncanny pointing ability. At this time THE English people
bred more for show than hunting ability. Most of Rev. Harrison's dogs were
"Marble Blue". On this trip to Carlisle, Mr. Laverack bought OLD MOLL,
a Sliver Gray Belton. Mr. Laverack wrote in his book THE SETTER, "The MOST
PERFECT specimen of Setter I have ever seen (was) the Rev. A. Harrison's
Blue Belton "Old Moll" (she was particularly strong, powerful, and compacted
in build." He liked her so well that when she came in season, he took her
back to be breed to her full brother, PONTO a Black Gray Belton, even knowing
there was great many other dogs in this area supposedly just as good. As
it turned out he was glad he made this choice. The pups turned out to be
such superb dogs that he returned to Rev. Harrison and purchased PONTO
Mr. Laverack's purchase of Ponto
and Old Moll are the foundation for what we know today as a LLEWELLIN SETTER.
A lengthy and documented detail of Mr. Laverack's breeding program may
be found in my book.
The author of THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
DOG, in 1904, confirms that Mr. Laverack was, "The greatest authority on
the Setter." He was renowned for his knowledge of the Setter and for his
breeding program. Mr. Edward Laverack's book THE SETTER, written in 1872,
was the first authentic record of Setters. The complete title of his book
is "THE SETTER: WITH NOTICES OF THE MOST EMINENT BREEDS NOW EXTANT." His
was the first written record of any breeds given at the time of their existence.
Mr. James Watson in his book,
THE DOG BOOK, written in 1912, makes this comment concerning Mr. Laverack's
book, "But for Mr. Laverack we should know nothing of the various strains
kept by sporting gentlemen of prominence throughout England and Scotland,
and in his book, 'THE SETTER,' is to be found all that later writers knew
about the various strains and which they made use of without compunction
as original. The first Kennel Club Calendar and Stud Book of England in
existence was based on his documentation of each breed.
Mr. Laverack's Ponto and Old
Moll were found to be two of the finest specimens that the Rev. Harrison
had bred. They were said by many to be what we call today a 'Natural'.
Mr. Laverack traveled back to Carlisle numerous times on hunting trips.
Rev. Harrison had been breeding this line for over 35 years. As mentioned
earlier, King James I bred these same dogs in 1624 as Louis XVIII had bred
them for a number of years prior to this. Mr. Laverack, in his book, says
"From these two he continued the strain without the admixture of other
blood." He also shows a pedigree to substantiate it. Showing how he had
bred his dogs for over fifty years. Prior to this time, this line has been
in existence for well over 200 years.
Mr. Laverack, in his book, The
SETTER, says "Many years before the 'Field' was in existence, or Dog Shows
or Field Trials thought of, my breed or Setters had made their mark, and
were well known and appreciated by hundreds of sportsmen in England, Ireland
and the highlands of Scotland, where I have shot ever since I was eighteen
years of age." Later in his book he states, "I can say with truth it has
taken me a lifetime (being, as I have said, over Seventy-three years of
age) to retain and keep perfect this breed."
Mr. Edward Laverack was a man
ahead of his own time with his breeding program. He states in his book,
"If I may so term it, it is the force..... .of constantly breeding from
the same good strain that has made all sporting dogs what they are. To
make my meaning clearer, it is my opinion that a breed of dogs carefully
tutored, generation after generation, acquire from habit and usage an innate
predisposition to hunt intuitively, which causes them to be superior to
dogs whose faculties have not been so developed and cultivated, or in other
words, imparted an inborn goodness. It is a fact that I have run dogs of
this breed for three weeks daily, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and others possessing
the same blood have done the same." Llewellins are still "all day hunters".
Now we see his opinion of, "Breeding,
and the necessity of pure blood." He continues by saying, "Perhaps nothing
is so generally little studied and understood, or properly attended to,
as breeding, which requires not only great experience, observation, and
knowledge of back ancestry, but also great patience and perseverance."
Mr. Laverack bred for a natural
bird dog. You can tell this from the following quote. "The most paramount,
or of as much importance as physical form, is an innate predisposition
to hunt, and point naturally' in search of game."
Mr. Arnold Burgess in THE AMERlCAN
KENNEL AND SPORTING FIELD, of 1876, writes this about Laverack's dogs,
"Many of the English words (writings) say that a whelp will seldom hunt
or point before fifteen months: for myself, I would not own a breed like
this. Laverack on the contrary says his dogs will 'hunt, range, point,
and back intuitively at six months,' and in my own comparatively very limited
experience, I have had many similar to his in this aspect."
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY DOG, in
1904 says, "to Mr. Laverack in the beginning and middle of the last century,
and to Mr. Purcell-Llewellin in latter half of it, the breed of English
Setters owes its chief development."
With all this information gathered
one can no doubt form a number of opinions. Without any doubt Mr. Laverack's
dogs were of great beauty and form. Indeed this seems to have been the
main objective. In my personal opinion, I do not believe his main objective
was beauty and form strictly for the purpose of 'winning at bench' but
beauty and form in the field as well. For to him no dog was a Setter without
this 'possession of beauty and form'. A point which is stressed many times
in his writings. Please remember how often in his own writings he stressed
and emphasized the great importance of NATURAL capabilities, sagacity,
and adaptability for finding game. He also stressed that his dogs proved
out in the field at an early age.
My book details much more concerning
Mr. Laverack's goals - reputation - breeding program - descriptions of
dogs - the necessity of pure blood - natural ability - pups hunting at
6 months - interbreeding not in-bred.
In the central chapter of my
book I attempted to show how Mr. Llewellin took the basis of the Laverack
dogs and developed them into a phenomenal breed of Field Dog, ultimately
the Llewellin Setter. First of all I will give you a brief background on
Mr. Richard Llewellin Purcell Llewellin. He was an unusual gentlemen. You
will more fully understand what I mean as we continue. A few later called
him eccentric. He was certainly a dedicated man in whatever he attempted
to do. In other words he was very strong willed.
He was of royal descent and owned
a large amount of land, including an estate in England as well as another
in Wales. With this enormous amount of wealth in land, he also had a "great
sum of money in banks". In other words he was financially able to do as
He was an avid hunter; but game
bird hunting was his weakness, as it is with a lot of us. He also preferred
Setters over Pointers. He like most Englishmen considered beauty a must.
He favored the art of Falconry. For this purpose he preferred the use of
a pointing dog over that of a flushing dog, which was more common at that
time because of the abundance of game.
Mr. C. B. Whitford in 1907 had
the following strong statement to say about Mr. Llewellin's breeding program
in an article presented to FIELD AND FANCY, a magazine publication, "Mr.
Llewellin was the most enthusiastic breeder in England, if we were to judge
him fairly by his works. He wanted to create the best group of Setters
possible and failures did not frighten him. He studied crosses, and having
decided in his own mind that they would prove good proceeded to try them,
and when they failed he discarded them." He knew what he wanted but was
not quickly successful in accomplishing his goals. He did not at first
set out to create a new breed, he simply could not find the dog to fulfill
all his expectations.
The Llewellin Setter was described
by Mr. C. B. Whitford in another of the series of articles written for
FIELD AND FANCY magazine in 1907, "That they form a distinct group, and
may be said to be the only true breed of setters in existence today anywhere
in the world. These dogs have had true breed qualifications for about a
quarter of a century." He goes on to say that Mr. Llewellin, "Has done
more for the Setter in America today than any man living."
Mr. Whitford further states that
Mr. Llewellin, "Created and developed" the dominant breed of Setters in
America for many years. It has practically driven all other varieties of
breeds or strains of Setters from our (American) Field Trials. In fact,
it is a very rare thing to see any other than a pure Llewellin or high
grade Llewellin Setter (which is a Llewellin-English cross) at our Field
Trials, the so-called (straight bred) English Setters there are unable
to compete. Our Field Setters are practically all Llewellins or high grade
LIewellins." Mr. Whitford is recognized as one of the most renowned Sports
writers of his day. He followed all the Field Trials in his work as a highly
qualified trainer and as an individual enthusiast. Over the years he wrote
many articles concerning various aspects of trials. (You must understand
the first field trials were not like our horse-back trials of today. It
was a gun dog competition in a hunting situation.)
Mr. Whitford in the same article
goes on to praise Mr. Llewellin's breeding program, "Now, it must not be
supposed that Mr. Llewellin bought a few good Setters, bred them together
and thus created his breed. Nor did he have a streak of luck in mating
a few good dogs. Neither did he have someone create his breed for him.
On the contrary, he went about it in a methodical way, and by dint of much
hard work, skillful crossing and selection produced a group of Setters
distinct in blood lines and field qualities. During the years he was actively
engaged in forming his breed Mr. Llewellin spent a small fortune on his
Kennel, and he spent his money liberally without any further hope of reward
than of having the satisfaction that might come to any enthusiastic breeder
who was successful. Few people realize how great was the expense of conducting
the Llewellin Kennels. Setters were bred by the hundreds, and out of the
great number bred comparatively few selections from a large number of young
dogs that Mr. Llewellin was able to lay well the foundation of his breed
and by the same process he was able to carry it on and improve it. This
method of breeding a large number of setters from which few selections
were made was employed by Mr. Llewellin for years, so that it is no wonder
having good blood to begin with, he was able to create a breed of Setters
that were pre-eminent for years at the English Field Trials and won more
at American Field Trials than all other varieties of field dogs combined."
At the time of the writing of
Mr. Laverack's book he dedicated it to Mr. Llewellin. At that time Mr.
Llewellin was running the first of the Laveracks he had purchased. He was
still not satisfied as they were not consistent. He had already tried the
Irish and Gordon strains available as well as crosses of each of the three
Mr. A. F. Hochwalt author of
THE MODERN SETTER, in 1923 writes, "It was but natural that Mr. Llewellin
was still unsatisfied and when the Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack dogs began to have
a vogue, his investigating turn of mind led him in that direction, with
the result that he gave the matter serious attention."
After the Irish and Irish-Laveracks,
Mr., Llewellin went to the straight bred Laveracks. These dogs were gorgeous
animals and could win any bench show. The first ones he bought were Prince,
Countess and Nellie. They had done exceptionally well in field trials.
The problem with these dogs was they had their off days when their bad
traits would show through.
Mr. L. H. Smith (who imported
the first Llewellins to America) refers to meeting Mr. Llewellin in 1873
at the same dog show where he met Mr. Laverack. In his article published
in OUTING in 1896 he states, "He purchased Prince and his beautiful sisters,
Countess and Nellie, all pure Laverack. Countess and Nellie were splendid
specimens of the breed. Mr. Llewellin spent much time and money on their
training and won many prizes at field trials with them, but they were unreliable.
They could and did do brilliant work, but at times, were completely uncontrollable,
when their willful and reckless behavior would have disgraced untrained
puppies." This fault was NOT found in the earlier dogs bred by Mr. Laverack
but was attributed to the inbreeding he practiced for too long a period
without an out-cross.
Other Laveracks bought at first
were Lill II, Phantom, Princess, Puzzle, Daisy, and Rock. It was thought
that the females were better than the males. At this time he still had
not bred any Duke-Rhoebe-Laveracks.
These first two Laverack bitches
were much liked by Mr. Llewellin because of the reason Mr. Hochwalt quoted
in his book, of 1923, THE MODERN SETTER, as follows, "They bred along lines,
mostly blue or lemon beltons, were silky in coat, beautiful in expression
and generally well balanced." Hochwalt concludes saying in reference to
Laverack dogs, "The bitches, it was stated, were shiftier than the dogs,
and taking the sexes collectively, there were more good dogs among the
gentler sex than the other. Their uniformity in breeding to type is evidence
that whatever 'secrets' Mr. Laverack possessed, he was able to breed true."
Please remember this statement is in reference to Mr. Laverack's dogs at
the end of his breeding era.
In his book THE SETTER, Mr. Laverack,
in 1872 says himself the only two of his dogs good enough to compete were,
Mr. R. Ll. Purcell Llewellin's Countess or Mr. Garth's Daisy; these are
the only two pure specimens of the Laverack Setters that ever contested
at the trials, and I think I may say their performances have satisfied
Mr. Hockwalt also confirms this
in his book THE MODERN SETTER, in 1923, "But with the exception of Countess
and Nellie none of these Laveracks could be termed Field dogs."
Mr. C. B. Whitford agrees with
this in his series of articles for. FIELD AND FANCY magazine, written in
1906 through 1907 "Laverack Setters were making no headway in the English
Field Trials after Countess and Nellie ran."
This statement shows that Mr.
Llewellin picked the best to start from.
Mr. Whitford also writes, in
another article for FIELD AND FANCY , "However out of all the Laveracks
Mr. Llewellin owned and had broken Countess and Nellie were the only two
fit for, competition. Others who were quite as fond of the Laverack as
Mr. Llewellin was, had no better success with them. Still, when these closely
inbred dogs were crossed on other Setters the progeny were a success.
After Countess's and Nellie's
work in the early 1870's no Laverack Setter accomplished much in the English
Field Trials. Up until the mid 1870's none had competed in the American
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY DOG states
that Mr. Llewellin was accredited with the development of the Laverack.
Laverack had gotten old and would not conform to adding new strains to
further develop his breed of dog. At this point Mr. Llewellin took over
using all the knowledge he had acquired while breeding the Irish and Gordon.
You can see that Mr. Laverack
approved of Mr. Llewellin's breeding program because his book, THE SETTER,
written in 1872, was dedicated to Mr. Llewellin. He wrote, "To R. Ll. Purcell
Llewellin, Esq. of Tregwynt, Letterstone. Pembrokeshire, South Wales. Who
has endeavored, and is still endeavoring, by sparing neither expense nor
trouble, to bring to perfection the 'Setter'. This little volume is dedicated
by his sincere friend and admirer, Edward Laverack."
Mr. Laverack also writes in his
book, "Visiting Mr. Purcell Llewellin some short time ago.....From a conversation
I had with Mr. Llewellin (quite approve of the system he is adopting in
endeavoring to rectify the defects of the male and female by judicious
breeding. This gentleman is evidently a great enthusiast, and deserves
success and the warmest thanks of setter breeders for his great energy
and perseverance in endeavoring to bring the setter to the highest state
Mr. Hochwalt states in his book,
BIRD DOGS, in 1922, that, "The Laverack strain was evolved later (after
Mr. Laverack wrote his book) and many years after they had a great vogue,
the `Field Trial Breed' subsequently called the Llewellin, was founded."
Mr. Llewellin himself always referred to his dogs as "The Field Trial Breed".
It is said he was never comfortable with the breed being named "Llewellins".
Mr. Whitford in his FIELD AND
FANCY articles, writes, "Mr. Llewellin decided that the best blood with
which to found a breed was the blood of Duke, Rhoebe, and the Laveracks.
Where upon he proceeded to buy pretty much all of the blood there was to
Mr. Llewellin sent his earlier
kennel manager, Mr. G. Teasdale Bucknell, out scouring the country and
told him to buy them all at any cost. By 1871, at the same time Countess
and Nellie were running in trials, he had acquired almost all the Duke-Laverack,
Rhoebe-Laverack and Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack blood that was in England. He
quickly became the only place for the American sportsman to buy this blood
combination. At this time they were still not established as a breed (Llewellins),
because they were the first crosses of this blood. They were nevertheless
the foundation of his breed.
Some of the first Duke-Rhoebe-Laverack
crosses Mr. Llewellin encountered, bred by others, were Mr. Statter's Bruce,
by Laverack's Dash out of old Rhoebe. Also Rob Roy, a Field Trial winner,
who was by Laverack's Fred II, out of Rhoebe. He also saw others bred this
way. He realized that the fine Laverack dogs bred to coarse dogs made good
Mr. Llewellin then went for the
source of all these excellent crosses and introduced into his breeding
program Mr. Barclay Field's Duke and Mr. Thomas Statter's Rhoebe.
Isn't it interesting to realize
that it only took one man, first, at the right place and the right time,
and secondly, with both the desire and means, to see the potential and
forever alter the course of the Setter breed.
Mr. Whitford goes on to say,
"Mr. Llewellin therefore abandoned the pure Laveracks as Field Trial dogs
and looked about for the best old English strains for a cross." These turned
out to be the Duke and Rhoebe blood.
Mr. Hochwalt, in 1923, in THE
MODERN SETTER, writes "Duke and Rhoebe are such important factors in the
early breeding of our present day field trial setters."
Mr. Whitford, in his FIELD AND
FANCY articles, praised Duke's abilities, stating, "Duke was at that time
counted one of the best Setters in England."
Rhoebe was where the coarse blood
was introduced. She was large, long and low, with very few characteristics
of what would be called a Setter type, character or quality of Modern Setters.
She was a very heavily marked black dog with white and tan. Her body was
almost solid black, with white on her legs and heavy tan on cheeks, insides
her hind legs and breaching.
Rhoebe's dam, Statter's Psyche,
was thought to be her greatest influence. Psyche was half Gordon and half
South Esk (now extinct breed).
Rhoebe never made a name for
herself as a Hall of Fame Winner but she produced the greatest number of
winners in the history of Field Trialing in the late 1800's. She whelped
the great field dogs Dan, Dick and Dora.
TWENTIETH CENTURY DOG, in 1904
tells us that Mr. Randon Lee says even among the top Laveracks Mr., Llewellin
purchased he discarded some of them. "But even amongst these he found many
unsatisfactory and inconvenient peculiarities of mind, habit, and instinct
to fit them for attaining his ideal. So he once more set to work experimenting,
and the result was the strain of setters that bears his name (Llewellin
Setters) a blend of the pure Laverack, with blood from Mr. Barclay Field's
and Mr. Statter's Kennels and the characteristic of size with quality.
That they possess quality and beauty of appearance their show-bench achievements
have proved, whilst at the same time their Field Trial record as a Setter
Kennel has never been approached. This was in the 'Eighties (1880), when
Mr. Purcell-Llewellin carried all before him-when he refused 1200 Pounds
for a dog and 1000 Pounds for a couple of bitches of his own breeding.
Having once established a strain to his fancy, no cross of any sort was
allowed to invade it, and the various families in his kennel preserved
and transmuted to their progeny their likeness, habits, and methods of
Mr. Hochwalt states in another
of his books THE MODERN SETTER, in 1923, "To sum up this Duke-Rhoebe breeding,
we find it is a Sort of mixtry', as the Scotchman said, but undoubtedly
it was just this assortment of violent outcrosses gotten together in the
proper combination that was needed to bring forth the latent qualities
of the effete Laverack."
Mr. Llewellin certainly realized
that this was just what he was looking for to accomplish his goals. The
over-bred blood of the Laverack needed stimulation and that stimulation
was the coarse blood of Duke and Rhoebe. This coarse blood did not produce
a high quality show dog as most of the Englishman preferred, therefore
few English breeders liked this type of 'Field Dog' that couldn't also
win at shows. By our present day standards they were still classy, good
"THE LLEWELLIN SETTER", my book
of 170 pages, goes into greater detail on these dogs, their characteristics,
performances and what each contributed along with more detail on Mr. Llewellins
In 1871 Mr. Llewellin bought
his first pure Duke-Rhoebe dogs which would become the foundation stock
of his Llewellin Setters, Their names were Dan and Dick. He also went back
shortly and bought their sister Dora. She was the third Duke-Rhoebe cross
It was written in THE NEW HUNTERS
ENCYCLOPEDIA in the early 1900' that "Llewellin's Dan was a dog of great
pre potency and when he was crossed with the flighty Laverack bitches he
seemed to add just what was needed and his offspring were dog's of sterling
The finest example of his offspring
was the great and notable GLADSTONE, whelped in 1876. Gladstone is considered
to be the fountain head of the six pillars of the American Llewellins.
To give you an idea of how quickly
the Llewellin line developed let us note here the whelp of this 'family'.
Dan's year of birth was 1871, Gladstone's year of birth was 1876, Gladstone
IV's year of birth was 1896. Gladstone IV was the winner of the first American
Grand National Championship ever held.
R. Hochwalt's opinion of Dan,
in his book THE MODERN SETTER in 1923, was, "Dan seemed to nick remarkably
well with all the Laverack bitches and no matter what their quality or
individuality, he seemed to be able to produce good puppies. The erratic
and gun-shy Lill II, bred to him brought forth Lincoln, who came to America
in later years and was the foundation of the Gleam blood (which I will
tell you more about later in this book), through other combinations. Petrel
was another bitch of little individual value, but she was bred to Dan and
then sold to L. H. Smith, of Strathroy, Ontario. Coming to America in whelp
she brought forth a litter from which was born the great Gladstone (as
I have said, one of the greatest of all our early American Llewellins and
the beginning of the American-LlewelIins, as they became known). Mr. Llewellin
had great success with this cross, at Field Trials. As a consequence, it
was not long until a great demand ensued for this wonderful field trial
breed (Llewellins), from sportsman in America, and so it came about that
dogs from the Llewellin Kennels began coming over about as early, or nearly
so, as they did from the kennels of Edward Laverack."
Immediate success came his way.
After all his years of perseverance he was satisfied with a consistent
line. He was not the originator of this strain because he had watched Mr.
Statter, Mr. Field and the elder Armstrong breed these crosses. Why these
gentlemen did not carry the strain further has always been a puzzle. This
seems to substantiate that Mr. Llewellin truly did buy up the majority
of the lines. After Mr. Llewellin had such success with these Duke-Rhoebe-Laveracks,
others of course followed him.
As mentioned before the Dan-Laverack,
which in the writings of Stonehenge was considered to be the first "Llewellyns"
Mr. Llewellin bred, pups were bold and aggressive while the Dora pups were
more docile and gentle, some people even thought timid. Llewellins are
not timid, they just aren't hard headed and stubborn. They are an understanding
dog that know what you tell them without any force.
The combination of these bloods
in subsequent generations made the perfect combination. This type of blood
is what made the Llewellins evolve into such a loving companion, along
with excellent field qualities. Mr. Whitford states in his articles for
FIELD AND FANCY, in 1907, "After the first cross-dogs had passed away and
their progeny had been bred together there was more evenness of temperament
although the Dan quality would assert itself now and again in high couraged
dogs, while the Dora disposition would crop up occasionally as shown in
the more docile dogs. He goes on to say, "Of course the most desirable
type of temperament was a blend of the two. That is, the ideal in this
respect was a dog of the Dan style and boldness coupled with the gentleness
of Dora." The evenness quickly developed with subsequent generations into
the type we have today.
Mr. Hochwalt, in 1922, in his
book BIRDOGS, writes, "At the suggestion of Teasdale Bucknell to several
of the importers of the 'Field Trial Breed' in America the name was changed
to `Llewellin" and since that time usage has given it definite sanction,
hence....they have since been known in America as Llewellins. To this day
they are still not recognized in England as a Llewellin Setter; the English
maintained that they should retain the name of English Setters.
Search Amazon.com for the book,
"The Llewellin Setter (Origin & Historical Development, A Documentary,
by Alfred O. King. The Best Book Ever written on the American Llewellin
Setter, highly recomended if you can find a copy for sale. We will never
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For the History of the Llewellin
Setter's continued development by Mr. Llewellin and Mr. Humphrey in England
and Fr. Brannon in Ireland, and also in Belguim, please read about the