Meet the Breed: All in a Day's Work
The dignified and devoted Clumber Spaniel works with slow deliberation, earning its nickname, “the old man’s hunting dog.”
The largest of the spaniels, Clumbers were once called the “old man’s hunting dog” and the “retired gentleman’s hunting dog” because they worked slowly and methodically, and the hunter could easily keep up on foot.
“This has been misinterpreted to mean that Clumbers are slow or lazy,” says breeder-owner-exhibitor Jody Davidson. “They were bred to hunt close to the gun, to work with the hunter, unlike other spaniels that range at a distance, working independently. Certainly older Clumbers are more sedate and sedentary, but a young Clumber has a lot of get up and go.”
The early history of the Clumber Spaniel is unclear. Heavier, more substantial, lower to the ground and longer in body, the Clumber is a different type from the other spaniels and might have originated in France in the 18th century. It’s believed the Basset Hound, Saint Bernard and the Alpine Spaniel (a large breed that’s now extinct) might have been used to develop the breed. Another theory is that the Clumber originated in Britain from earlier spaniel types. A third theory states the breed descended from the original Blenheim Spaniel, the ancestor of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the English Toy Spaniel, which are toy breeds today but were originally larger hunting spaniels.
We do know that during the French Revolution (1789 to 1799), the Duke of Noailles moved his kennel of spaniels from France to the Duke of Newcastle’s home, seeking sanctuary for them. Located in Nottinghamshire, England, the Duke’s home was called Clumber Park. The gamekeeper, William Mansell, is credited with the breed’s development and improvement, and the spaniels produced were named after the estate.
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