Icons of the Sport

These breeders may be gone, but their contributions remain timeless.

By Amy Fernandez | Posted: July 24, 2012

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Dr. Daniel and Janet Horn
Dr. Daniel & Janet Horn
Eastern Waters Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

In the dog world, Dr. Daniel Horn is remembered for producing more than 100 Eastern Waters Chesapeake Bay Retriever titleholders. To the rest of the world, he was an early anti-smoking crusader.

Dan earned his Harvard doctorate in psychology in 1943 and became assistant director of statistical research at the American Cancer Society in 1947. In 1952, he became involved in a groundbreaking study linking smoking and cancer. It led to drastic revisions in government policies and public attitudes about smoking. His daughter, breeder-judge Betsy Horn Humer, remembers Dan as statistically oriented, carefully studying the AKC Show Awards to devise his show strategy. “He was an independent thinker, very much his own man.”

His attraction to an equally independent breed like the Chesapeake seems natural. Unlike some gundogs, Humer emphasizes that its temperament hasn’t been modified. “They are not a first-time breed for everyone. They need a job and are sometimes smarter than their owners.”

Dan and Janet met as college students in Boston. Chance encounters with Chesapeakes convinced them to have one after their marriage in 1937. In 1946, Dan surprised Janet with a Chesapeake puppy she called “the best birthday present I ever had.” This was Gloriana II. They joined the American Chesapeake Club, registered their Eastern Waters prefix in 1948, and put a CD on Glory in 1949. Although she wasn’t a show prospect, lack of competition posed a major obstacle for Chesapeake exhibitors back then. Humer notes, “There was no point in going to shows for a handful of meaningless ribbons. My mother got the ACC membership list and started contacting people.” Janet coordinated exhibitors to ensure competition, bringing new momentum to the Chesapeake show scene. 

In 1951, Glory’s puppy Ch. Tempest of Eastern Waters became the first of three of their champions that decade. Between 1960-1970, Eastern Waters produced 17 more. Humer remembers shows as “fun, family events.” Dan did most of the handling and son Nat Horn says “he not only loved the thrill of winning. At shows he made many friends. He loved sharing stories and grilling out. Steaks were his specialty.”

Janet focused on the breeding program and she is the sole breeder-owner of most Eastern Waters dogs, which became known for superior coat, sound movement, good temperament and working ability. Many have titles at both ends of their names. In 1954, the first was Ch. Eastern Waters’ Nugget UD, the foundation of Mildred Buchholz’s Chesachobee Kennel.

Dan and Janet hunted and belonged to field trial clubs, “but that’s a very expensive game” says Humer. “They were raising four children and had to make choices.” They chose to involve daughters Marguerite and Elizabeth, and sons Roger and Nathanial. The Horn children grew up stewarding, training and showing. This legacy continues, and three generations now participate in the sport.

Ch. Eastern Waters’ Baronessa, TD won the ACC national in 1964, 1965 and 1966, and produced Ch. Eastern Waters’ Oak, CD, TD, WD in 1965. Shown by Humer’s husband Rupert, ‘Oak’ won the ACC national twice and sired 25 champions. Humer calls Am./Ber. Ch. Eastern Waters’ Brown Charger “the breakthrough dog that paved the way for Chesapeakes in Group competition,” winning the 1970 ACC national and earning 30 Group placements.

During these years Dan was also immersed in a crucial study and its aftermath. On Jan. 11, 1964, the surgeon general presented their findings to 200 reporters at the State Department’s auditorium. Then on the Florida circuit, Dan abandoned Janet, 13-year-old Margie and 8-year-old Roger to fly to Washington. Daughter Margie Horn Palmer recalls, “I had no idea why he left and how important it was.” But Dan and Janet were an unbeatable team. Life went on. Throughout the 1970s Eastern Waters earned 20 championships, 14 CDs, five CDX and seven TD titles.

Handled by Dan and Nat, Am./Can. Ch. Eastern Waters’ Break O’ Day, Am./Can. CD, JH, WD won the ACC national in 1987 (pictured) and earned 19 Group placements. Janet trained and handled ‘Breakers’ in the field and obedience ring, and showed littermate, multiple Group winner Ch. Eastern Waters’ Keep the Dream. Her other passions were breed education and writing. She was the AKC Gazette columnist and authored The New Complete Chesapeake Bay Retriever in 1994. Dan and Janet also served multiple terms as ACC officers and contributed to local kennel clubs wherever work relocations took them. Dan judged Chesapeakes, Goldens and Novice and Open obedience, and Janet was approved for Novice obedience.

Dan died in 1992 at age 76. Janet won Best Veteran at her last ACC national a few months before her death in 2000. 

Herman Mellenthin
Herman Mellenthin

Herman Mellenthin is the acknowledged father of the modern American Cocker. His understanding of form and function inspired his canine masterpiece, the two-time Westminster Best in Show winner, Ch. My Own Brucie.

Born in 1895, Herman grew up on a Wisconsin farm and recalled the spaniels of his youth as versatile gundogs. By 1912, he had a kennel of Collies, Airedales and Cockers in Milwaukee but always attributed his success to his background in horses. After marrying and moving East in 1915, he worked for horse trainers Thomas McCarr and Tommy Murphy.

He never lost interest in Cockers, and watched the breed’s downslide with dismay. Its substance, merry spirit and hunting drive were disappearing due to what AKC called “a misguided notion that function followed form.” To Herman, identical traits made for a good show dog and a good gundog. He determined to create the Cocker that he visualized. This came from an unlikely source, an unknown dog called Robinhurst Foreglow. High stationed and short backed, his extreme type didn’t impress the Cocker fancy. However, his pedigree was solid and two breeders realized his potential. William Payne acquired him in 1920, bred to his Westminster winner, Ch. Midkiff Seductive, and produced two-time ASC winner Ch. Midkiff Miracle Man.

In 1921, Herman used him to produce Red Brucie, an exaggeration of everything that was controversial about his sire. Red Brucie consistently produced cobbiness, long necks, lean, sloping shoulders, powerful drive and balance. In other words, he had everything the breed desperately needed. He was widely used, siring 38 champions, both bench and field winners. He provided the foundation for countless bloodlines and revolutionized Cocker type.

To many, Herman’s greatest talent was discovering overlooked breeding combinations. Key to this was his wide choice of breeding stock. In the 1930s, as large kennels were supplanted by small, hobby breeders, he perfected the now common practice of placing dogs on breeding terms.

He registered his kennel prefix in 1926, but continued putting his dogs in other names, which shows that personal records were never his goal. However, he always regained breeding rights and his breeding program produced several great Cockers of the era like Ch. Torohill Trader and Ch. Lucknow Crème de la Crème. Equally focused on the Cocker’s field ability, Herman helped to establish Cocker field trials, judged them and bred the first dual champion, a parti-color Red Brucie grandson Ch. FTCH. My Own High Time.

Red Brucie was almost 14 when Herman mated him to the 9-month old heavily linebred My Own Lady Huntington in 1935. This produced the dog worthy of the name he had been saving, My Own Brucie.

Herman recognized his quality immediately. For the rest of his life, Brucie was his personal companion.

During his four-year campaign Brucie was unbeaten in breed. In 1938 he went Best from the classes at M&E, and became AKC’s American Bred Sporting Dog of the Year. The next year, he again went Best at M&E, also ASC, and became Herman’s fourth Cocker to win Best American Bred at Westminster

By 1940, Herman and Brucie were national celebrities and the Cocker was America’s top breed. That year, Brucie pulled off one of Westminster’s legendary upsets, defeating Nornay Saddler to go Best. He came back to defend his title the following year, along with his pups who went WD, RWD, WB and RWB.

It’s no surprise that Herman was asked to judge Westminster in 1942. Ironically, his choice was Ch. Wolvery Pattern of Edgerstoune, the only foreign-bred dog in that year’s lineup. He died suddenly two weeks later at age 53. The administrators of his estate reportedly sold Brucie to one of his co-breeders, Mrs. Peter Garvan, for $10,000. Unfortunately, Brucie didn’t thrive and joined his beloved master a year later.


Louis Thebaud
Louis Thebaud

Sportsman and philanthropist Louis Thebaud was instrumental in the Brittany’s recognition. With his immense family fortune he could have easily imported them simply for personal use, but he was determined to get the breed accepted as a dual-purpose dog in America.

The Thebaud family tree combined French nobility and American ambition. Its founder started an import business after the Revolutionary War that kept generations of Thebauds in high style. By the late 1800s the family home was a 300-acre estate in affluent Morristown, N.J.

Born in 1859, Louis grew up as American gundogs and field trials came of age. Morristown was an enclave of wealthy sportsmen who spent lavishly importing superb field trial dogs. After retirement, this dedicated sportsman devoted himself to hunting and travel. At his seaside retreat on the Brittany coast Continental gundogs inevitably caught his eye. He began importing Wirehaired Pointing Griffons in 1905.

The Brittany was a local secret. First shown in France in 1896, it was still a novelty in the 1930s. Louis thought its versatility and steadiness were ideal for quail hunting back home. Thanks to family connections, his scheme to import quality Brittany stock was feasible. Then living in France, Rene Joubert is often called Louis’s nephew. He was more distantly related, but called Louis uncle and shared his passion for gundogs.

 Jourbet began sending Louis important Brittanys in 1931. In 1933 he sent over Genette du Mesnil in whelp. Louis immediately shipped her to the Avandale Springer kennel in Winnipeg to whelp North America’s first Brittany litter. Dog shipping was then extremely costly, risky and slow but this unusual step ensured two foundation strains. In 1934, Franche du Cosquerou arrived, reputedly France’s finest field Brittany. After mating Genette, he was shipped to Winnipeg and bred to her daughters. These litters produced some of the breed’s first field trial winners. Louis’ next significant import, in 1935, was Fenntus du Cosquerou, widely admired for intensity, drive and steadiness.

Meanwhile, the pair managed AKC recognition with one trip to 51 Madison Avenue. Despite the miniscule gene pool, nonexistent club and incomprehensible French standard, AKC accepted Brittany Spaniels in 1934. In 1936, Louis became first president of the Brittany Spaniel Club of North America (now the American Brittany Club).

AKC recognition was a walk in the park compared to convincing skeptical hunters. Louis used his connections to interest wealthy sportsmen in the breed. The publisher of American Field also received a puppy as a gift. Everyone agreed that Brittanys were great upland bird dogs. Their trainability and size also made them appealing pets, a bigger consideration as large kennels were replaced by amateur sport hunters who kept their dogs as pets. 

However, personal endorsements didn’t have the impact of field trial wins. The Brittany’s street cred hung on its acceptance by Pointer/Setter loyalists. Although AKC classified it as a spaniel, they considered it a field trial pointing breed. In 1936, Louis sent Fenntus to Joubert, who was then living in Detroit. He entered her in an upcoming trial where she placed second. The following year she became the first Brittany to defeat Pointers and Setters at a field trial. This was an amateur stake, but the point was made. Henry Stackpole writing in 1949 said “the Brittany has a prominent place in the American sporting scene…There are several field trials for these dogs but fanciers do not hesitate to enter them against Pointers and Setters, especially in shooting stakes where excessive range is not desirable.” In 1939, Michigan’s first all-Brittany Stake drew 14 entries. Louis died that year at age 79.

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