Bird Dog & Retriever News

April / May 2003 issue Page 13

 Breed Birthday, Homecoming Celebration
(American Water Spaniels)
By Dave Duffey

Birthdays for hunting dog breeds are nebulous and most lines which trace back to their origins are hazy. But the official birthday of the American later Spaniel is conceded to be Feb. 8, 1920 and that birthplace was New London, Wisconsin at the confluence of the Wolf and Embarrass rivers.
So Aug. 18-20, 2000 was set aside for a homecoming celebration for the American Water Spaniel when the American Water Spaniel Club of America scheduled its 7th annual National Specialty hunt test on the breed's home grounds where 80 years before the "father" of the curly, brown gun dog breed, Dr. F. J. Pfeifer, a New London physician and surgeon convinced the United Kennel Club to I acknowledge the breeds existence. "Curly Pfeifer" on Feb. 8, 1920 became the "original" American Water Spaniel, first ever recognized by an official registry.
While the compact, long tailed spaniels existed in the U. S. in recognizable form for perhaps another 80 years before official acknowledgment this birth date paved the way for subsequent recognition by the Field Dog, Stud Book in 1938 and the American Kennel Club in 1940. While long-known, the AWS today is a rare breed and will continue to be relatively unknown as long as the majority of serious fanciers consider it unique and not a comfortable fit in either the spaniel or retriever classifications designated for gun dogs.
Appropriately, the field work at "the National" (which also included conformation showings, and obedience work) took place at the Wolf River Game Farm which accommodate an American record entry of over 100 in the serious hunt testing and the "for fun" hunts and water races designed for the breed; owners from New York, California and varies states in between taking part.
As in real estate sales, the top three factors when conducting a successful hunting test are location, location, location. Dean and Tammy Daebler's Wolf River Game Farm is not only appropriately named avid located for testing hunting dogs indigenous to that region, but it had upland and water areas ideal for the type of testing and fun hunting events laid out by Chairman Jack Davies.
Officials of the sponsoring American Water Spaniel Club Inc. have their own testing procedures and terminology which precludes their breed from being considered either spaniel or retriever. This test site (with clubhouse, various bird species available on site and utilized by dog, trainers and hunters in the area), is suitable for testing done by UKC, AKC, NAVHDA or NSTRA trials and testing.
(Suitable training, and testing facilities are of major concern and information, hard to come by today. For the of hunt test chair-persons, pro trainers or sportsmen who want to work their own gun dogs the contact is: Wolf River Game Farm, W6796 State Road 156, Shiocton, WI 54170, Ph. 715-758-8106.)
After winning UKC recognition for Curly Pfeifer, "Doc" Pfeifer launched an ambitious-breeding program during which he guaranteed satisfaction with any of the hundreds of puppies he sold annually through-out the U.S. and Canada. There were as many as 132 "American Browns" (as they were called then) in his kennel on the Trambauer brothers' farm near New London.
One of the few breeds of dogs developed in the U.S., because of the AWS's origin and past popularity with hunters in this lake and river rich area of Wisconsin, the state legislature in 1985 declared the American the official state dog. A commemorative (featuring the misspelling of Dr. Pfeifer's name) has been erected in one of New London's parks by the state historical society. Another park (with the correct name spelling) has been named for the "country doctor" who not only "invented" a dog breed but was the subject in the 1950s of an extensive feature article in LIFE magazine.

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