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Ryman Setter History

Sir Roger DeCoverlyII2George Ryman bred English Setters from the early 1900s through 1955 that were the quintessential grouse dog. They had show-like appearance but first and foremost they were foot hunting dogs that possessed the natural abilities necessary to handle wild game birds. In its heyday Ryman’s Gun Dog Kennels was THE place to go if you wanted an English Setter for hunting, rather than shows or field trials.

There is much legend surrounding Ryman setters, and our Ryman history pages were posted several years ago with the intent to present accurate information about them based on the available evidence rather than folklore. Since then Lisa has coauthored a book with Walt Lesser that contains a much more in depth history of the Rymans, and of the early English Setters. More information on the book is available at The Real Ryman Setter.

Like most breeders of Ryman-Type setters we are interested in learning how Ryman developed his dogs and what they were really like. This is difficult given the years and the many generations of dogs since Ryman was breeding. Most people who have written about Ryman had no personal knowledge of him or his dogs, and what they wrote is often based on legend or colored by changes in the dogs after Ryman died and attempts to cash in on the Ryman name. Some of it is even made up. We find that studying Ryman’s actual breedings is the most informative way to learn about his breeding program, and to that end we have gradually accumulated a database of Ryman pedigrees.

We are fortunate to have been given the opportunity to study a private collection of Ryman pedigrees owned by Walt Lesser which were salvaged from the Ryman Gun Dog Kennels in WV. This collection includes pedigrees which contain dogs beginning with George Ryman’s first setters, to Calkins breedings from the late 1960’s.

The generations of Ryman setters during this period can be followed through these pedigrees and they reveal a wealth of information about the dogs and George Ryman’s breeding methods. Most of them are the famous hand-typed Ryman Gun Dog Kennels pedigrees. Through their study one can draw some fairly reliable conclusions, particularly if combined with a study of the early English Setters.

The Ryman pedigrees have some surprises, and the information that can be gleaned from them doesn’t always agree with what has been written about George Ryman and his dogs, or the modern perception of what a real Ryman was.

Clicking on these pedigrees will open larger versions which can be enlarged with your browser’s zoom capabilities to see finer detail.

Ryman's Grouse Fortress

Ryman's Seneca Girl

October Setters