George Ryman’s Breeding Program

A widely accepted version of George Ryman’s breeding program is that he began with a dog named Sir Roger de Coverly, and then developed a line of English setters based on show dogs which were occasionally crossed to field trial dogs. This not the type of breeding program that becomes evident with the study of Ryman’s pedigrees. There was much more field trial influence than most Ryman fans would realize, beginning with the first Rymans, some of which were straight Llewellins. These setters, along with offspring of Sir Roger and other dogs out of show/field crosses, were blended together to start a breeding program based on crosses to the best of both types of dogs.

Sir Roger de Coverly was half show and half Llewellin. We have posted his pedigree here so readers can see how close he was to the early show imports and Llewellin greats. Ryman used many dogs with a similar mixed show/field background, both from his own breedings and from other kennels.

Although there was limited linebreeding, most notably to Sport’s Peerless and Sir Roger de Coverly, Ryman’s program was based on crossing and there never was a Ryman “line” or pool of linebred dogs. His pedigrees and sales brochures show that Ryman’s goal was to produce a certain type of setter, and he crossed to any dogs that would produce that type for him. Constant introduction of new bloodlines was a hallmark of George Ryman’s breeding program, and is an obvious feature of any of his pedigrees. This all came to an end when George Ryman had his stroke in 1955.

The most significant insight from the study of Ryman pedigrees is that there were two distinct Ryman Kennel eras- the George Ryman era and the Calkins era, with two types of breeding programs, and two very different types of dogs.

Observations From Ryman’s Pedigrees

The following is a brief overview of Ryman’s breeding program based on what can be observed in the pedigrees of dogs he bred. The dogs pictured are representative of the lines Ryman used.

Teens and 1920s

The earliest of Ryman’s breedings were a mix of his original Llewellins, offspring of Sir Roger de Coverly, and other show/field crosses. Many of the best of the early show and field trial dogs appear in the first few generations of Ryman pedigrees.

The dogs used in these breedings carried lines to prominent show dogs Mallwyd Albert, Mallwyd Sirdar, Mallwyd Invader, Mallwyd Edward, Mallwyd Roy, Mallwyd Sailor, Albert’s MacAllister, Madcap, and Rumney Racket. These dogs were part of the foundation of the American show English Setters.

There were many important field trial dogs in the pedigrees, including lines to Caesar, Peach Blossom, Antonio, Count Gladstone IV, Lady’s Count Gladstone, Count Noble, Jessie Rodfield’s Count Gladstone, Jessie Rodfield, Rodfield, Ben Tomahawk, Marse Ben, Tony Boy, Victor Okaw, and Marie’s Sport. These dogs represented some of the great Llewellin families. There is even a little “native” Campbell and Ethan Allin blood in early Ryman pedigrees.

1930s


This decade is when show dogs were the most prominent. For instance, Ryman purchased four dogs from the highly successful show breeding Rummey Stagboro x Lakelands Nymph, all of which were used in his breeding program. Other influential show dogs in the pedigrees are Gore’s Blue Pal, Pennine Patron, and Racket’s Rummey.

Ryman continued to use field trial crosses during this time, with lines to Nugym, Riley Frush, Prince Rodney, Eugene M., Mohawk II, Momoney and Phil’s Speed Ben. These are some of the lines that formed the basis for today’s winning field trial dogs.

1940s

George Ryman’s well known crosses to Sport’s Peerless began in 1939. Sport’s Peerless High was the best producer of several dogs tried. Most of the Sports Peerless crosses were unsatisfactory but at least two of the other dogs Ryman tried were used in the breeding program. One of those was Director, sired by National Champion Sport’s Peerless Pride. Additional field trial crosses were also used during the 1940’s, including lines to Sam L’s Skyrocket, Florendale Lou’s Beau, and Equity.

During this time new show crosses disappear. Ryman continued to use show lines from his own breedings, but we have not seen records of any straight show dogs that were successfully introduced to the kennel later than the mid 1940’s.

Early 1950s

During the first half of the 1950’s the breedings were typically a blend of the many lines Ryman had in his kennel, with the Sport’s Peerless crosses often appearing on both sides of the pedigrees. This is considered the height of the kennel. It is also the end of the George Ryman era.

Post 1955- The Calkins Era

George Ryman suffered a stroke in 1955 and died in 1961. Ellen Ryman kept the kennel operation going by herself until she married Carl Calkins in 1963. The Calkins’ bred setters until 1975.

Nobody seems to know how much control or influence Ryman had over the breedings after his stroke, but one thing is clear- the breeding practices changed immediately and dramatically. The overall level of inbreeding gradually increased, but the main thing that stands out is that after 1955 there is almost no outcrossing. Ryman’s Mountain Dew registered in 1970 is an example of a typical Calkins era pedigree and is a stark contrast to all of George Ryman’s pedigrees. Compare to the two shown on the previous page.

It’s hard to say just how quickly the character of the dogs changed, but certainly by the time the Calkins’ sold the kennel many of the dogs were very different from those of George Ryman.

Breeders of Classic foot hunting English Setters from Ryman and other close working bloodlines.