The recent fad of calling Ryman-Types dual setters brings up the question of what the old time dual dogs were like. The true Dual English Setters existed for a relatively short period of time early in the history of the breed in America. It is fascinating to study that history to learn how the early field trail and show dogs looked and performed. The information available is limited, but there are enough images and descriptions of the dogs to develop a good picture of what they were all about.
There are some great resources on the Internet with pedigrees and pictures of many of the early setters. We recommend Andrea Strobl’s Willie Walker English Setter Database, and Ed Morgan’s English Setter Pedigree Program and Picture Archive, which are where most of the images on this page came from. A.F. Hochwalt’s book “The Modern Setter” 1923, along with his other writings, are a good source for descriptions of field trial performance.
A key to understanding the dual dogs is understanding the early shows. Show championships during this era did not carry the same meaning as they do today. There was no consistent standard applied, there were different types of shows, and it wasn’t until the late 1920’s that shows even had a coherent set of rules.
Shows held in conjunction with field trials were for “utility” dogs, which is where Llewellins got many of their wins. Some of the earliest Llewellins were awarded AKC show championships retroactively, often with few wins. A famous example is Gladstone, whose championship was based on four placements in shows which pre-dated the AKC.
Photographs, paintings, and descriptions of early setters indicate considerable variation in types, with some extreme, heavily built show dogs, and Llewellins that varied from little weedy dogs to bigger, show-like setters, and anything in between. Some even looked more like spaniels. For a while there was an unsuccessful movement to bring the different types together to what Hochwalt called the “medium type”. Hochwalt was a field trial fan who also judged shows and he was a strong proponent of a middle ground- good looking dogs with utility conformation.
Pictures of some of the early dogs are helpful in understanding what Hochwalt was talking about.
First, some photos of successful show dogs from the late 1800’s, starting with two Laveracks.
Monk of Furness, a popular stud dog, was said by Hochwalt to be “less exaggerated than many other show dogs of his day”. Although these two were from strictly show lines, they would both look out of place in the ring today. Hochwalt called this type of dog “oversized toys which are absolutely useless in the field”.
Here are a few British dogs which consistently appear in the background of American show champions from the late 1800’s, all from Laverack lines similar to the two above.
Ch Breeze Gladstone, born 1885,was a Llewellin capable of beating show bred Laveracks. Hochwalt wrote that in head type he was a distinct variation from the usual field trial dogs. Breeze did not have a field trial record.
Here are several photos of Llewellins that demonstrate the various types of conformation they had. Count Noble, Rake, and Leicester are three of the “Six Pillars” of the American Llewellins.
Below is an example of the perils of using paintings to judge the conformation of the old time dogs. There was an idealized concept of a field English Setter, and they were typically painted to match that image rather than what the dogs really looked like. Compare these two Osthaus paintings to the actual dogs. Both dogs were born in 1898.
National Champion Geneva
2X National Champion Sioux
Now here are four famous dual dogs.
Field Champion and Canadian show Champion Antonio, born 1886.
Ch Rodfield, born 1892, sired by Antonio.
Show champion and successful trial dog.
Ch Cincinnatus Pride, born 1893 was a 55 lb Llewellin/part show cross.
He was a show champion and also placed in field trials.
Ch Prince Rodney, born 1900.
Field champion, and according to Hochwalt won in the show ring, especially when shown under “practical judges”. Hochwalt seemed to especially like the Prince Rodney types as an example of the medium conformation he thought field trial breeders should strive for.
Around 1900 a new wave of show imports began to outclass everything else in the ring. These were the Mallwyds and similar types. Some of these setters had a reputation of being good bird dogs, but few won field trial placements. With their body type and more refined look these dogs were the beginning of the modern show conformation, and the beginning of the end for the dual dogs.
Ch Mallwyd Sirdar, born 1899
Ch Deodora Prince, Born 1901
The shows for field trial dogs with “utility” conformation did not end immediately, and dogs of this type were shown at least into the late 1920’s. Ch Gladstone’s Dan born in 1921 was a field trial winner and achieved his show championship in 1923.
Ch Gladstone’s Dan
The “Split” in English Setters
The often told story about the split between the show and field dogs goes something like: The first imports were similar (dual dogs) and then the show dogs went off to one extreme and the field trial dogs to the opposite extreme. Based on descriptions and available photos reality seems to be quite different. They never were the same. There was some crossover from the Llewellins into the show ring, but setters from show lines were never serious field trial competitors. The actual dual dogs were exceptions from the field trial ranks which were good looking enough to win in some shows. They were described as fast, wide, and independent in the field.
The field trial dogs since then have generally gone to the smaller types and require more range and speed to win. However, put a lower tail and a little more hair on some of the bigger headed modern field trial dogs and they would look quite a lot like early Llewellins.
Compare Ed Morgan’s 58 lb dog Lucifer to some of the Llewellins pictured above.
The conformation of the show dogs actually moved toward the center with the Mallwyd imports. Introducing Llewellin blood into show lines, which would also bring them toward the middle, was not uncommon and there were show winners out of these crosses as late as the 1920’s. Ch Patsy What, born in 1923, was 1/2 Llewellin.
Top producing show dogs Rummey Stagboro born in 1929 and Lakelands Nymph born in 1930 both had a significant amount of Llewellin in their backgrounds.
By the time these two dogs came along the shows for field trial dogs seem to have come to an end, along with the dual dogs. The real change in the show dogs which widened the difference between the two types, is that once show breeders coalesced around a narrowly defined standard and set of rules their dogs became more and more specialized for looks and conformation, with field abilities necessarily taking a back seat in breeding decisions.
Dual Dogs of Today
A new type of Dual English Setter has developed in recent years. Some show breeders have become interested in the field ability of their dogs, and are selecting for hunting instincts. They also run their dogs in hunt tests and AKC sponsored field trials. These setters are not remotely like the old time dual Llewellins which were capable of winning all-age trials, and they are not likely to be competitive in any of today’s American Field sponsored trials, but from a hunting perspective they represent a positive movement in the show dogs.