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History

To understand the rise and development of the
Chesapeake Bay Retriever it is essential to understand
something about the region from which it comes. The
Chesapeake Bay is on the East Coast of the United States,
running north up toward Baltimore. This is a land of harsh
winters, icy water, and huge numbers of migratory birds.
James Michener describes the duck hunting in this region
in his novel, Chesapeake. There were literally so many
birds that they could be shot out of the sky en masse,
resulting in 10 to 20 ducks for their dogs to then go out
and retrieve at a time. The guns used were more properly
boat-mounted cannons. These hunters needed dogs that
were capable of going out and retrieving all of these
ducks, in particular going after cripples first and then
back to pick up the dead ones.

There are many stories and legends about the origin of
the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The favored story involves
the 1807 shipwreck of an English ship bound for Poole,
England. The crew and two puppies survived the wreck: a
brown male named Sailor and a black bitch dubbed
Canton in honor of the rescuing ship. These two puppies
were St. John's water dogs, no doubt bound for Lord
Malmesbury's estates, which at this time was developing
the prototype for the Labrador Retriever breed. These
puppies found homes in the Chesapeake Bay area, on the
opposite shores, and were trained and used for duck
retrieving. The dogs that descended from these two
ultimately became collectively known as Chesapeake Bay
Retrievers.

Whether or not Canton and Sailor contributed as much to
the breed as they are credited with, or even whether they
were bred to one another at all, it's clear that the
Chesapeake, or Chessie as it is often called, developed in
this area from avid hunters who cared about two things: a
fanatical retriever, and a brown coat to blend in with its
surroundings. Thus, many dogs would have been used
for breeding stock as long as they were good hunters and
retrievers and had brown coats. Other St. John's dogs
from Newfoundland and retrieving dogs, including the
Labrador upon its return to the Americas, were no doubt
used in the quest for the ultimate duck retriever.

While it's temptingly romantic to paint a picture of a breed
coming about by natural selection in this rugged climate,
in all likelihood, Chesapeakes were bred quite carefully by
the families along the Bay for the qualities they desired.
There is anecdotal evidence of breeding records and
pedigrees tracing back to at least the beginning of the
19th century. In particular, the Carroll Island Gun Club
was devoted to Chesapeakes in the latter half of the
eighteenth century and reportedly kept breeding records
going back for decades. The club's members bred
Chesapeakes and hunted over them; sportsmen came
from all over the country to witness their prowess.
Unfortunately, in a contribution to the puzzle of this
breed's origins, the club's records were lost in a fire near
the turn of the century. Some of the other breeds believed
to have played a part in the Chesapeake's development
include coonhounds, Curly Coated Retrievers, Irish Water
Spaniels, and setters.

Careful breeding over the years has created an
outstanding retriever with incredible enthusiasm and
endurance. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has been
known to retrieve 200 ducks in a single day in frigid
waters. This lively, enthusiastic hunter will come out of a
river or marsh with only a few drops of water remaining
on its coat, and these are quickly eliminated with a shake.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was the first individual
retriever breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in
1878. The first recorded Champion in this breed is CH
Barnum (born 1892); the first Field Champion is FC
Skipper Bob (mid 30's), with the first dual Champion, Dual
CH Sodaks Gypsy Prince (1937) following shortly after.
The American Chesapeake Club became the official
national breed club in 1918. In contrast, the rest of the
retrievers were lumped together until the late 1920's when
the AKC finally separated them into the ones we know
today.

The breed does well in obedience and tracking as well as
in retrieving, hunting tests and field trials. They also make
a fine family companion. Some of the Chesapeake Bay
Retriever's talents include: tracking, hunting, retrieving,
guarding, watchdogging, schutzhund, field spots and
competitive obedience.


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CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER
Forty Acre Chesapeakes