Will Not Work for Food
Back in 1946, Field and Stream's Horace Lytle wrote an article noting that Irish Setters were almost completely absent from the hunting field.
In fact, between 1874 and 1948, Irish Setters produced 760 conformation champions, but only five field champions -- a rather dismal state of affairs.
Lytle proposed that Irish Setters be rescued and returned to their working roots by implementing an outcross program.
Lytle noted that the Irish Setter once had quite a lot of white in its coat, and he thought it would not be too bad a thing for the few remaining working Irish Setters to be outcrossed to working English Setters. Yes, some white might show up in the coats, but So What? The dogs had always had that when they had actually been working dogs.
Sports Afield endorsed the call to rescue the Irish Setter from the show ring, and Ned LaGrange of Pennsylvania took up the challenge of creating a systematic outcrossing program based on breeding the few remaining working Irish Setters that were left, with the best field champion English setters.
The result was the "Red Setter" which was blessed and maintained as a working setter by the Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB), with reciprocal registration with the American Kennel Club (AKC).
The problem, of course, was that nonworking AKC Irish setters found it nearly impossible to compete in AKC field trials against Red Setters.
What to do? Well, eliminate the competition, of course!
In 1975 the Irish Setter Club of America petitioned the AKC to deny reciprocal registration to Field Dog Stud Book-registered dogs, and the AKC obliged.
As a result, the AKC Irish Setter remains, to this day, the "least likely to succeed" bird-hunting dog to be found in America, while the Red Setter is a dog that is at least sometimes found under a shotgun.
Now rumor has it that the Irish Setter Club of America has indicated it may reverse itself and grant reciprocal registrations to any Field Dog Stud Book or North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association-registered Irish red setter that has a three-generation pedigree and DNA verification for the same. Final approval awaits a vote of the Irish Setter Club of America Field Trial Committee (the same folks who voted to toss them out 27 years ago).
Of course, what the Irish Setter Club of America has to say on the matter may not matter a whit. You see, no breed club in the AKC actually controls its own registry. The American Kennel Club issues the papers and holds the trials. AKC breed clubs are not allowed to exclude pet shop or puppy mill dogs, and they cannot greenlight registerable outcrosses without the AKC’s expressed permission, nor can they agree to have an open registry or allow dual registration, nor can they require field work as a condition of winning a championship, or require OFA or CERF-testing for registration, etc.
In short, the AKC is not a democracy; it is a business and the larger business model always overrides any breed club carping about genetics, work, or canine health.
As to the business side of the Irish Setter vs. Red Setter controversy, there is a new Joker in the card deck, and that is the fact that the AKC has added the "Irish Red and White Setter" to its Foundation Stock Service roles in expectation of bringing this "new" breed into the fold.
Of course, the "Irish Red and White Setter" is not a new breed; it is simply the old generic working Setter that used to exist before the Kennel Club split the Setters into red "Irish" setters and white "English" setters, and black and tan "Gordon" setters.
Never mind: the Kennel Club split the setters into three breeds of dogs, and now they are hell-bent on splitting them into four. Extending a reciprocal registration to the working "Red Setter" (which frequently presents with white markings adding confusion and diluting the "brand" of the Irish Red and White Setter) may upset the apple cart a little too much.
Or maybe not.
After all, the AKC has not only added the "Parson Russell Terrier" to the AKC roles, but also the the "Russell Terrier" to its Foundation Stock Service. Can the "Irish Jack" be far behind? No doubt it is being penciled in for next year, or the year after that. The 10-year plan for terriers no doubt includes adding the Patterdale Terrrier, the Plummer Terrier, and the Fell Terrier to the mix. Business demands a diversified product, after all, and the business is not canine health or work (things the AKC affirmatively hurts through a closed registry system) but registration money to underwrite the money-loser called dog shows. (For more on that see >> HERE).
One does not need to be a weatherman to guess which way the wind will eventually blow with some breeds. I think it's only a matter of time before the AKC splits the Labrador Retriever into the Black Lab, the Yellow Lab, and the Chocolate Lab, and the various dachshunds into coat types, as well as size. The Parson Russell and Russell Terriers may get split based on coat type as well. Look at what has already been done with bull terriers, collies, and fox terriers, to name just three examples.
Ah well, there's nothing to be done about it. Sleep with dogs, expect fleas. And the Kennel Club is the kind of flea-bitten dog that just keeps giving, and giving and giving in that regard. I expect more breeds to be carved out of old breeds, and working breeds to be continually gobbed up and ruined by the Kennel Club. Some things never change, even if the dogs do.
- Working Terriers -