One of the most fascinating aspects of this breed is its many variations in coat colour & indeed of markings. Few breeds can boast such a spectrum!
In the early days, before the different spaniels were separately evolved for specialist work in the field, the prime consideration was the dog's ability to work. Colour & markings were of little importance except in a practical sense. Some people preferred a solid coloured dog because they felt it was better camouflaged when quartering game, which would then be more likely to "sit" steady until flushed by the dog at the command of his handler. Others preferred the parti-coloured dogs for quite the opposite reason that the dog could be easily seen by the handler at most times & was therefore less likely to be injured if the dog failed to stop when the game was flushed and accidentally got caught in the line of fire from the gun. Others believed that excellent performance for certain tasks in the field or in the water was linked to specific coat colours.
Little was known about genetics or modes of inheritance. Breeders became skilled by long years of experience and an innate stockmanship. Their interest in all their animals was very deep and they acquired knowledge handed down from their forefathers adding to it throughout their own lives. As the idea of holding exhibitions for dogs became fashionable, more attention was paid to the dog's appearance. Factors like condition, presentation, colour and markings became more important as the competitive element spread.
Breeders found that better results in terms of colour and markings could be achieved if they focused on keeping the solid markings and the roaned markings separate. Unusual colours, markings and patterns were viewed with the great suspicion that a misalliance with a dog of another or mixed breed must have occurred. No doubt rare colours like sable and the silver ash colour we associate with the Weimaraner today, occurred and were quietly disposed of at birth, even though these were in fact probably pure bred. The tan masking that we accept today, both in solid colours and particolours, was also viewed with great suspicion, that somewhere hound blood had crept into their lines. Many breeders also disposed of these at birth.
Today we have the advantage of some knowledge of genetics and the understanding that some colours and markings can be passed down through many generations disguised by the more dominant colour or pattern actually seen in the dog's coat, only to re-emerge when two carrier parents for another colour/marking gene produce the recessive colour/marking in some of their progeny.
Solid coloured dogs sometimes have a white mark or marks of varying size on the chest. This is perfectly acceptable . When they are born, solid coloured puppies sometimes have small white marks over the tip of their muzzles and/or on the tips of their toes. These white marks often disappear as the puppy grows up becoming either almost or completely invisible. They should not be unduly penalised in the show ring except as a final deciding factor between two equally good dogs.
Prior to the 1950's, it was common practice to combine solids and particolours in breeding programmes. As a result, the solids will inevitably be predisposed to producing small white markings on their extremities, until such time as these "frosting" areas are completely selected out. 50 years in terms of genetics is a very short timespan. For those seeking absolutely solid marking, patience and perseverance are the key to success and it is true to say that most solid coloured Cockers today meet this desired appearance.
Solid Colours usually comprise: -
Genetically there are several different variations of "black" as we see it in a dog. In reality there are blacks that are genetically pure for this colour and as the most dominant colour, they will only ever produce black coloured offspring, although these offspring may be blacks carrying a different genetic mix. The genetically pure blacks tend to have raven black hair. Blacks carrying liver, red in either variety of pigment, golden and of these, those which may or may not carry the gene for tan mask and trim, may appear to be black but may sometimes show a touch of "rust" in their coats. This can be effectively managed with modern grooming methods and in most cases will pass unnoticed. Observant owners, however, can often forecast the likely genetic make up by looking at their dogs and combining it with a knowledge of pedigree.
Reds may or may not carry genes for a tan mask and trim. This pattern allows for quite a wide variation in shade in the mask and trim areas. Therefore it is not a fault if the body coat is for example a rich, deep red and the extremities of the dog, particularly in the mask & trim area, show as lighter shades of red or indeed golden. >>Next Page
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