In the remarkable photograph at right veteran field-trial gun Ernest Burton (SI, Nov. 14, 1955) illustrates the climactic moment of test for a spaniel: when the bird he has flushed is brought down for his retrieve. Mr. and Mrs. Philip D. Armour Jr.'s National Champion Micklewood Scud is the dog concerned here, and the occasion is the 11th National Championship Field Trial for English Springer Spaniels, held last month at the Crab Orchard Lake Refuge near Marion, Ill. Here the 29 top dogs among the nation's thousands of springers met in a driving rain that soaked dogs, handlers, birds, guns and gallery. Numbed by wet and cold, pen-reared pheasants ($17,000 worth) often refused to flush or fluttered dispiritedly a few feet above the ground, to the confusion of dogs, guns and handlers. But despite these handicaps the seven series of tests (five on land, two on water) were run off briskly, and by Sunday noon Judges Harry Leeding of Portland, Ore. and Fred Sehnert of Lincoln, Neb. had chosen a new national champion: Field Trial Champion Staindrop Breckonhill Chip (below), owned by Mr. and Mrs. Roy D. Chapin Jr., of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. and expertly handled by Elmore Chick of Lemont, Ill. Runners-up were English Field Trial Champion Ludlovian Socks, owned by Edward D. Porges of Highland Park, Ill., in second place, and his littermate F. T. Ch. Ludlovian Scamp of Greenfair, owned by Joseph C. Quirk of Greenwich, Conn., in third. For the best performance by an amateur-handled dog, a trophy went to John L. Harding of Berwyn, Ill. and his 7-year-old F. T. Ch. Davellis Shot.
HARD-WORKING DOGS AND HAPPY OWNERS
The purpose of a Spaniel Field Trial," says the national association, "is to demonstrate the performance of a perfectly trained Spaniel in the field." Another important purpose is to enable spaniel enthusiasts to renew old and doggy friendships as they follow the action across the fields. In fact, most of the hard work at spaniel trials is performed by the gallery as it trudges through briers, bracken and brush to follow handlers, guns and judges. Dogs hunt in braces in the early series, each spaniel quartering ahead, windshield-wiper fashion, to work a swath of bird cover. Bird boys precede the entourage, planting pheasants in clumps of grass where they stay until flushed. Spaniels are judged on scenting ability, perseverance, courage, steadiness to wing and shot, obedience, aptitude in marking and finding shot birds, responsiveness to the handler's signals and retrieving style. After the last test, all hands gather at the clubhouse where the judges' decisions are announced and where this year the chairman, having failed to get attention by rapping on a glass, finally shouted "Heel!"
Winner and new champion, F. T. Ch. Staindrop Breckonhill Chip proudly poses for her portrait with one of the $17,000 worth of pheasants used during the trials.
Wheeling sharply, Shooter's Expedites flushes pheasant from the high grass.
Jumping high, Cavalier Dottie Jo grabs at bird flushed from cover.
Swimming hard, Chip performs one of water-retrieve tests that helped her win the championship.
Up in the air, Ludlovian Scamp accomplishes a mid-flight turn to get his bird.
Mrs. Roy D. Chapin Jr. watches as her bitch, Chip, performs in the manner that won the championship.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert McLean of Philadelphia and Fristoe Mullins (center) of St. Louis look pleased as one of two McLean entries retrieves stylishly.