Breeding history of the Nova Scotia Duck Retriever

Table of contents:

Breeding history of the Nova Scotia Duck Retriever
Breeding history of the Nova Scotia Duck Retriever

General description of the dog, reasons for breeding the Nova Scotia Duck Retriever, possible progenitors and use of the dog, distribution and recognition of the breed. The content of the article:

  • History and reasons for withdrawal
  • Possible progenitors and their application
  • Distribution and recognition of the breed

The Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever is often mistaken for a small golden retriever, but it is more active and smarter. They are athletic, muscular, compact, balanced dogs with a deeply built chest. Their appearance implies a physical condition conducive to work, they should have a moderate build of the body, strong and durable limbs and webbed feet. The coat is slightly feathery on the ears, thighs, underside of the tail and body. Coat color from golden red to dark copper.

History and reasons for breeding the Nova Scotia duck retriever

Two Nova Scotia duck retrievers
Two Nova Scotia duck retrievers

There are no records of the original origin of this breed, which is also called "Toller", as well as similar species in Nova Scotia, so there are many assumptions to explain its existence. The prevailing theory of modern times indicates that the species evolved from the now extinct English red decoy dog, or English red decoy dog, with which they are very similar. They are mentioned in the chronicles of the 19th century. The species may be native to the Netherlands, as the Dutch are credited with perfecting the art of luring ducks with dogs, with "eendenkooi" derived from the Dutch word for duck cage. These red-haired dogs, which were already in use in Europe, were most likely introduced to Nova Scotia by early European settlers.

At that time in history, people had to hunt game like ducks to supplement their diet. Therefore, the maintenance of any particular type of dog depended on its usefulness in facilitating such a task. Significant work has gone into further improving every available breed. They tried to make it more suitable for the environment, developed certain hunting qualities that could help the hunter "put meat on the table." It was during this period, due to the lack of documentation, there is a gap, and it is almost impossible to talk about the connection between the English red decoy dog and the Nova Scotia duck retriever.

However, it is assumed that in the following centuries, when other varieties developed in the border areas, they were imported into Nova Scotia and present-day Canada. Selective breeding with other breeds such as spaniels, setters, retrievers and possibly even herding collies led to today's Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever. But again, this is just guesswork. The Nova Scotia Duck Retriever is a completely unique breed of dog, bred to have a physical resemblance to a fox, not only in color, but also in behavior. Such dogs served as "bait" for luring ducks through a process known as "tolling".

Possible progenitors of the Nova Scotia duck retriever and their uses

Nova Scotia Duck Retriever lies
Nova Scotia Duck Retriever lies

The earliest written reference to the use of canines for tolling dates back to 1630. Nicholas Denis (1598–1688), an aristocrat, explorer, soldier and leader of the French colonial empire of New France (Acadia), which includes eastern Quebec, the coastal provinces of modern Maine, wrote about the people and animals he met on his travels. His book Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (Acadia), translated into English and published in 1908.

Denis described several types of typical canines (calling them "fox-dogs" - fox dogs), differing in colors: black, black-and-white, gray-white, gray, but most often red. They were all cunning in capturing wild geese and ducks. If the dogs noticed several flocks, then they very quietly patrolled the coastal territory, then leaving, then returning. When they saw approaching game, they ran and jumped, and then suddenly stopped in one jump and lay down on the ground without moving anything except their tail. A wild goose or duck is so stupid as to peck at it. Hunters trained pets to get the birds to get close to a good shot. At the same time, it was possible to shoot 4-6, and sometimes more birds.

It is impossible to say if these early dogs are the ancestors of the modern Nova Scotia duck retrievers, as the author does not cite their origin. Although some suggest that the dogs mentioned by Denis are from the Netherlands. Dutch "cage dogs" (predecessors of kooikerhondje) were used as bait as early as the 16th century (to lure unsuspecting waterfowl into their nets). He also says they were used to extract game, a feature that European breeds lacked.

Since the St. John Water Dog, the ancestor of all modern retrievers, was not imported into England from the mid to late 18th century, this could mean that other similar breeds have already crossed over. The unique ability of the Nova Scotia Duck Retrievers and their distinctive coloration are the result of crossing with the "fox-dog".

There may also be some historical basis for the theory that the Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever came from crosses with various spaniels. The sportsman's repository, written by John Lawrence in 1820, refers not only to "tolling" and how to train dogs for this purpose, but also information on the specific breed used - the water spaniel. The author says that the variety is specially taught to bring objects so that when the birds are brought up, it does not tear or deform them. Otherwise, the game is unlikely to be useful for the table. Dogs must not only get used to the water, but also be able to lie on the ground very quietly and without moving until they are instructed to rise. They are accustomed to weapons and the loud sounds of gunshots.

Just like Nova Scotia duck retrievers today, water spaniels were used to draw the attention of ducks and lure them into a hunter's point of fire. However, unlike the Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever, these early water spaniels were mostly dark in color, ranging from black (which was then considered the best) to liver or brown shades. Therefore, at that time, in order to attract waterfowl, a “red scarf or something unusual” was attached to the dog. This may also explain the suggestions put forward for overlap with setter varieties in order to achieve the red or fox coloration found in modern specimens of the breed.

In her 1996 co-authored book, The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, Gail Macmillan reflects on the strange behavior of waterfowl lured by these canines: “Is it just curiosity that attracts ducks (and sometimes geese) and leads them to death? Or is it some strange natural phenomenon that will never be understood until someone deciphers the duck's thinking? Whatever the explanation, this bait has proven effective for hundreds of years."

There is another generally accepted version that attributes the origin of the Nova Scotia duck retriever to a later period. It revolves around James Allen of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He is said to have bred the variety in the 1860s by mixing a short-haired retriever bitch with a Labrador male, and then crossing their offspring with various other species such as cocker spaniels and setters. The earliest written reference to this version comes from an article written in the early 1900s by Hep Smith entitled "The tolling dog or little river duck dog", which describes the origin of the breed itself. It tells that in the late 1860s, James Allen, who lived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, received from the captain of a maize schooner a female English retriever with short hair dyed dark red, weighing about forty pounds. Mr. Allen crossed her with a lovely working Labrador dog. The first litter gave very large offspring. The puppies were larger than their parents and showed excellent duck-catching abilities. Some bitches from the litter were bred with a brown Cocker Spaniel imported to the province from the United States.

These canines were bred throughout the Yarmouth area, especially in Little River and Como Hill, and many displayed reddish-brownish colors. Later they were crossed with Irish Setters. Sometimes black individuals were born as good retrievers as water dogs, as well as their "red brothers". But they were less prized because they could not be used as bait like the Nova Scotia duck retrievers.

Many hobbyists trust Smith's testimony for the history of the species, as he was one of the earliest and highly respected breeders of this breed in Nova Scotia. This man had the opportunity to communicate with early breeders and knew first-hand how the Nova Scotia duck retrievers were created.

In addition, Mr. Smith, apparently, played a large role in the popularization of this variety, because his name is mentioned in the works of other authors of that time. For example, in the book The American Hunting Dog: Modern Strains of Avian Hounds and Hounds and Their Field Training, by Warren Hastings Miller. His work was published in 1919.

The author says that the English Retriever is not very popular in the country and has been largely supplanted by the Chesapeake and Irish Water Spaniel, but there is another dog, the "tolling dog", originally from Newfoundland and, apparently, has a difficult future.

Warren admires the breed's "virtues" and says they were highly prized by American hunters. These dogs were trained to perform "tricks" while in the field of view in sedge and grass. Dogs appeared and disappeared, until curious ducks began to swim up a little to see what it was. The birds were not afraid of the toller, which is rather small in size, and soon come to the affected area, when the hunters can shoot. After that, the dog swims out, brings the game and starts tactics again when another flock settles nearby.

Warren Miller suggests that the Toller, the ancestor of the Nova Scotia duck retriever, appears to have been created by crossing the English Retriever with the famous Labrador Retriever, a close relative of the Newfoundland. He writes that Mr. Hap Smith of Nova Scotia was the main breeder of these dogs at the time. While the above does not provide any information on the characteristics of the setter or spaniel found in today's Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, the author of the book agrees with Smith's assertion that the breed arose from the English retriever with a labrador dog cross. It also appears to be one of the earliest specific references to the origin of the Nova Scotia Duck Retriever, which was used to lure waterfowl.

Nova Scotia Duck Retriever spread and breed recognition

Nova Scotia duck retriever for a walk
Nova Scotia duck retriever for a walk

It is documented that in the same period (early 1900s), on the territory of Little River in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, a unique type of medium-sized, rusty-brown dog was created. There they bred genuine "Little River Duck Dogs" or "Little River Duck Dogs". This was the first unofficial name for today's Nova Scotia Duck Retriever. These tolling retrievers were capable and unique, but their fame was largely confined to parts of southwestern Nova Scotia. It is for this reason that they would later become known as "one of Nova Scotia's best kept secrets."

In the 1930s, the excellent fishing and hunting opportunities provided by Yarmouth County led celebrities such as basketball player Babe Ruth to visit the area where they were introduced to the amazing skills of the Nova Scotia duck retrievers. Due to its unique ability to lure waterfowl by performing its "ritual" dances, the species eventually acquired the nickname "pied piper of the marsh" which can be translated as "the motley swamp player". Side events in the area, such as the International Tuna Cup Competition and the Sport Fishing Competition, founded in the 1930s, attracted wealthy hunters and fishermen there, who further helped popularize the breed around the world by raising its fame.

Around this time, Colonel Cyril Colwell took an interest in Nova Scotia Duck Retrievers and set about creating his own breeding program for the variety. A little later he will write the first standard for the breed, and thanks to his efforts, the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) officially recognizes the dog in 1945 under the name "Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever". Since then, since the 1960s, members of the species have been publicly assessed, but still largely unknown. This was the situation until the famous Robert Ripley in his "Believe it or Not!" Franchise. did not publish an article about these dogs and their unique abilities. The publication was distributed throughout Canada and the United States.

Despite the publications, the popularity of the breed only increased when a pair of Nova Scotia Duck Retrievers returned from the Best in Show competition. At individual exhibitions in the 1980s, when this variety began to experience wider interest and demand, attracting the interest of serious amateurs and breeders, the position of duck dogs began to change. Ten fans decided to save the species from the "obscurity". The organization "Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever club" - NSDTRC (USA) was formed in 1984.

When the club began its activities, the club laid down a “Code of Ethics for its Breeders”. The Society maintained a list of attendees and offered them formal activities in the areas of show exhibitions, field competitions, obedience and tracking competitions. In 1988, images of Nova Scotia Duck Retrievers, along with other purely Canadian canines, were printed on a series of stamps commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CKC. The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever came in great honor and fame in 1995 when it received the status of a provincial dog of Nova Scotia. These dogs were the first and only breed to be awarded this distinction, thus marking their 50-year CKC recognition.

All accolades and accolades associated with the rise in popularity have led the American Kennel Club (AKC) to approve the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever for admission to the Miscellaneous class in June 2001. Less than three years later, in July 2003, the variety received full recognition in the AKC sports group. Based on its relatively short history since the 1960s, the Nova Scotia Duck Retriever ranks 107th out of 167 on the AKC's complete list of "2010 Most Popular Dogs of the Year." The existence of the species today is no longer a secret. Now, these pets live with breeders all over the world in Canada, Australia and even Sweden. They are used for show ring, hunting, love and adoration in the family.