There has been much outrage and occasional discrete debate over the Kennel Club’s changes to the breed standard at the end of 2008. Let’s be frank, they aren’t radical changes, but more tweaks to remind judges (and so perhaps breeders) not to strive for anything extreme in excess or anything extreme in plainness.

All breeds enjoy a fair range of form and type, as no standard is proof from interpretation by the ‘informed’ (the dog world) or the ‘uninformed’ (the general public who are not aware of how phrases and words are coined and collared to mean different things to a breed then in the general world.

One writer recently claimed the reduction of the body weight by a simple 5% decline would imperil the dog form working as he did when the standard was first coined – can’t figure that one – check out the weights in the first standard.

Anyway, I have been tidying up a bit and came across one or two interesting items, which I am placing before you as I believe readers can think and work things out for themselves. It may take some a little longer to realize how far the modern show Clumber has drifted from his original form, but a member of the general public isn’t blinkered by being so close. Someone standing on the next hill will often see the smoke rise from a forest fire before some one engaged in whatever activity within the forest.


The author believes that the Clumber, to conform to the type of dog as depicted in Wheatley’s picture of the second Duke of Newcastle, should be encouraged as the active type of dog, heavier than the other spaniels, but not bred on lines which render it cumbersome and too slow for real good work. The present massive type of conformation is certainly not representative of the original, but rather that of which is regarded (by some)as the improved type of Clumber probably from about 1860 onwards, perhaps starting with a dog called ‘Nabob’.


Here is a rare opening to breed high class stock, i.e., some one who understands the art of breeding, and who can command first-rate walks, to set to work to restore the type of Nabob�to get his size, his colour, his eye, his immense head, which being long was so beautifully proportioned as to strike the observer as being short; to get his lovely silky coat, his lengthy level body, carried close to the ground, and his immense bone. All these properties are lost, absolutely lost, by the present breeders of Clumbers,

…. contrast this with the paragraph from the Kennel Encyclopaedia!


E. W. Sandys. 1900 November Vol. XXXVII No. 2 p237
Sandys is discussing the virtue of the spaniel for setter style work, but we can glean some useful insights into the Clumber from his words.
The type of spaniel seen at bench shows is about as far from a useful sort for land work as could be invented. The Clumber is a nice, intelligent animal, but a Berkshire shoat could give him a close race at covering ground. The Clumber is all right on his native estate, but he won’t do for this land of magnificent distances where speed, endurance and wide, free ranging are so frequently necessary. Such a heavy, stumpy-legged dog is all right for bolting rabbits, or hustling pheasants and cock out of cover, but he is too cumbersome and noisy in action for ruffed grouse.
In deep snow he is absolutely useless,as the best he can do is to wallow about – that is, when he isn’t gnawing snowballs off his feet, or temporarily lost owing to his coat.
The Clumber’s build is wrong, and so also is that of other spaniels of bench-show type. All are clever and willing, but their fashionable figures are too great a handicap. Weight and lumber have no place in a grouse cover, and the few men who praise the work of clumsy, noisy dogs (I don’t mean give tongue), either are themselves too sluggish to follow fast dogs, or they are unfamiliar with the fine, well-regulated work of crack pointers and setters.


And please take the time to look at the Wheatley painting – perhaps Wheatley has not captured everything perfectly, perhaps we don’t know how tall William Mansell (the one the Clumber has jumped up and leaned on) so it is hard to judge the height and size of the dogs. It is safe to assume the horses are not much over 14 hands, they are shooting ‘ponies’ and the heels of the riders come well below the belly; I would risk a guess that the Pointers are no where near as tall as the modern show Pointer; perhaps even the size of the game has changed in 200 years – has it though?
The white spaniels in this painting are NOT as large as the modern show Clumber in most parts of the world. If the modern show Clumber truly represents the ‘breed standard’, then perhaps the breed standard does not represent the Spaniel of Clumber Park in 1788.
This leads me to one more question, should the breed standard of today (and so the modern show Clumber) represent and mimic the dogs portrayed by the Wheatley painting? Or can we endorse a serious diversion from that type in just two hundred years?
As I said at the start, “I believe readers can think and work things out for themselves”


check here for the Wheatley – may be you could even hang a copy on your own wall!

weights from published standards
source Spaniel Club, cited by Rawdon Lee in Modern Dogs 4th edition
also cited by Arkwright in Drury’s British Dogs 1903
also the same weights are given by de Bylandt in Dogs of All Nations 1904
also cited by Farrow The Clumber Spaniel 1912 as Spaniel Cbub’s standard 190
dog: 55 to 65 lb
bitch: 45 to 55 lb
(weight conversion is
dog: 24.95 kg to 29.48 kg say 25 to 30 kg
bitch: 20.41 kg to 24.95 kg say 20 to 25 kg)

credited to Clumber Spaniel Club cited by Philip Lee (sec Clumber Club) in CC Sanderson Pedigree Dogs 1927
Dogs about 55 to 75 lb
Bitches about 50 to 60 lb

cited by A Croxton Smith in About Our Dogs 1931
also listed as such in America’s Freeman Lloyd’s All Spaniels 1930
Dogs about 60 to 75 lb
Bitches 50 to 60 lb

KC Breed Standard 1994
Dogs 36 kgs (80 lbs)
Bitches 29.5 kgs (65 lbs)

KC Breed Standard 1.1.2009
Dogs: 29.5 – 34 kgs (65 – 75 lbs)
Bitches: 25 – 29.5 kgs (55 – 65 lbs)

heights from published ‘standards’
given by de Bylandt in Dogs of All Nations 1904
from 16 to 18 inches

given by Harding Cox in Dogs of Today 1931
dogs 16 to 18 inches
bitches 13 to 15 inches


In late years there has been an inclination to over increase his weight and size which has certainly not been to his advantage as a working dog. Although never a fast dog at his work, he was in a way very active for his size. Those we have seen competing at our recent trials have been not only slow but have quickly tired. They have lost much of their keenness, and perseverance when taking a line, which was in times past a strong feature of their work, nor do they seem to have retained that wonderful game-finding quality which was formerly an inherent acquisition.


I acted as judge on that occasion, and I put Boss III back simply because of his want of Clumber expression, or, in other words, because his is not a Clumber’s head. Arkwright is referring to the Kennel Club show 1886 where he placed Psycho first. In the descriptive particulars of the Clumber Spaniel, in the standard of points and description of the different varieties of Spaniels just published by the Spaniel Club, the head of the Clumber is very fairly handled, and reads as follows: ‘Large, square, and massive, flat on top, ending in a peak at occiput, round above the eyes, with a deep stop; muzzle heavy and freckled, lips of upper jaw slightly overhung; skin under eyes dropping, and showing haw.’; While this is not the description included in ‘description published by the Sporting Spaniel Club’ as cited in the very same article, I must say this is different from what we see in the modern Clumber – and yet I suspect it is a fair description of the Wheatley head.