Spending the weekend with my family on Colorado’s Western Slope while celebrating my Dad’s 90th birthday definitely turned me into a peacock. We hope your weekend was equally as special. What a treat to wake up to crisp cool temps. While driving over the pass, I noticed a small smattering of aspen trees leaning toward their autumnal golden beauty and even noticed some snow dusting on several peaks above timberline. Let the autumnal commencement begin.
It’s Monday and we hope the weekend was tickety-boo. While you’re rubbing the sleep out of your eyes and heading into a brand new week, let’s ‘budge up’ and have a good chinwag about this month’s edition of “Meet the Breed.” Norman here. Elsa and I argued chatted up which breed we wanted to look at and finally decided to look no farther than within our own family for a good look at a very cool breed, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, often called as “Chessies.” Rudder and Axel are mum’s nephews and just moved into a new mountain home not far from rivers and streams, a Chessies dream world. You can visit their blog here.
Blimey! Look at that boy’s take off! That handsome, athletic fella is Rudder. Can I just say… mate, my golly! You think he can give me loads of advice on water fun?
To say Chessies are “water dogs” is a bit of an understatement. This American original embodies all that is valued in retrievers. They’re loyal, upbeat, affectionate, and tireless and well known for their waterproof coat. Rudder is always ready for retrieving sticks or rocks thrown into nearby streams.
Chessies are strong, powerfully built gundogs standing anywhere from 21 to 26 inches at the shoulder with males weighing between 75 to 100 pounds. The distinctive breed trait is a wavy coat that is oily to the touch. Chessies are solid-colored, either chocolatey brown, sedge, or deadgrass, with keen yellow-amber eyes that nicely complement the coat and live between 10-13 years.
Chessies are more emotionally complex than the average gundog. They take well to training, but can have a mind of their own and can tenaciously pursue their own path. Protective of their humans as well as polite, they may not be openly friendly toward strangers. Chessies make excellent watchdogs and a well-socialized Chessie makes for a confident companion and hunting buddy.
So how did this breed originate you ask? Seems that during the 19th century well-heeled owners of the duck clubs that lined the shores of the Chesapeake Bay began breeding the breed we’ve come to know today. It’s believed that Newfoundlands, Irish Water Spaniels, and other hounds of undetermined origin were among the breed’s early genetic mix. By the time the AKC was founded in 1884, a definite “Chessie type” had been established.
To understand this breed, one needs to know a bit about the area from where they originated. Two key features to the 200-mile-long estuary surrounded by Maryland and Virginia factor into why Chessies were developed. First, the Bay is relatively shallow with a low capacity for storing heat allowing water temps to get down to around freezing in early winter and stay there until spring. Secondly, Bay’s location lies along the “Atlantic Flyway,” a flight path taken by ducks and geese to their winter homes. Every year the Bay hosts a good third of all migratory waterfowl wintering on the East Coast of the US.
Hunters used these features to breed a dog who is well-suited to the Bay’s frigid water and visiting waterfowl. The thick, oily, double coat of a Chessie not only insulates, but it is waterproof as well. Repealing moisture much like duck feathers do and broad chest acts much like a plow against ice floes while the powerful hindquarters with large webbed feet enable him to swim tirelessly against the Bay’s windy conditions. Ideally equipped for retrieving, Chessies are a reliable, indefatigable dog possessing a ‘soft mouth’ ensuring the hunter that his retrieved fowl will remain intact upon retrieval. I’m guessing the Ninja wouldn’t make a very good retriever since she manages to chew ears and feet off all my toys, despite her own breed’s soft mouth. *sigh
Chessies are real charmers being perceptive and sensitive and make excellent therapy dogs. With their strong ability to follow scents, they do brilliantly in search-and-rescue work or drug and bomb detection. Dashing good looks and athleticism definitely give these blokes a definite leg up in show rings as well as in a variety of dog competitions.
Hope you enjoyed meeting mum’s ‘nephews.’ Have you encountered these athletic dogs before? Mum says if you are interested in featuring your own breed in the coming months, be sure to contact her. I’d love to tell all my mates about your good dog. Cheerio!