We’ve adopted two brittanys that for different reasons, haven’t become gun dogs. We were delighted, though, when we were invited to the American Brittany Club’s Fall Field Trials held in early October 2010 at the ”El Rancho Espanol de Cuyama”, AKA Spanish Ranch in gorgeous Santa Ynez, California. We were eager to go partly because Mitch’s mother, Emme, was a dual champion (meaning both field and show) and because we wanted to know more about how and why the breed was developed.
This 150-year-old ranch has to be one of the best places for a field trail event (not that we’re any kind of experts) in the United States. The endless rolling hills are separated by a network of small tree-filled valleys that provide great cover for game birds. It was rarely more than ten or fifteen minutes before one of the Brittanys tracked a bird to a clump of vegetation before standing still and patiently ‘pointing’ for their owner. The owner, once on the scene, would flush the bird and prove that the dog had performed their task and could be awarded points.
Because of the large expanses for hunting in North America, the American Brittany has evolved to be a larger and stronger dog than its French cousins. We can see this in the differences between our own two dogs as Mitch is around 18.6 kg (41 lbs) as an American Brittany, and Gwenn is a smaller 15.5 kg (34 lbs) as a French Brittany. The need for the larger dog was evident at the Field Trial, as the owners used horses to keep up with their dogs as they raced to cover the most ground in order to be the first to pick up a scent. The dogs were outfitted with GPS units on their collars, in fact, just to be sure that in their excitement, they don’t run so far that they can’t be found.
One of the more curious things we saw was an owner dunking his dog in a watering trough before the start of an event. It seemed a little cruel on a not-too-warm day, until we saw the ground covered by the dogs during the heat. Our concerns were alleviated when an event ended and we watched a brittany take a time out to dunk himself in a watering trough, proving that it wasn’t all that uncomfortable and was instead an important part of staying cool despite all the exercise.
One of the best things we were able to see was how Mitch reacted to seeing his mother, Emme. She is owned by Margaret Horstmayer and Tom White, and we’ve kept up with them since we adopted him through American Brittany Rescue as an ‘owner-assisted adoption’. Mitch recognized Margaret immediately and was obviously very happy to see her. Unfortunately, he didn’t recognize his own mother with quite the same speed or interest an the two dogs checked each other out in the normal dog way like any others.
End of the day
The day ended with a fantastic cookout (thank you, Mark Nunez) at the ranch house and the award ceremonies. Since Halloween was soon on us, there was a doggie costume content, which surprised us since these dogs and their owners are so serious by day. There were dogs as pumpkins, devils, princesses and even a owner/dog Cat in the Hat combination that should have won the award just for effort. It was great to see people not take themselves too seriously in the midst of all that competition. It was the perfect, light-hearted way to end yet another great adventure. If invited back, we’ll certainly try to attend another one of these great events and see this amazing breed do what it does best.
For more excellent photos, see Deborah Frane’s gallery.
For more information, see the California Brittany Club’s monthly magazine “On Point” from January 2010, covering previous field trials.