These splendid retrievers are the only sporting dogs which have a clear claim to the distinction of being absolutely American. They are native to the shores of the historic Chesapeake Bay, and have a racial tree that considerably antedates the period of dog shows.
There are a number of stories in regard to their origin. Among them are two recorded in Forest and Stream nearly half a century ago:
One is that a vessel from Newfoundland ran aground near an estate called Walnut Grove, on the shores of the Chesapeake. On board the ship were two Newfoundland dogs which were given by the captain to Mr. Law; the owner of the estate, in return for the kindness and hospitality shown him and his crew. It is claimed that a cross between these two Newfoundlands and the common yellow and-tan hound of that part of the country was the origin of the Chesapeake Bay Dog.
Another story is that about the year 1807 the good ship Canton, of Baltimore, fell in at sea with an English brig bound from Newfoundland to England that had met disaster and was in a sinking condition. The crew were taken aboard the Canton, also a pair of puppies that eventually became the property of the captain of the Canton, and by him were taken to Baltimore. The dog puppy, a dingy red in color, was named Sailor, and the bitch, black in color, was called Canton. Both of these dogs eventually attained great reputations as duck retrievers, and Sailor and Canton are said to be the foundation of the breed. This all may be so, for there is no doubt that as a retriever of dead and wounded ducks no dog equals the Chesapeake. His brave heart, unlimited powers of endurance, and dense coat fit him eminently for braving the roughest weather. Nothing daunts him, and a good specimen of the breed will swim for miles in a rough sea covered with broken ice after a wounded bird. It is one of the few breeds that has always been kept pure, and although at one time it was confined largely to the duck marshes on the Maryland coast, today there are good specimens in various parts of the country.
The Chesapeake standard is as follows: HEAD.-Skull broad and round, with a medium stop; nose medium, short-muzzle pointed, but not sharp. Lips thin, not pendulous. Ears small, set well up on head, hanging loosely, and of medium leather; eyes medium large, very clear, of yellowish color, and wide apart.
NECK.-Of moderate length, with a strong muscular appearance; tapering to shoulders.
SHOULDERS, CHEST, AND BODY.-Shoulders sloping, and should have full liberty of action, with plenty of power without any restrictions of movement. Chest strong, deep, and wide. Barrel round and deep. Body of medium length, neither cobby nor roached, but rather approaching hollowness; flank well tucked up.
BACK QUARTERS AND STIFLES.-Back quarters should be a trifle higher than shoulders; they should show fully as much power as forequarters. There should be no tendency to weakness in either fore- or hindquarters.
LEGS, ELBOWS, HOCKS, AND FEET.–Legs should be medium length and straight, showing good bone and muscle, with well-webbed hare foot of good size. Toes well rounded and close pasterns slightly bent, and both pasterns and hocks medium length; the straighter the legs the better.
STERN.-Tail should be medium length, varying from: males, 12 inches to 15 inches, and females from 11 inches to 14 inches; medium heavy at base, moderate feathering on stern and tail permissible.
COAT AND TEXTURE.-Coat should be thick and short, nowhere over one and one-half inches long, with a dense, fine, woolly undercoat. Hair on face and legs should be very short and straight, with tendency to wave on the shoulders, neck, back, and loins only. The curly coat or coat with a tendency to curl not permissible.
COLOR.-Should be as near dead grass as possible, varying from a tan to a faded brown. The darkbrown or liver color is not permissible, the dead grass color being correct. A white spot on breast or toes permissible.
WEIGHT.-Males, 65 to 75 pounds; females, 55 to 65 pounds.
HEIGHT.-Males, 23 inches to 26 inches; females, 21 inches to 24 inches.
SYMMETRY AND QUALITY.-The Chesapeake Dog should show a bright, happy disposition and an intelligent expression, with general outlines good and denoting a worker.
Color and coat is extremely important, as the dog is used for duck hunting. The color must be as nearly that of his surroundings as possible, and with the fact that dogs are exposed to all kinds of adverse weather conditions, often working in ice and snow, the color of coat and its texture must be given every consideration when judging on the bench or in the ring.
VALUE OF POINTS.-Head, including lips, ears, and eyes, 12; neck, 8; shoulders, 10; back quarters and stifles, 12; elbow, legs, and feet, 10; stern, 6; symmetry and quality, 10; coat and texture, 13; color, 13; tail, 6. Total, 100.