Color History

From Christian Gunther
This is from a friend of mine, Pierre Willems, who wrote in the Brittany’s Handbook 1997 of the Brittany Club of G.B. page 32.

Many people interested in our Brittanys have heard about the color “black” as disqualifying – for shows only – in some countries, especially USA and Canada. They may think that indeed, the American breeders are right, as they only consider the original registered standard of the breed… but,the true FIRST standard was drawn up in 1907, AND IT INCLUDED THE BLACK AND WHITE COLOR!… but this standard was not accepted by the French kennel Club (the S.C.C.) to whom it was presented in 1908.

At that time, the “epagneuls” were under the direction of a so called “Club de l’Epagneul” (Epagneul or Spaniel Club), with no indications, of any specific location of the breed…. and it happened that the standard of the Brittany had to be introduced by the Chairman of this spaniel Club… and, this one person, DESPITE THE OPINION OF THE BRITTANY CLUB, refused the black and white coat, as “it didn’t exist in the French spaniel”. (Which is true, this Epagneul Français breed being homozygous with the recessive “bb” and “EE”)… and our Brittany had to suffer from this absurd position for years and years, until, in 1956, the Club de l’Epagneul Breton elected a new chairman, Gaston Pouchain, who, in 1959, succeeded in the registration of a standard including the black color!!!

Obviously, from 1908 to 1959, black and white Brittanys did continue to be born, (as our breed is heterozygous for both the “B” and “E” locis!) though theses could not be registered by the S.C.C. The new situation now satisfies everyone (but the stubborn American standard) and, in my opinion, it is an advantage for a breed to show more coat colors and it allows more choice for the ideal specimen giving one the chance to select upon qualities other than on appearance!

And also, about this color situation in France, people must not forget that the crossing between colors is admitted in the Brittany, without any restriction (except the coat must include white!), thus avoiding the risk of creating two subbreeds by selection, as has happened for the English Cocker in France, where it is undesirable to mate “white showing”(roan) dogs to non white showing (solid) ones! If the two categories are separated for the CAC in national shows, there is no technical reason why not, but it would only double the amount of champions registered every year appears to me as good for the breed.

‘Nowadays, the “Club de l’Epagneul) no longer exists, as it has been replaced by several clubs, specific for each variety ( French, Brittany, Picardy-Blue and Picardy-Pont Audemer being still concentrated in one single club due to their small numbers). Pierre Willems, C.E.B. Member.

I think Brittany’s history is not always completely known by every body, in France, in Italy, and all over the world. Why? Because this history is based on old books, or more recent books from French or other nationalities. And, in all these old books, there were some wrong facts! So, twenty years after, another “historian” writes again a new book about the Epagneul Breton, or Brittany. And, as he doesn’t know a lot of things about them, he reads older books, and so, he paraphrases wrong facts!

I think in France, there aren’t a lot who know really Brittany’s history. Perhaps no more than 4 or 5! Because every body thinks he knows this history only because he has read all the books on this subject! Those of Lessard, Munch, De Kermadec, Gagniard, Pouchain, de Wailly (and Roby) all contain some inaccuracies. And then, all these “connoisseurs” repeat, as parrots, false facts. And after repeating and repeating, they are sure these false facts are true “because it’s in a book!”.

From researches I’ve done, it seems that”outcrossing” had been a reality before 1908, but with all other existing breeds: French épagneuls, english and irish setters, pointers, and springers too. The legend of outbreeding only with pointers and setters is not credible. Brittany has springer blood, indubitably, and only Ronan De Kermanec admitted clearly this evidence, and he thought it was an advantage, especially on hard and difficult grounds as brambles or gorses, because Britts must like deep bushes, where, in France, there are the most part of woodcocks. After the official foundation of the breed, outcrossing has always been accidental. Because to obtain and keep a real short body breed, it’s not the best way to outcross with a medium body breed!

When I write “genuine background papers”, they are. You can see on our Website a photocopy of a page of the French L.O.F. from 1921. This document has never been, to my knowledge, published even in France. I got it from the SCC (in english: Canine Central Society) records. It proves that some Black and White Brittanys were still existing, and being registered on the L.O.F. in France, more than ten years after the foundation of the breed! Amazing, isn’t?