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Working Spaniel Field Trialling in New Zealand
by Clark Reid

Photos Provided by the Author

Field trials developed in New Zealand in much the same manner as they did in the rest of the world - with hunters wishing to test their own dogs against those of their fellow sportsmen.
Clark Reid with Brick of Ballyblack

New Zealand is a geographically isolated country and so it was the importation of dogs from the UK that served as the basis for our breeds here. Setters and Pointers were highly favoured in the early years as gentlemen tried to establish shoots here to emulate what they had had in their homeland. Acclimatisation Societies were established to help with the introduction of game such as pheasants, quail, chukar and partridge. Native ducks abounded and mallards were also introduced to add to the pot. Of the upland species only pheasant, Californian quail and chukar really became established to huntable numbers - and the chukar only in isolated area of the Otago Hills in the South Island. Pheasant, quail and introduced ground game such as hare and rabbit became the quarry of the shotgun toting sportsmen.

The focus of most huntersí attention, though, was duck-shooting. Indeed this sport is considered a national tradition and, as such, retriever breeds became New Zealandís most dominant hunting companion. Curly coats, flat coats, and Labradors were the most common retrievers. Over the years - and still today - the Labradors have dominated as the mainstay of our hunting breeds.

"The format for a working spaniel trial is simple. We go hunting."

As with most all hunting breeds in New Zealand, the mixing of working and show strains led to their detriment. This has resulted in a complete absence of true working blood in our spaniels, becoming a

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