by Kate Romanski
from the 2003 National Catalog
During the first golden era of cocker field trials (I say first, because surely in 2003, with the Cocker National becoming an annual event, we are embarking on the second golden era, don’t you think?), the years following World War II, the Cocker National was sponsored by the American Spaniel Club, the venerable parent club for the (American) Cocker Spaniel, which, in its original formation, had served as “parent club” for all the flushing spaniel breeds. (To this day the ACS holds an annual conformation show in early January open to just flushing spaniels.)
Springers had held several successful nationals by the time Henry Berol,
chairman of the ASC Field Trial Committee, persuaded the ASC to offer a National
Cocker Championship in 1953. Trials for cockers had been held off and on from
the late 1920s, but wins for English cockers were few and far between. Several
did complete Field Championships prior to WWII, including the imported solid
liver dog, Arbury Squib, which was later to be come one of the breed’s
two Dual Champions. There was an active group of cocker trial participants in
Northern California as well as in the east during the years immediately
following WWII, and in 1953 they met in Herrin, Illinois, site of the first
Monte wrote in The American Field about the premier event: “To qualify
for the national, dogs had to place in one of the recognized Open All-Age Stakes
held in 1953…..twenty were entered in the National, 11 American and 9 English,
and all started.” The judges for that first National were Elias Vail and A. M.
Lewis who awarded first and the National Championship to Field Ch. Camino’s
Cheetah, a black, white and tan bitch bred and owned by H. C. “Dan”
McGrew and handled by Stanley Head. A runner-up award was given to Dr. J. E.
Dodson’s owner-handled black ECS bitch, Wildacre Harum Scarum.
Cocker National became, for a time, a worthy finale to the annual trial season.
The 1954 event was again held in Herrin, Illinois with an English Cocker again
taking top honors: the imported blue roan dog, Eng/Am. Field Ch. Shawfield
Glenfire, owned by Andrew Porter and handled by Larry MacQueen. The year
1955 saw the event move east to Ringoes, New Jersey, where another British
import, Eng/Am/Field Champion Greatford Meadowcourt Pin, lemon roan dog
owned by Albert Winslow and handled by Jasper Briggs won a hotly contested
contest in atrocious weather.
1958 English Cockers came to the fore again when the red dog Field Ch.
Camino’s Red Rocket handled by Ivan Brower for the actor, Clark Gable took
the championship. The seventh championship in 1959 was won again by an English
Cocker, the black dog Field Ch. Greatford Charlie, another import from
the United Kingdom owned by Dean Bedford and handled by Larry MacQueen. Charlie
had been runner-up in 1958 and Red Rocket was runner-up to him in 1959.
the early 1960s, for various reasons, interest in cocker field trials was
starting to wane. American Cockers accounted for the 1960 and 1961
championships, but the number of entries was beginning to decline. Since the
National was based on dogs qualifying from trial placements during the season,
obviously less trials would mean fewer entries for a National. An Ameircan
Cocker, Field Ch. Ru-Char’s High Jinks, owned by Ruth Greening (known
to many for her excellent field English Springers) won the last Cocker National
held in 1962. The ASC Field Trial Chairman, Mr. Peter D. Garvan reported:
entry was deceptive (19) as the number of exhibitors decreased, ten entries
being made by two kennels. Overall the quality of the stake was good, but not
overpowering, the low point being reached during the running of the water
Sadly with entries and interest waning, there were not enough entries even at the regular trials to warrant holding a National Championship in 1963 and by 1964 the Cocker field trials in the United States had ceased.
ECSCA, a parent club in its own right in those days, was still closely connected
to the American Spaniel Club. A small amount of ECSCA members supported the
trials of those times; however there is nothing in the ECSCA archives which
indicates that there had ever been any interest by the ECSCA itself to hold a
National Cocker Field Championship. The American Spaniel Club found its group of
field-oriented members declining, and, until recently, did not appear at all
interested in offering field events.
the first five years of the revived field trials, interest in the working
English Cocker grew, fostered by a small, but dedicated group of fanciers who
worked with the ECSCA to get the trials going again. Judging by the entries at
most events, there was no cause for complaint though everyone realized the
importance of the on-going need for new faces, new dogs and continued support of
such events – for in truth, there was an entirely new generation of field-triallers
and fanciers involved with the working Cockers. To help maintain an on-going
interest in the newly revived trials, the ECSCA decided to take the plunge in
1998 and offer a “new/revived” – call it what you will – National Field
Trial Championship for Cocker Spaniels and English Cockers. The oldest regional
club for the breed, the Heart of Michigan ECSC, took on the task of hosting the
event which was held October 30-31, 1998 in Hillsdale, Michigan. A “local boy
made good” when Ernie Hasse (one of this year’s judges) handled his imported
solid liver dog, Field Ch. Flathome Accord, to first place, to become the
first NFC in 36 years.
For more information on history, see:
History of the English Cocker in the Field by Robin Burk.