Shadow Oak Bo ~ Meditations on a Pedigree
Nineteen Seventy (Johnny Crockett) to Twenty Thirteen (Shadow Oak Bo), that’s forty-three years! Before that, twenty-four years, back to Nineteen Forty-Six and Mississippi Zev; before that, back seven years to Nineteen Thirty-Nine and Sport’s Peerless Pride; before that, back nine years to Nineteen Thirty and Feagan’s Mohawk Pal, who won also in Nineteen Twenty-Eight and Nineteen Twenty-Six.
But starting at the beginning, in Eighteen-Ninety Six, the first twelve were setters, until Nineteen-Nine when Manitoba Rap became the first pointer winner. Another seven years until John Proctor became only the second pointer winner in Nineteen Sixteen. But that opened the pointer floodgate, and pointer domination of the National Bird Dog Championship, the World Series ─ Super Bowl ─ NBA Championship ─ Indy 500 of the bird-dog sport, ensued.
So it has been forty-three years since a setter has won the National at the Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee. More than half a human lifetime. Some thought setter fans would never see another setter National Champion.
Why so seldom? Because pointers are easier and quicker to train to the harsh and peculiar requirements of this extreme sport. Or stated another way, because it generally takes longer for a setter to round into form, and a setter is more likely to suffer a setback in the process, and so fewer and fewer patrons and handlers choose the longhair as a candidate. Economics and impatience.
Yet in one demanding category of pointing-dog competitions, setters have continued to dominate ─ in ruffed grouse and woodcock trials. And in horseback shooting-dog competitions, setters have competed and won their share and sometimes more. Moreover, in hunting fields across the continent, setters have been the favorite of many; save in the Deep South where short hair naturally favors pointers.
Especially for the shoe-leather bird hunter, the heart of the bird dog sport, the setter has been and likely will always be the favorite, for one reason, personality. A setter loves a hunter, becomes his best friend, sometimes only friend.
For the die-hard setter fan, and there are many among us despite the forty-three years, Shadow Oak Bo’s pedigree merits careful study and contemplation. It tells many stories of great dogs, loyal owners, and dedicated trainer-handlers, professional and amateur.
Here are a few snippets of those stories, taken from the memory bank of one who has bred and hunted setters fifty years uninterrupted, and been owned by a setter best friend in each of those decades.
Shadow Oak Bo represents largely rested blood — that is, his close-up ancestors are, with a few exceptions, not major winners, if winners at all. His sire, Shak Ti, named for the Star Wars character Shaak Ti, the Compassionate Jedi, won the Alabama Open Shooting Dog Championship in 1999 and the Region Three Amateur Walking Shooting Dog Championship in 2002 and had twelve other placements. His dam, Ray’s Sundrop Jill, had no placements, but produced six winners. She goes back to foundation setters in the Grouse Ridge, Smith-Ray, Sunrise and Mosley lines, though the close up dogs, top and bottom, were not significant winners or producers.
Shak Ti’s ancestors, top and bottom, go back to Smith-Ray’s great Pinnacle (by (I’m Oscar-Amber), Hall of Famer Grouse Ridge Will, Mr. Motion, and Long Gone Stokley (by Long Gone Sam).
We all know and appreciate the Smith-Ray setters, solid multiple champions which won and produced and carried on, the lifeline of the hunting-setter breed. And we should know too of the special females owned by others they went to for outcross magic. (If Shadow Oak Bo’s pedigree tells us nothing else, it is that it takes many great setters from disparate lines to produce a “lighting in a bottle” setter National Champion).
The key outcross females in the Smith-Ray lineup were Pete’s White Star, by Flaming Star, and her daughter Riva Ridge, by Grouse Ridge Will, both owned by long-time setter breeder D. Dana White, an Alabama (later Florida) school teacher who also bred Hall-of-Famer Ch. Mr. Thor. Mr. White was already close to eighty when I met him and struck up a long lasting correspondence. I had the pleasure of calling to tell him in consecutive years that Cash Master’s DD and Barnum, two pups he raised from Pete’s White Star and Riva Ridge, had won the United States Quail Shooting Dog Futurity for the Smith-Rays. Cash Master’s DD produced Hall-of-Famer Ch. The Performer when mated with Ch. Pinnacle.
Mr. White then lived at Homestead, Florida, where he daily ran his setters in orange groves. I could tell from his letters that dementia was taking its toll on the old man. Then one day he called me in tears to report his beloved Pete’s White Star had succumbed to a heat stroke when she’d gotten away from him and couldn’t find water. Not long after, his wife called to say he’d died from a blow to the head, struck by a passer by he’d gotten into an argument with, all sadly the product of his dementia.
The survival of the setter as a competitive working dog can be traced through a handful of dedicated people who have bred the best to the best through the last century. Their names include among others Duffield, Bobbitt, Smith and Ray, Flanagan, O’Neale, Robertson, Smith (Herman and Collier), Birdeshaw, Farrow, Mauck, Murray and McConnell.
While only two champions (Shak Ti and A Tarheel Sunrise) appear in the nearest three generations of Bo’s ancestors, five Hall-of-Famers appear in the next two generations. Most striking is that only three dogs, male or female, appear more than once in the five generation pedigree, and these in the earliest two. I’m Oscar, Brannigan and Amos Mosley appear twice, each mated with two different females. It would be hard to produce another five-generation setter or pointer pedigree with so little line breeding, especially up close. I leave it to the reader’s contemplation what that tells us.
Much luck goes into producing every champion bird dog, and especially so every National Champion. Bo’s luck to fall into the hands of the talented developer Buddy Smith of Collierville, Tennessee, was crucial. Buddy has played a key early role for many a great one. And luck too to be discovered by Robin and Hunter Gates and their long-time patron Butch Houston and his partner Dr. John Dorminy, to give Bo the major circuit opportunity. Setter fans everywhere are the beneficiaries of this luck. Let’s all hope and pray Bo stays healthy and potent a long time.
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Photos courtesy of the American Field Publishing.