Every year, I’m becoming more interested in field trials. I’ve been to a few cover dog trials in Maine and Rhode Island and I plan to attend a few more in the coming months.
Thinking about these trials has lead me to ask myself a few questions, specifically, what are trials good for and what is their point? For answers, I picked a few books, including the one excerpted below.
Below is a little of what William F. Brown had to say about trials. Mr. Brown was the editor of The American Field for a number of years and he was a big name in the world of field trials. The excerpt is from his book Field Trials: History, Management and Judging Standards, revised edition, 1982, A.S. Barnes & Co., Inc.
“The object of field trials is the promotion and development of the high-class bird dog. It is a means of enjoying the great out-of-door sport of bird hunting in the aesthetic fashion. It aims to provide competition of the highest kind among bird dogs, to stimulate enthusiasm among owners, and to act as a practical guide for breeders by setting a high standard of performance.
Field trials mold opinions of conformation and perfect mechanism of the ideal bird dog. There is a particular physical makeup of the well-bred bird dog that is indispensable to the performance of those duties wherefore he is highly valued. Without this equipment he is not so well fitted to perform those duties in a finished fashion. Bird dog trials thus influence physical standards. Although field qualities are all important in the utility bird dog, it is desirable to have beauty of conformation with brain power, intelligence, and bird sense.
With changing conditions have come new concepts…Present day standards glorify the intelligent, stylish bird dog, the “classy” performer. Bird finding is still the exalted desideratum, but the manner and quality of the performance eclipse the simple finding of game.
The field trial conception of the ideal bird dog is well defined, rational, sound. To measure up…a bird dog must possess speed, range and style. He must manifest method and an intelligent pattern in his negotiation of the terrain. He must exhibit character, animation, independence, and initiative. His work must be incisive and merry. He must show intensity and steadiness on game. He must handle. The ideal bird dog, in short, is the polished product, a high-class, thoroughly broken performer that excites constant admiration by the excellence of his work.”
That’s a pretty succinct explanation. For more of William F. Brown’s thoughts on field trials and gun dogs, go here.