The history of the Clumber Spaniel breed has been marked with colorful tales of dukes, escapes across the English Channel from the French Revolution and fanciful crossbreeding. However, there is no factual basis for the previously most prevalent story and only speculation about the true origin of he breed. We do hope that in the near future DNA analysis will determine from what canine combinations this wonderful breed has evolved.
It is the current thinking that the gamekeepers who actually cared for, dealt with and hunted with the dogs in the latter part of the 18th and first half of the 19th century combined dogs whose functions fit their needs and demands. It is a most interesting and mentally rewarding exercise for fanciers to think about which characteristics of what breeds would have produced a Clumber, such as Basset Hounds and some form of Alpine Spaniel.
It is true that the name Clumber derives from the Duke of Newcastle’s 3,800 acre estate Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, England. (The name Clumber itself probably derives from the ancient name, Clun, of a local river.) It is known that a number of titled families and landed gentry living in that area, known as The Dukeries, hunted with these sporting spaniels. Certainly, there are records of Clumber breedings among the dogs on these neighboring estates. It has been theorized that the Duke of Newcastle’s long time gamekeeper, William Mansell, was himself responsible for the development of this unique breed. It is known that he and his descendants worked in that area for a long time with a significant number of hunting spaniels.
Many examples of vintage paintings depict Clumbers in hunting situations. It is especially interesting to note that many of these dogs closely resemble today’s dogs, with sometimes a little less bone and smaller heads. The colors evident in almost all old pictorial records are white and orange, even though early standards and actual written descriptions mention a preference for the color lemon.
Clumbers are thought to have arrived in North America in 1848, first in Canada, but there were enough in the United States by 1883 to be one of the first nine breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. Clumber Spaniels were shown and hunted over quite often in the latter part of the 19th century in England, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that a significant number were shown here. In recent years the breed’s popularity is the highest it has ever been both in the show ring, in the field and at home…and rightly so.