The “Dropper”

You can learn some interesting things on a dog forum.

In hunting parlance, a pointing dog that won’t hold his points is known as a “dropper,” though in a hunting forum we visited one day, there was a robust debate about that. Several posters vigorously disagreed and maintained that a “dropper” refers to a young hunting dog that is being trained by hunting alongside an older, more experienced hunting dog. According to these folks, the term refers to the practice of plunking a youngster into the field to learn appropriate hunting behavior from his or her older and wiser partner. The dog isn’t expected to actually hunt, but to get experience and learn. S/he’s a “dropper” because he or she has been dropped into class, so to speak.

From there, the discussion became fine-tuned. “Oh no,” one hunter wrote. “A dropper is always a young dog in its first hunting season.” Someone else quibbled about the origin of the term, “dropper” and argued that it referred more to the dog’s position as a subordinate than when and how the dog is introduced to hunting.

In the end, most came to an agreement that this sort of apprenticeship is a good way to train new or young dogs while still being able to hunt with their more experienced dogs.

And then we came across an entirely different definition of a “dropper,” and the information was confirmed by a visit to Craig Koshyk’s marvelous book, Pointing Dogs Volume Two.

In looking at the term from a different angle, all the sources we checked concurred that a dropper was/is a cross between a Pointer and a setter. While some described a dropper as the original “oops” dog (the product of an unplanned breeding), others wrote that the idea of combining two hunting breeds dates back to the 18th century, and that it was a pretty common thing to do on purpose both in Europe and America.  According to some sportsmen,  such crossings produced a lot of dandy gun dogs, but others regarded the intentional breedings between two purebred breeds with a sentiment just shy of horror. Arnold Burges, author of a book entitled, The American Kennel and Sporting Field published in 1876 wasn’t a fan. He didn’t mince words by calling droppers no better than curs in possession of the power of “reproducing their degenerate species.”

One won’t find a registry, of course, that will put its stamp of approval on a dropper, though Gun Dog Forum indicates that droppers were once recognized as registrable dogs in the first generation by the American Field (AF).

In the spirit of education, we thought “droppers” was worth mentioning.

Image: Title: Pointers by artist: P./from the Public Domain

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