The first championship stake was held in Southampton, Long Island on November 20-21, 1938. Blind of Arden was one of twenty-two of the best retrievers in the US came to compete. They retrieved pheasants shot in the field and ducks shot over water. The dogs saw some birds shot while other birds were planted out of sight. Dogs had to be guided by their handlers to find these birds.

In the header image, you can see the judges, owners, handlers, spectators and dogs trudging across the field trial grounds. 1

THE WINNER

One dog, FC Blind of Arden did the work without a mistake. He clinched the win with the final blind retrieve described as follows:

"...a dead duck, unseen by the dogs, was planted on an island. At a signal from his handler, Blind jumped into the water and swam to the island. There he scented the bird, looked back only twice to the handler, who with his arm waved him in the right direction. Quickly finding the duck, Blind picked it up with a firm mouth, started swimming back to his handler." 2

Blind of Arden retrieving a duck

Blind retrieving a duck to his handler, Jasper Briggs.

Life Magazine featured Blind on the magazine's cover on December 12, 1938. This was the first time a dog had ever been on the cover. (Note: You can see a copy of the cover here.)

US FIELD TRIALS

The Labrador Retriever breed was just getting started in the United States and had only been officially recognized by the America Kennel Club five years earlier.

The first retriever field trial was held in 1931. In 1935, Field and Stream Magazine provided a perpetual trophy that would be awarded each year to the dog that earned the most points in Open All-Age stakes. Blind of Arden won it the first year and his half-sister, FC Tar of Arden, won it a few years later. It was 1941 before the National Retriever Field Trial Club was formed.

Images from the first retriever championship stake

(left) A handler controls the dog using whistle and arm signals.
(center) Three retriever breeds - a Curly coated retriever, a Labrador and a Chesapeake Bay retriever.
(right) Judges inspect a retrieved bird. Dogs must hold them firmly, but gently so as not to break the skin or crush the bird. After the trial, the birds are sold.

At that time, retriever trials were the realm of the very rich. Owners imported dogs from England, enticed dog trainers from Scotland and set up amazing hunting estates on the east coast. To have a chance of winning the Field and Stream trophy, dogs had to run in many trials throughout the East and Mid West.

Blind's owner was W. Averell Harriman of New York. He was the son of a railroad baron and, in his own career, he served as Secretary of Commerce under President Truman, served as a diplomat in relations with the Soviet Union during World War II and later served as governor of New York.

Blind of Arden training with a live pheasant

Blind of Arden training with a live pheasant.

BLIND OF ARDEN'S BLOODLINES

Odds On FTWThe Favorite FTWThe Limit
Cache Of The Rhins FTW
JestMansel's Timothy
Bess
Peggy of Shipton FTWRonald of CandaharEng FTCh Rag Tag
June
Gehta of SigefordaEng FTCh Banchory Bluff
Eng CH Balbeardie FTW

Extended pedigree

Although Blind didn't seem to produce any titled dogs himself, he did pass on his genetics to future generations. Some dogs that descend from him include:

  • CNFC FC AFC Ardyn's Ace of Merwalfin
  • Eng FTCh Eng AFTCh Slo-Poke Smokey Of Dairy Hill
  • FC AFC Jet of Zenith
  • CNFC FC Rip of Holly Hill

Blind's son

Jet of Zenith's pedigree is interesting.

NFC AFC Massie's Sassy Boots
Hall of Fame
Shadow IIBlack Spook of Riverside
Dark Lady
Penney of WinganDarky of Wingan
Bancstone Dinah
Thornwood RheaCNFC FC Rip of Holly HillSkip of Timber Town
Okanagan Molly
Graysmarsh Christmas3xNFC CFC Dual CH Shed of Arden
Graysmarsh Middy (by Blind of Arden)

Extended pedigree

Starting at the bottom of the pedigree, Blind's daughter, Graysmarsh Middy, was bred to her cousin, 3xNFC CFC DUAL CH Shed of Arden, thus doubling up on Peggy of Shipton.

A female from that litter, Graysmarsh Christmas, was bred to CNFC FC Rip of Holly Hill. Rip was a great great grandson of Blind through Okanagan Molly, thus doubling up on Blind.

A female from the Rip x Christmas litter, Thornwood Rhea, was bred to NFC AFC Massie's Sassy Boots. Boot's mother, Penney of Wingan, had several lines back to Eng DUAL CH Banchory Bolo and other dogs owned or bred by Lorna, Countess Howe.

Read more about the Wingan Labradors.

Blind's sisters

Then there's Blind's full sister - FC Decoy of Arden - who was an outstanding producer. She was the mother of:

  • 3xNFC CFC DUAL CH Shed of Arden,
  • DUAL CH Braes of Arden,
  • DUAL CH Gorse of Arden,
  • CH Earlsmoor Moor of Arden,
  • CH Earlsmoor Marlin of Arden (all by CH Raffles of Earlsmoor) and
  • FC Gun of Arden (by Toff of Hamyax FTW)

And Blind's half-sister - NFC Tar of Arden (by Hiwood Risk) - who was the mother of Dual CH CFC Little Pierre Of Deer Creek.

(Click for help understanding the various titles dogs have earned)

Arden Labradors

"According to Bob Bartos, 'Harriman had some of the greatest Labradors. His Arden dogs were bred from the best English stock and they became the first important competitive winners...'

"Harriman knew quality, played to win, and possessed the financial resources to kick out the jams. For members of his elite social class, shooting and sport hunting were revered pastimes. Harriman hunted grouse at Arden and Sun Valley, two of his personal estates, and he never missed the British shooting season. This is where he first glimpsed Labradors in action. He was awestruck." 3

Blind of Arden was bred and owned by Mr. Harriman.

First National Field Champion Blind of Arden

Whelped: March 20, 1933
Breeder/Owner:  W. Averill Harriman, Arden Kennel
Registration: 965,612

Abbreviations:

AFC - Amateur field trial champion
CFC - Canadian field trial champion
CNFC - Canadian national field trial champion
Dual CH - Dual champion (show and field champion)
Eng AFTCh - English amateur field trial champion
Eng FTCh - English field trial champion
FC - Field trial champion
FTW - Field trial winner (not a title)
NFC - National field trial champion

Notes:

[1] Blind of Arden Wins No. 1 U.S. Retriever Test. (1938, December 12). Life, 5, 26–27.

[2] Ibid

[3] Fernandez, Amy. Retriever Field Trials – The Early Days. Canine Chronicle. 2020, Aug 26. 2024, May 21. https://caninechronicle.com/current-articles/retriever-field-trials-the-early-days/

 

Originally published September 17, 2021. Updated May 21, 2024.

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