City hall received information last week that the American Water Spaniel Club plans to bring back their National Specialty Show to New London.
The last year they held the National Specialty event in New London was 2010. The event will be held from Aug. 5-9, 2015.
Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth assisted Mary Kangas from the American Water Spaniel Club to reserve portions of Hatten Park for next year’s event.
The National Specialty event includes an annual meeting, obedience, field trials and other competitions, as well as the breed confirmation show. This event will draw visitors from throughout North America.
The first year this event came to New London was August 2000. At that time, the State Department of Tourism estimated an economic boost of over $20,000 for local businesses.
History of the American Water Spaniel in New London
The American Water Spaniel was first registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1920 and the American Kennel Club in 1940.
The efforts of establishing the dogs as purebred – breeding true to form – was largely due to the work of one man, Dr. F. J. Pfeifer, of New London, Wisconsin. Pfeifer was a physician and surgeon here from 1909 until his death in 1967.
Upon recognition of the breed by the UKC, Dr. Pfeifer established his Wolf River Kennels on the Trambauer farm and began breeding the dogs in a serious way.
He sold as many as 100 puppies per year. At that time, his price was $20 for females and $25 for males. He was so proud of his dogs that he had a standing offer of the purchase price returned if a buyer was not satisfied with a new pup, even a year after purchase. Henry P. Davis, in his New Dog Encyclopedia states that, “the doctor couldn’t recall ever having to make good this offer.”
The American Water Spaniel is a medium-sized dog, 15-18 inches at the shoulder, weighing 25-45 pounds.
He has the typical sturdy build of a spaniel, but has a tail of medium length that is covered with tightly curled hair. The tail displays very lively action when the dog is hunting, and acts as a rudder when the dog is swimming.
The coat is closely curled or has a marcel effect, and must be dense enough to give protection in cold water and punishing cover. The color is either dark chocolate or solid liver. Some specimens have a little white on the toes and the chest.
The legs are of medium length, the forehead is covered with short, smooth hair. There is no top knot or tuft. The facial expression is alert and intelligent.
The cradle of development for this breed was the Wolf and Fox River Valleys in east-central Wisconsin. The rivers and lakes of this area, such as Winnebago, Poygan, and Butte Des Morts, were known for their outstanding duck hunting during the early 1900s. The usual method of duck hunting was from a light skiff or canoe. A dog that was small enough for thick marshes was needed, and was developed. Later the dog was also adapted to work ruffed grouse covers and imported ring-neck pheasants.
Because of the strong retrieving instinct, the dog is easy to train. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, a dog of this type was probably the most numerous among river men and water fowlers in the Midwest and even New England. At that time, it could not yet be called a distinct breed, although the name generally given to it was brown water spaniel or American brown spaniel, some referred to it as An Indian dog.
The process to have the American Water Spaniel named as an official state symbol began in the fall of 1981 when a petition from the eighth grade Social Studies classes in Washington Junior High was presented to Representative Francis Byers who authored and sponsored the bill.
Eventually Assembly Bill 89 was passed by the entire assembly. It was then sent to a Senate Committee, which refused to act, therefore killing AB89. Not to be deterred by the lack of success, the Bill was revived in the fall of 1983. Again, it successfully passed in the Assembly. On March 7, 1986, the Senate passed AB16.
On April 22, 1986, Governor Anthony Earl came to New London to sign AB16 into law, which made the American Water Spaniel an official symbol of the state of Wisconsin.
On March 11, 1988, the State Historical Society approved the placement of a historical marker at Franklin Park near the New London Chamber of Commerce building. Students in Lyle Brumm’s eighth grade Civics class solicited local civic groups to raise funds for the historical marker.
The American Water Spaniel is one of only five recognized breeds indigenous to the United States and the only dog to be developed in Wisconsin as a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club.