We want to know everything about dogs. Everything! But there are countless breeds of dog out there, and each one is a unique animal with its own history. That's why every week, we shine a spotlight on a different breed. This week, learn some fun facts about Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.
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THE CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER IS AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL
In 1807, two Newfoundland dogs named Sailor and Canton escaped a shipwrecked British vessel off the coast of Maryland. The hardy Newfies were observed to be effective retrievers, and locals bred them with other dogs from the area. Sailor and Canton’s offspring marked the beginning of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
CHESSIES WERE BRED TO BE TOUGH AND HARDY RETRIEVERS
Chessies were developed to have the strong constitutions necessary to hunt in the harsh winter climate of their namesake Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding area. They combine the toughness of their Newfoundland ancestors with the hunting abilities in their retriever blood. As a result, the breed loves water and can withstand ice and cold very well.
CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVERS ARE EXCELLENT DUCK-HUNTING DOGS
Many hunters will tell you the Chessie is the greatest duck dog in the world. Outdoor writer Kyle Wintersteen describes the first time he saw a Chessie retrieve a downed bird: “Ice shattered across the dog’s barrel chest until the resistance was too great to continue on. Perhaps a reasonable animal would’ve turned back, but that duck-crazed dog dug his nails into the ice, heaved himself onto the surface and grabbed the duck. It was an incredible sight.” Even in rough and icy conditions, Chessies can fetch hundreds of ducks in a day.
THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB REGISTERED ITS FIRST CHESSY IN 1878
After seven decades of development into the world’s toughest retriever, the Chespeake Bay Retriever breed was first registered in 1878. That Chessy was named Sunday. Today, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever ranks 48th in AKC registrations. That’s down from 41st a decade ago.
CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVERS ARE FREQUENT DUAL CHAMPIONS
According to AKC rules, “Any dog that has been awarded the title of Champion of Record (Ch.) may be designated as a ‘Dual Champion,’ after it has also been awarded the title of Field Champion (FC) or Herding Champion (HC).” Dual Champion is a rare title, though many Chessies have achieved it. According to Gun Dog magazine, “the Chesapeake is the only retriever breed that still consistently produces dual champions.”
THE CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER IS THE STATE DOG OF MARYLAND
The Old Line State is proud to be the birthplace of the tough-as-nails dog breed named for its famous bay. That’s why the state government named the Chesapeake Bay Retriever as Maryland’s official state dog in 1964.
THE CHESSY IS THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND BALTIMORE COUNTY’S MASCOT
Maryland’s state pride in the Chessie extends to one of its universities. The University of Maryland Baltimore County’s athletic teams are called the Retrievers after the state dog. Specifically, the school mascot is a Chessy named True Grit. A statue of True Grit sits on campus in front of the Retriever Activities Center sports arena.
GENERAL GEORGE CUSTER TOOK CHESSIES INTO BATTLE WITH HIM
Among the Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s early fans was doomed United States Army cavalry commander Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Actually, Custer was a fan of dogs in general, counting Bulldogs, Greyhounds, Foxhounds, pointers and more in his pack. Among these, Custer was known to bring Chesapeake Bay Retrievers into battle with him.
PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT OWNED A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER
Continuing on the patriotic tip, America’s 26th president counted a Chesapeake Bay Retriever among his many pets. The dog, named Sailor Boy, was descended from Gen. Custer’s Chessies. Said Roosevelt of this dog, “Much the most individual of the dogs and the one with the strongest character was Sailor Boy, a Chesapeake Bay dog. He had a masterful temperament and a strong sense of both dignity and duty. He would never let the other dogs fight, and he himself never fought unless circumstances imperatively demanded it.”
Next: Cool Facts About Afghan Hounds
THE LATE ACTOR PAUL WALKER OWNED A CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER
Not only was Paul Walker a dog lover, he even managed to star alongside one of his beloved canines in a movie. Walker owned a Chessy named Boone. Walker explained the circumstances of Boone’s casting in 2005: "My dog Boone travels everywhere with me and when we were casting 'Into The Blue,' he was just sitting in the corner. [Director] John [Stockwell] saw how well-mannered he was and he listened to me so well. He was against having a dog on set with a wrangler and filming on water. But my dog listens to me so well, so, sure enough, he made him my dog in the movie.”