This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
The modern Blenheim spaniel is a very different dog from the original of that name, so long kept by and associated with the Marlborough family.
It is an instance of the breeder's skill exercised in a wrong direction, for the noseless specimens with abnormally developed skulls I look upon as the results of a perverted taste obtained at the sacrifice of intrinsic qualities, and without sufficient redeeming points to equalise the loss.
Whether the Blenheim may be reckoned as one of the "Sybaritical puppies" of the "daintie dames" of Caius' time may be doubted, and at what date this little spaniel was taken under the fostering care of the House of Marlborough, and became so closely connected with that illustrious family as to be given the name of their palace I do not know, but there exists abundance of proofs that the dog now recognised at shows as the Blenheim spaniel is greatly modified by crossings, and with features the possession of which - although fashion demands them - widely differs from the original.
An old writer, referring to the Blenheim spaniels of the end of last century, says: "The smallest spaniels passing under the denomination of Cockers is that peculiar breed in the possession and preservation of the Duke of Marlborough and his friends; these are invariably red and white, with very long ears, short noses, and black eyes; they are excellent and indefatigable, being in great estimation with those sportsmen, who can become possessed of the breed." What "sportsman," I wonder, would hold in estimation many of the exhibited specimens of the day, animals in which stamina and physique have been so utterly sacrificed that, instead of being able or disposed to hunt, it is only a select few that possess spirit and strength enough for a gambol. True, they are no longer wanted to flush woodcocks or drive coneys, and the beautiful coat and feather, which is one of the most attractive features of our modern dog, would be destroyed for the time being, at least, by such work; but granted that for the development of some desirable points of beauty the utility of the dogs as workers must be to a greater or less extent sacrificed, I can see no good grounds for the natural and far more beautiful shape of head and muzzle of the original being superseded by the one in vogue.
The writer I have quoted describes the nose as short, but the present fashion is to encourage the noseless, and, indeed, Mr. Julius, about two years ago, exhibited several almost, if not quite noseless, which he named "the noseless," in ridicule, as I understood, of the present fashion, for he has exhibited several great beauties with a development of nose more in accordance with Nature's designs and the dog's requirements, and, I might add, the comfort of the owner.
There are few things more annoying and disagreeable than the noisy breathing and snuffling of these artifically short-nosed pets, unless it be the paralysed protruding tongue, which is a concomitant evil. Let us have a short-nosed dog by all means - the best authorities describe the original as such - but that is a very different thing from a nose so deformed that it can only exercise the functions of that organ so indifferently as to make the animal a nuisance.
I am quite aware that it is practically useless to attack or oppose the omnipotent goddess Fashion, but I comfort myself with the reflection that she is as capricious as powerful - only wear a thing long enough and it is sure to come in, were it only a broad-brimmed hat, and I do not despair of seeing that occult power exercise her influence on Blenheims in a more sensible direction than at present.
"Idstone," a most trustworthy authority on the breed, expresses my views so entirely - views I held long before his book was published - that I quote and adopt his words: "I would allow (indeed I would, insist upon) a deep indentation between the eyes, added to the high skull and a moderately short face; but the projecting lower jaw, the frog mouth, and the broken nose, free from all cartilage, I decidedly object to. Such animals are offensive from their snuffling and snoring; and if tolerated in sanded parlours are not fit to be admitted into drawing rooms, where I should expect to see a spaniel with a pretty face, well coated all over, large eared, large eyed, rich coloured, with a bushy flag, well feathered feet, and diminutive in stature, in preference to the snuffling apple-headed, idiotic animals too often bred by 'the fancy,' and which ought to be discouraged; though, if judging, I would not put them aside until some definite conclusion had been arrived at, as an adverse decision would be unfair to the exhibitor during the present state of things."
The points of the Blenheim and King Charles spaniel, taking the present style of show dog as the type, are closely identical; the greatest difference is, of course, the colour, in which good specimens of each present a striking and pleasing contrast. In the Blenheim the depth and richness of the red, the purity of the white, and the distribution and distinctness of the markings are important. A broad blaze up the forehead and over the skull, with the red spot or lozenge in the centre, the cheeks and ears being red, although generally of a paler shade than on the body markings; the neck and front of chest, where the hair is longer, and called the mane, pure white, which is also the body colour, and the deep red markings on back, sides, etc, are esteemed by the picturesqueness of their distribution. The pale colour is now by some exhibitors valued, and such specimens are called mace coloured. The coat should be free from curl, a fault which some inherit from the King Charles spaniel; it should be abundant all over the body, and long, soft, and silky on the front of chest, ears, legs, feet, and tail.
The size ranges from 51b. to 101b.; I think below 71b. or 81b. they are too puny and wanting in physique to give pleasure as pets, and likely to require too much nursing; to this, of course, there are exceptions. The following are the weights and measurements of two of Mr. J. W. Berrie's, a gentleman who has given much attention to the breeding of Blenheims:
Mr. J. W. Berrie's The Earl: Age, 3 years; weight, 8˝lb.; height at shoulder, 11in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 19in.; length of tail, 5in. (cut); girth of chest, 16in.; girth of loin, ll˝in.; girth of head, llin.; girth of forearm, 4˝in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 3in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 6in.; ears from tip to tip, 191/2in.; from stop to tip of nose,⅝in.
Mr. J. W. Berrie's Little Blossom: Age, 7 years; weight, 101b.; height at shoulder, l0in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 18in.; length of tail, 3in. (cut); girth of chest, 17in.; girth of loin, 12in.; girth of head, l0žin; girth of forearm, 4in.; length of head from occiput to tip of nose, 3in.; girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose, 5žin.; ears from tip to tip, 17˝in.; from stop to tip of nose, ⅞in.