American Field

Profiles From the Past Part Three

Jessie Rodfield's Count Gladstone

Dogs I Have Won With
By Er M. Shelley | Sep 06, 2021
Photo by: From a painting by Edmund Osthaus Jessie Rodfield's Count Gladstone

JESSIE RODFIELD'S COUNT GLADSTONE was one of the greatest dogs to find and handle game in the field trial history. All the best authorities at the time he was running (even those who were competing against him) pronounced him the greatest bird dog of the past or present, and many went to far as to say that future generations could not possibly bring out a better one, as he left no room  for improvement.

Jess was a self-made dog. He self-hunted as a puppy one summer, and although he was taken out and hunted many times in the fall and early winter, he was never cautioned or prompted a single time, until three days before his first starting a field trial (the Eastern Derby at Thomasville, Georgia, February, 1903).

I am giving these facts that it may be understood how easy a matter it is to train some dogs, and how little real training they need if brought up in the country and allowed to educate themselves in the art of bird-finding by self-hunting.

Much credit and many compliments have been handed to me for developing and training one of the greatest dogs on game the world has even known; but they truth of the matter is that the dog developed himself, and the credit that is due me is on the ground that I gave him good feed, a good bed to sleep upon, and plenty of work in the field.

What the dog knew he learned from his own experience. He was never hardly disciplined in his life or hacked around in the yard or the field.

* * *

Jessie Rodfield's Count Gladstone was sent to me to be trained at the age of six months.  I was at the time located some ten miles from White Lake, South Dakota (which is about one hundred miles due west of Sioux Falls on what is now Interstate 90). I argued with his owner, the late Jessie Sherwood of Chicago, about the advisability of putting him in training so young. His owner had been connected with dogs many years, had owned many good ones, and either trained or shot over a good part of them. He insisted that to make a good dog he should start young.

The puppy came to me still wearing his puppy coat. When he became accustomed to the place, I secured a box stall at the end of the barn, and as soon as I came in from training every morning, I would open the door and let him go. He would sail out across the big prairie and disappear over a rise, and I would see no more of him until feeding time. Often he would not return until after dark, but I always found him in the stall early next morning when I came out to load the dogs into the training wagon. This I considered virtually the same as being farm-raised.

After he had been there two or three months, I put him in the wagon one morning with the other dogs. After all had been worked out and I had headed home, I decided to give the puppy a chance to see what he could do. He went away like a quarter horse finishing a race, and a thrill of pleasure passed through me as I noted the good judgment he used in swinging upwind to the likely places.

As I rode along on my horse with the dog wagon following behind, I could not help but marvel at a puppy of his age hunting like an old dog, and using the best kind of judgment in beating out his ground. Surely it was no credit to me; I had not spent a single minute in training him. He had learned the art of hunting on his own resources.

He went on thus some twenty minutes. He was skirting as newly cut stubble and was going directly across wind when all of a sudden he caught scent of a covey of chickens, whirled and went straight upwind with high head and tail slowing down to a slow trot. As he neared his game, he came down to a walk, and I thought he was about to stiffen to a point, when an outlying chicken flushed and he made for it. In doing so he ran over another. This one came out from behind and under him and flew straight toward me with the puppy after it.

I dismounted gun in hand and as the bird passed I knocked it down. The puppy was so close and running so hard that he grabbed it on the first bound and went on with his game in his mouth, never slacking his pace. As I mounted I saw him disappear over a rise. I rode up after and caught up with him some little distance away. He had laid the bird down and was preparing for a good feed.

I left for the field trials in a short time, and this was the last chance he had on chickens that season.

I was kept quite busy at the field trials, but took the puppy out and gave him a run between trials. At every possible opportunity I gave him a chance on quail, always allowing him to hunt to suit himself. I never tried to curb or direct him until after the United States field trials at Grand Junction, Tennessee were over.

There was a full week before the Eastern trials at Thomasville, Georgia. The puppy was entered in the Eastern Derby, and I thought of starting him. He was beginning to point now and sometimes I could get quite close before he flushed the birds.

When I arrived at Thomasville, Georgia there were only three full days left before starting of the Derby.  I gave him an hour's work each of the three days and with the use of a long check cord succeeded in getting him staunch and steady to wing and shot.

The puppy was started in a very strong field. All of his competitors had been running in Derby stakes all down the line, and this was the last trial of the season.  It was survival of the fittest; nearly all were Derby winners. His full brother, some eight months his senior won the Derby, and Jessie was placed third. From this time on he began attracting the attention of the public.

He wound up by winning seventeen times in open trials (two Derby and fifteen all-age placements).

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