The significance of field trials / How the record compares

Dogs of the Venaticus kennel have achieved notable successes. Collectively, the record amounts to a pattern of achievement that attests to a revival in the breed's fortunes, transforming the Clumber spaniel from the lost relic of a once-great working breed to stand again on equal terms with its forebears, its qualities intact, its physique restored, its respect regained, its prospects promising. In 1978, James Darley's first dog Maladetta Tallman took a Certificate of Merit in the Essex Field Trial Society's Any Variety Novice stake. It was the first award for 40 years to a Clumber in a trial open to all other spaniel breeds. The same year he won an Open working test held by the Leicestershire Gundog Society, against a strong field of English springer spaniels. Those present continue to comment upon this performance to this day.

This dog, and the kennel's foundation bitch, Raycroft Sierra Sue Venaticus, and the best-known of their offspring, Venaticus Beryl the Peril, took numerous second and third places in the "minority breeds" field trial. Their opportunities were few by comparison with dogs of more recent years. This field trial was at best a single annual fixture, and was not held at all for five years between 1982 and 1988.

The first victory in this trial came in 1990, by Venaticus Duncan. This was in fact the first win by a Clumber in any field trial open to any other spaniel breed since before the First World War. Later in the same season Duncan gained the breed's first placing in an Any Variety spaniel field trial since 1926, when he took 4th in the Meon Valley club's All Aged stake, with Keith Erlandson one of the judges, after winning a run-off with an English springer bitch which went on to become a field trial champion. He is still spoken of with respect in field trial circles, as the first Clumber to have really opened people's eyes to the possibilities that English springers and cockers could be challenged. Duncan received a total of nine field trial awards, a 20th century record at the time. He was extensively used at stud and his name can be found in the pedigrees of all working bloodlines today. He will almost certainly be viewed as the most influential dog in the breed's revival in the field.

Photo Charles Sainsbury-Plaice,

In 2004, Sedgehurst Maxim Venaticus, with a third win among his 11 field trial awards, achieved the best record of any Clumber born in the 20th century.

The following season his long-time kennel companion, Sedgehurst Rosamund Venaticus, joined him as a field trial winner.

Photo Ali Packham,

Photo Ali Packham,

From her second litter, Venaticus Galahad showed early promise and was noted for his style and pace. He was runner-up in a field trial, but his career and life were cut short by a brain tumour.

From her third litter, Venaticus Hercules in 2011 became the 8th Venaticus Clumber with a trial award, and in 2012 his litter sister Venaticus Henrietta emphatically became the 9th with two field trial wins and an undefeated 2nd, all within a fortnight, thereby becoming the breed's most highly awarded bitch since 1900. The following year she became the first Clumber bitch in 75 years to win an award in an any variety stake, while in 2014 both she and her brother won trials - he becoming thereby the 5th Venaticus Clumber to do so. In 2015 he joined her – soon to be joined also by her daughter Spot – as the only Clumbers at the time with awards in any variety field trials, gaining two. By this measure, the Venaticus kennel has been the most successful in the breed’s history. They now have 22 field trial awards between them.


Photo David Joyce, March 2015.


The newest and perhaps the brightest-ever prospect is Venaticus Isabella (Spot). The photo (left) was on her eight months birthday when she won her first competitive event, a puppy working test open to dogs up to 18 months. She can be seen in the video below hunting and retrieving at the tender age of 5½ months.


In October 2015 Spot ran in her first field trial, a late substitute for her dam who had come into season. In a field of 17 she won, the day after she was 15 months old. She thus became the 10th Venaticus field trial award winner and the 6th trial winner. In late December she gained a C of M in a field trial against 15 English springers, joining V. Henrietta and V. Hercules as the only Clumbers at this time with awards in any variety stakes.


The next season she gained a second C of M in an AV stake, and in 2018 took a 2nd place. With three field trial awards against springers, her record is unmatched by a Clumber bitch since 1912.

Photo Graham Tweed, August 2016.



Her littermates V. Ivan and V. Isadora made a guest appearance in the gundog ring at the 2015 CLA Game Fair at the age of 12 months (right).


Photo Daisy May, August 2015.

Photo Daisy May, August 2015.

Photo Nick Ridley, December 2015.



V. Ivan made a great retrieve of the first bird he'd ever seen shot (left).

He is also a bold dog in water (right).

In 2017 he became the 11th Venaticus field trial award winner.

Photo Hugo Darley, August 2016