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Future of the Rymans

Pointing Appalachian Grouse  

Securing a Future for Ryman-Type Setters

Fall Hunting

Thinking about the future of Ryman-type setters, I am reminded of the late 1950s when I started hunting and breeding setters bred by George Ryman.  My mentor made it very clear from the start that we had to look beyond our kennels if we were to maintain what we had in this line of setters.  Burnell Davis had me check out every dog advertisement we ever saw with the word “Ryman” in it.  This was a job that no one of us could manage on our own.  Our only choice to maintain this line was for our small group of grouse hunters and “backyard breeders” to join forces and work together. Later, after seeing, and not believing what other breeders were calling Ryman setters;  I was convinced that our small group of Appalachian Ryman breeders had maybe all that remained of what I called “the real” Ryman-type setter.

Alder Run Jennie on Grouse
Alder Run Jennie on Grouse

I think we were successful in maintaining these bloodlines because the more conservative members of our circle of breeders tended to be most critical of the breeding stock selection, taking advantage of one member’s aggressive outcrossing.  All in all, we each knew what we wanted in a setter gun dog and, in general, worked as a team to produce the desired results.  It would seem to me that this same process could work on a larger scale if all Ryman-type breeders would band together thereby only making the best types available as breeding stock.

We are deeply concerned about the future of the Ryman-type setter.  We recognize the fact that the Ryman setter is gone – but that the type does indeeDolly Opening Dayd exist.  Currently there are not enough breeders to ensure a healthy gene pool, thus the very reason for organizing this group effort.  It would be impossible to replicate the type by copying what Ryman did with his crosses of show and trial setters, which are very different today than they were in Ryman’s time.  Therefore, we have to work with existing lines, including those great dogs with little Ryman in their background.  Our focus should be on quality, instead of pedigrees!  This is exactly what George Ryman did, and this is what it will take for the type to survive.

“All in all (the 2017 ‘Gathering and Hunt’) was a great experience and at least in our minds, a big leap forward for the future of the Ryman-type setter.  We’re already looking forward to next year”.  These are the words of Cliff Weisse after attending the first Ryman Breeders Gathering and Hunt which took place in Kansas early January, 2017.

Quoting Lynn Dee Galey who planned and organized the event; “the goals were to provide an opportunity for serious hunter-breeders to see each other’s dogs hunt”.  The group also “discussed topics impacting the dogs they love, with the overall goal of figuring out how to keep these Ryman-type setters alive and well for future generations to enjoy”.

Each morning, the twelve breeders and their setters broke off in pairs to hunt various Kansas public hunting access areas; working their dogs on wild bobwhite quail.  Nightly discussions were about the setters and included issues such as field ability, training, breeding and health.  Variance within the Ryman-type setter was examined which included size, range, and style.  There was agreement that variance in individual preferences is normal and good for the breed as a whole.

This was a major initial effort to organize Ryman-type breeders who have a common interest in furthering the continuance of this setter, and are dedicated to doing so in a way that will guarantee a healthy gene pool of setter gun dogs.

Other breeders who share the mission of this group are invited to join.

Walt Lesser