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birch pointing huns

Hafrafells Mori x October Flaming Autumn Litter- A First Look

For several years a group of the breeder members from have been discussing the possibility of looking overseas for English setters that are hunted and would be a good compliment to Ryman-types.

There are nice setters in a number of countries that might be a fit—some of the Italian setters, Turkey, maybe Ireland, France, or Scandinavia—but the setters in Iceland have been a standout for their conformation and the abilities apparent in the videos of them working ptarmigan. However, the Iceland setters appeared to be the least likely to ever be available to import. So when we found out Classic Setters had been given the opportunity to acquire Hafrafells Mori we immediately started making plans for a breeding to him.

We hoped the timing would work out for a breeding with our female Autumn on her next heat. It took a few months to get Mori into the US, and it went down to a real nail-biter. Autumn had been holding off on her heat nicely, but then she came in almost two weeks before Mori was scheduled to arrive at the Chicago airport. Progesterone testing the day after Mori landed showed it wasn’t too late, so Lisa jumped in the car and drove to Missouri for a breeding that was accomplished just barely in time, and on the first full day he was at his new home! The result was a nice litter of seven Mori pups born on June 30, 2023.

Ida 4 weeks old, with Hunter in the background
Ida 4 weeks old, with Hunter in the background

Out-crossing is necessary and we’re excited about this opportunity, but experienced breeders know that out-crosses don’t always work out as well as you hope, and tend to be where you pick up problems. You never know what will happen, especially when you are mixing wildly different genes like this. Take hips for an example. It’s not at all uncommon to have major problems when you put two different lines together, no matter how good they are on their own. That’s just how polygenic traits work—each line might be carrying a different set of genes that aren’t enough to express dysplasia on their own, but add them together and now you have a serious problem. And the conformation and performance you’re hoping for is unpredictable as well.

So, given how widely divergent this out-cross is we wanted to evaluate all of the pups to see if Mori mixed with Ryman-types successfully. Ryman dealt with this challenge by keeping whole litters until six months of age when he tried new breedings. We don’t have the facilities to do that, so we took advantage of our membership in and enlisted other breeders in the group to raise the pups we didn’t keep ourselves. This will guarantee their health clearances are done, and we’ll get objective evaluations of their performance.

The litter is looking very promising at this point. All have preliminary OFA hip ratings of “Good”, conformation is nice so far, and the field performance of the two pups we kept, Birch and Hunter, is off to an excellent start. Both handled late season Huns and chukars. Their instincts kicked in right off on their second covey finds, and in a big way.

Here is a video of Birch pointing a covey of spooky late season Huns at six months of age. This was only his second hunt, and the 4th covey he pointed on that hunt. The birds were up over the edge of the ridge you can see in the beginning of the video. Birch first established point on them from so far away that after walking out ahead Cliff gave up and stopped filming. Birch followed him up the side of the ridge and re-established, which is where the video starts again. He was still a long way from the birds, 50+ yards when Cliff flushed them.

Birch is the most competent 6 month old puppy we’ve ever seen, and his brother Hunter is right there with him. We’ve had plenty of pups point grouse and woodcock at young ages, but the birds we started these two on are significantly more challenging. Really impressive performance.

And here is Birch a few weeks later with a chukar he pointed and retrieved. The very first bird shot for him.

Birch with his first chukar
Birch with his first chukar

We’re excited to see what the future holds for all of the pups.

Cliff and Lisa

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