Superior Pointers - Fine Bird Dogs - Elhew Pointers


Bob Wehle’s critics often point to the multiple outcrosses which he made over a sixty-six year period as a rationale for the heterogeneous breeding strategies which they advocate and, in some cases, practice. An examination of Mr. Wehle’s outcrosses is, therefore, both illuminating and educational.

Prior to 1970, one can argue that “Elhew” was more a kennel name, than a bloodline. While Elhew dogs at that point in time shared some common ancestors, they were not – by any scientifically accepted definition– linebred. The breedings in the early 1970’s of Elhew Misty, Elhew Knickette, and Elhew Vanessa to the great champion and prepotent sire, Red Water Rex, and the subsequent concentration of Rex’s genetics over the next decade, marks– in the opinion of many– the transition of “Elhew” from a kennel name to a genetic bloodline. Elhew Italy, Bob Wehle’s most important sire of the 1970’s, was a double bred Red Water Rex dog.

In 1970 most Elhew pointers were undershot, poorly gaited, and lacked style and intensity on game. Red Water Rex had a normal bite, as did his sire and dam. Rex was also fast, athletic, and beautifully gaited. His exceptional character on game was a signature quality. Red Water Rex was, therefore, exactly the sire Bob Wehle needed, at precisely the right time.

From 1970, until his death in 2002, Bob Wehle bred outside of his kennel eight times– an average of once every four years. He would keep most, or all, of these litters and critically evaluate their soundness, conformation, temperament, and performance characteristics. His goal was always to add, or to strengthen, the defining qualities of a class bird dog while maintaining those desirable characteristics already fixed in his bloodline. Half of these outcrosses offered no net improvement, and were rejected. The outcross to Fiddler produced some dogs with desirable performance characteristics, but was rejected when “a genetic conformation flaw surfaced”. Outcrosses to Riggins’ White knight, Barshoe Brute, and Fast Astro Boy were rejected when they produced “just average dogs”. Mr. Wehle observed that “these were all very fine dogs but, for reasons I can’t explain, they simply did not cross with our totem to my satisfaction”.

A decade after the highly successful breedings to Red Water Rex, Bob Wehle would make his two most consequential outcrosses. In 1984, Elhew Italy X Elhew Huckatuck daughter, Elhew Roundabout was bred to six time champion, Guard Rail. Mr. Wehle considered Guard Rail, a great grandson of Elhew Jungle and Elhew White Cloud, “the most important sire of the last fifty years”. This outcross produced the “blue hen”, Elhew Kiwi, who would play a pivotal role in the Elhew breeding program. Elhew Brass, winner of the 1987 National Shooting Dog Futurity and the maternal grandsire of National Shooting Dog Champion, Elhew Snakefoot, was a product of this union.

Champion Hook’s Bounty Hunter attracted Mr. Wehle’s attention because of his exceptional bird finding ability, and his unusually smooth, fluid gait. He subsequently bred another Elhew Italy X Elhew Huckatuck daughter, Elhew Gimli, to Hunter in 1984. This outcross produced the great champions, and champion producers, Elhew Strike and Elhew Dancing Gypsy. Strike, a two time winner of both the National Prairie Chicken Shooting Dog Championship and the National Amateur Free-For-All Shooting Dog Championship would become the most prepotent sire ever produced by Elhew Kennels, and the primary source of the admirable qualities exhibited by the modern Elhew pointer. Bred to Guard Rail daughter, Elhew Kiwi, Strike would produce noted sires Elhew Mr. McGoo and Elhew Sea Wolf. The females from this “nick” would, also, prove to be excellent producers. When bred to Guard Rail granddaughter, Elhew Yellow Rail, Strike would sire 1994 National Shooting Dog Champion, Elhew Snakefoot, who would himself produce eleven champions. Strike’s litter sister, Dancing Gypsy, would win the 1991 National Shooting Dog Championship and - when bred to Strike’s son, McGoo– produce the 2000 National Shooting Dog Champion, Elhew Ajitator. Bob Wehle’s thoughtful blending of Guard Rail, Hook’s Bounty Hunter, and Italy X Huckatuck “blood”, thus proved to be a most productive breeding strategy.

In 1990 Bob Wehle made his last outcross, to National Champion Dunn’s Fearless Bud. He was attracted to Bud primarily because of his exceptionally proficient bird finding ability, and his unusually consistent performance. Bud qualified seven times to compete in the National Championship held annually at the Ames plantation, and finished the grueling three hour heat on six occasions– a truly remarkable accomplishment. His range– for a competitive all-age dog– was adequate, but not extreme. Bud’s contribution to Mr. Wehle’s bloodline was primarily through his daughters Elhew Calamity Ann and Deep Creek Kate. Calamity Ann, when bred to McGoo, produced two-time Grand National Grouse Champion, Elhew Autumn Whisper, and National Prairie Chicken Shooting Dog Champion, Elhew Big Blaze. When bred to Snakefoot, she produced runner-up Woodcock Champion, Elhew Discovery. Deep Creek Kate, when bred to Snakefoot, produced celebrated Alabama Shooting Dog Champion, Elhew Fibber McGee who has, himself, produced twenty four shooting dog champions with more than seventy titles to their credit.

Some believe that Mr. Wehle also incorporated Fearless Bud “blood”– through his daughters– to improve the intensity on point of Snakefoot’s progeny, as it was not uncommon for Snakefoot offspring to exhibit less than exemplary character on game. Whether intentional, or coincidental, the incorporation of Fearless Bud genetics in 1990 had a positive impact on this important pointing dog attribute, just as had Red Water Rex twenty years earlier. Unfortunately, Fearless Bud also contributed to an increased incidence of undershot bites, cow hocks, and splayed front feet in the kennel. Mr. Wehle endeavored to breed out these negative characteristics, but these conformation defects have proven persistent.

Bob Wehle possessed the passion, knowledge, objectivity, vision, commitment, resources, and intellectual curiosity to regularly test potentially promising outcrosses and– after critically analyzing the results– to reject the majority and incorporate into the Elhew totem only those new genetics providing a consequential net improvement. Equally important, he possessed the discipline to adhere for sixty-six years to his established conformation, temperament, and performance standards– and to ignore the distraction of the predictable, but fleeting, euphoria surrounding field trials’ most recent big winner with unremarkable heterogeneous genetics, and no consequential production record.

The modern Elhew pointer is a thoughtfully crafted blend by the most accomplished sporting dog breeder of all time of Red Water Rex, Guard Rail, Hook’s Bounty Hunter, Dunn’s Fearless Bud, and old Elhew Kennel champion genetics. All of these named dogs were demonstrated prepotent sires, and three are enshrined in the Field Trial Hall of Fame. Few knowledgeable students of the breed would suggest that the intelligent blending of these proven outstanding genetics could not consistently produce class bird dogs, and that judicious selective breeding of only proven, superior individuals from within this extraordinary gene pool would not ensure continuous improvement of the phenotype in virtual perpetuity. Bob Wehle demonstrated the ability to do so consistently, by breeding only the best representatives of his bloodline, and skillfully matching complimentary sires and dams. All of the qualities desired in a complete bird dog– what Mr. Wehle termed “a class gentleman’s shooting dog”– are in this unique gene pool, his incomparable, fragile legacy.

For those who would follow– and whom embrace Mr. Wehle’s exacting conformation, temperament, and performance standards– the bar is set high, but the heavy lifting has been accomplished. Current and future breeders can not only preserve, but can continuously improve, the quality of the Elhew bloodline while breeding exclusively within the existing gene pool, providing that they have the experience to “know what good looks like”. Their challenge is to intelligently craft breedings employing only the best, proven representatives of the Elhew totem with the same skill and insight as did Bob Wehle, on whose shoulders they stand.