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To Sir (Dick Fox), With Love
English Setters lost a giant with the passing of Dick Fox in December 2011. Dick and his wife Ingrid bred wonderful English Setters under the prefix Foxtract for many years, producing about 50 champions.
The typey dogs he produced as breeder were only the beginning of Dick’s legacy to English Setters. He took his concerns with breeding better dogs a step further by creating a database of more than 36,000 English Setters going back 20 or more generations. With this database, breeders could try possible combinations of sires and dams to see the resulting pedigrees. They could discover the progeny and siblings of dogs in those pedigrees. They could look at the health status, color, titles (both conformation and performance), and gender of the dogs in those pedigrees. They could also learn the overall inbreeding coefficient as well as the percentage of genetic contribution and the frequency of appearance of each dog in a pedigree. The database was updated every year. Dick’s database is worth its weight in gold to a breeder.
Dick was concerned about English Setter breeders going to the same sires over and over and that the breed was getting too linebred or even inbred. On several occasions, he urged me to consider broadening my search for a stud dog and to limit the amount of inbreeding in a potential combination to 15% or less. For health reasons, he liked pedigrees with lots of different animals rather than the same dogs appearing over and over.
Dick’s concern with pedigree analysis as a breeding tool led him into a serious quest to reduce genetically based diseases. He became very involved with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), sitting on its board for many years. He kept OFA informed of breeder concerns and urged breeders to report the results of their hip, elbow, hearing, and thyroid testing of their dogs and bitches to the OFA so we could get a picture of the current state of English Setter genetic health. Always, his goal was breeding better English Setters, a big part of which is improving their genetic health. By identifying the dogs and bitches who test normal for the main genetic diseases that affect English Setters, Dick paved the way for those dogs to be chosen for breeding programs, which, over time, resulted in a lowering of the incidence of those diseases.
Dick and Ingrid bred many great English Setters. One of the most famous was Ch Foxtract’s The Invincible One, who was campaigned by Mark Threlfall in the late 1980s. Vince was the #1 Sporting Dog in America in 1988 and earned the title English Setter of the Year twice. He won a total of 16 Bests In Show.
Not content to theorize about ways to breed better dogs, Dick Fox dedicated his life to creating concrete tools that would actually help breeders to plan breedings with the right amount of linebreeding (not too much) and with eyes wide open about the genetic health of the individuals within a pedigree.
Dick was also a respected AKC judge selected by the fancy to judge many English Setter specialties during his judging career.
Dick Fox touched many lives and left things better than he found them in this life.