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Sioux, The Past is Prologue

In Rooster, I tell a little bit about the early years of America field trialing, about Hall of Famers Jim Avent and Hobart Ames, and about the great Champion Becky Broom Hill.

Let me tell you, too, about the famed Llewelyn setter, Sioux, and one of the most fabled field trial performances of all time, one likely never to be seen again.

Sioux was a James Avent bred and trained dog, and his most prized at the turn of the twentieth century. Under Avent’s handling, Sioux won the 1901 National Championship against ten of the country’s best setters, all Llewelyns, beating the Avent bred but Lorillard Kennel owned and Charles Tucker trained Geneva, both dogs then just three years old.

That controversial win fed Avent’s ambition to have Sioux become the first dog to win three National Championships, and thus to allow Avent to retire the newly minted, silver Champion Cup. Sioux was trained hard following that 1901 championship win, and Avent had her primed for the 1902 National Championship, the first that would be held at the Ames Plantation, and the first to be judged by Hobart Ames.

There were five dogs entered for the 1902 championship, three to be handled by Avent’s frequent rival, David Rose, and two Avent dogs, Sioux and Clip Wind’em. But, at the drawing of braces on the evening of February 20th, Rose inexplicably withdrew his dogs from the competition. To this day, the reason for the withdrawal is still unknown, Rose taking it with him to the grave.

That left only Sioux and Clip Wind’em, with Avent to handle both dogs, the judges deciding to proceed with the stake in deference to all of the preparation that had been done, and to the fact that many attendees had travelled great distances.

The meet was scheduled for the unprecedented three and one half hours. At the start of the brace, the weather was rainy, foggy and cold, and it soon worsened as the rain turned to sleet and the cold ground froze, with the horse-hooved, mud rutted and icy trail becoming more and more treacherous to both dogs and horses.

At the break, the dogs broke away hard, fast and determined. Despite the terrible weather, they quickly began to find birds, and Avent was put to the test of moving from one dog on point to the next, each dog showing good manners, steady to the flush, wing and shot. Each time, despite the freezing rain weighing heavily upon their coats and the unyielding, hard ground draining their strength and cutting their feet, the dogs fervently continued their race upon release.

After two hours both dogs began to weary. Clip Wind’em’s race shortened and slowed until at two hours and thirty minutes she was in distress, frozen, shaking and defeated. She could continue no more, and was picked up and rushed to the shelter of a farmhouse and the comfort of a thawing fire. Sioux continued on alone under Avent’s relentless command.

Sioux was a dog of almost supernatural stamina and inexhaustible energy and prey drive. Her passion for bird work would not be daunted by the intolerable weather that had earlier sent the gallery running for shelter and her distressed brace mate to recovery. The ice covering her coat did not freeze her ambition, chill her agility or dampen her speed and she continued with long casts to find birds, staunchly holding point for Avent’s flush and shot.

For another hour, Sioux continued, badly battered but not to be beaten. If she had been a prize fighter, the referee would have stopped the fight. But, Sioux was a champion who would ever fight one more round. When finally called up, seven minutes beyond the scheduled expiry, she collapsed in exhaustion, shaking uncontrollably. True field trial greatness was witnessed on that cold and icy February day, and Avent got his second Championship, although many wondered at the price of his glory.

Three months later, just six weeks shy of her fourth birthday, Sioux was tragically struck and killed by a passenger train not more than thirty yards from Avent’s Hickory Valley home. Her obituary in American Field magazine ended with these words: “It will be a long time, possibly never, ever we shall see the like of Sioux again.”

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