No retriever has ever won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club, a competition that began in 1877. Despite this overt snub of gun dogs, the 16th-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County Chesapeake Bay Retrievers exacted some revenge by defeating the top-ranked University of Virginia in the NCAA basketball tournament. The Chessie is also the state dog of Maryland.
According to the American Kennel Club, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers were ranked the most popular dog in America for 25 years.
Known for their webbed feet, and an oily, wavy coat that helps make them extremely agile in the water, Chessies are strong, powerfully built gundogs standing anywhere from 21 to 26 inches at the shoulder. A male can weigh up to 80 pounds.Chessies are solid-colored, either chocolatey brown, sedge or dead grass, with keen yellow-amber eyes.
Chessies are more emotionally complex than the usual gundog. They take to training, but they have a mind of their own and can tenaciously pursue their own path. They are protective of their humans and polite, but not overly friendly to strangers. Chessies make excellent watchdogs and are versatile athletes. A well-socialized Chessie is a confident companion and world-class hunting buddy.
Overall, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have recently ranked among the 45 most popular purebred breeds in the country.
UMBC’s first class in 1966 picked the Chesapeake Bay retriever as the school mascot. A 500-pound bronze statue of a Chessie named True Grit is on campus, and students like to rub his nose for good luck during finals week.