Baldrick was bred from Samantha Morley’s Working Cocker Spaniel bitch, Annie by Kiltonbeck Rusty of Druimmuir (Kennel name Cooper) in 2019. He was from a litter of 6 pups, three of each but is unique as he has no hair on his head, tummy or on a line along his back.
The following day we started to google what this could be and found something called Congenital Hypotrichosis. How the condition is inherited has not been confirmed. It is thought it varies, much like the condition does, based on the breed of dog. It occurs more often in male dogs, so it is thought that inheritance may be sex-linked. There is no treatment for congenital hypotrichosis; any hair a dog loses, whether at birth or at several months old, is permanent. Accordingly, we didn’t feel we should test for this condition.
We took all the pups to a vet we know very well to have their tails docked and dew claws removed at a day old. He had never seen a dog quite like our Baldrick and took quite some time examining him to ensure his heart and lungs sounded normal. He couldn’t find anything wrong apart from his lack of hair!
Over the next days we decided on a theme for the litter and as they were born on the 30th anniversary of Black Adder first being televised we named them all after Black Adder characters. There was only one name appropriate for our hairless pup, Baldrick! I weighed the pups at the same time every day and he continued to thrive as did the others. We had been told by another vet she had experienced a litter her Uncle bred of Working Cocker Spaniel's and a pup born bald had regrown his hair by 8 weeks so we kept our fingers crossed and hoped. We took lots of photos and examined him each week to see if there was any new growth. Sadly, there was none.
I was concerned during the process of us choosing who were going to be suitable owners for our pups that Baldrick just wasn’t going to fit in anywhere as there was the possibility he may cost more to look after if other health issues came to light. We felt he wouldn’t be able to work as his tummy was completely bald and his skin so soft. If he ran through cover as Working Cocker Spaniel's do he would be ripped to pieces. So, I suggested we keep him and train him in the world of agility.
We took Baldrick to the vets after a few months once we were fairly sure there was no hair growth in the bald areas. Bloods were taken and sent off to be tested for his testosterone level and complete thyroid function. Both came back normal. We then contacted Nicki Wright from Barker and Brown who made a few baseball caps for Baldrick which he ripped off as soon as we put them on him. Poor Nicki spent ages designing them so they would stay on and protect his skin. So we resorted to suntan cream!! We discovered there are certain things in human sun cream that are toxic to dogs. We found one that is safe for dogs which, as you can imagine, is really expensive. He wears it whenever the sun is shining. Barker and Brown now make some wonderful dog coats for Baldrick to keep him warm during the colder months.
Whilst he was quite young I took Baldrick to Sally Richardson’s puppy gym to get him used to the equipment in a kind and positive manner. Due to the lockdown formal training classes were out so I started at in our meadows with homemade equipment.
His condition (Congenital Hypotrichosis) has progressed in a very minor way. His skin is much darker, almost slate grey on the top of his head. Initially we thought this was just tanning but apparently this is quite normal. He is now so dark, that at first glance the bare skin is not obvious. People who haven’t seen him for a while often think his coat is growing back. This isn’t the case. The main symptom of the condition is a lack of hair follicles so re-growth isn’t going to happen.
Online articles (click here) also refer to the skin getting oily and scaly and even smelly. Well I’m very pleased to say that none of that has happened – yet! The skin on his head is still lovely and soft. It is a little bit rougher under his tummy but I expect he shares my view this is a good thing. I’m sure he welcomes any additional protection around his under-carriage!
Another symptom is slightly irregular teeth. He has large lower incisors and a shortage of molars. This means it can take him a bit longer to devour a chicken carcass bit what he lacks in teeth he makes up with enthusiasm and perseverance! A lack of fur around his eyes means they pick up dust and he often has “gummy eyes”. Nothing a little Optrex won’t sort out.
In every other way he is a very normal happy and loving dog. Although Samantha and I share his daily walks and feeding he is a real Daddy’s boy. When he is with Samantha and the pack, he is a trainee gundog (although he will never work) but when Sam isn’t around, I’m his focus. He can retrieve to hand like any other spaniel (that’s Sam’s influence) but with me, agility is the name of the game.
We now attend weekly classes. He’s doing very well. I’m told we both have competition potential. I’ve never trained a dog so this is a journey for both of us. We both love it! The weirdest thing is when I’m getting ready for our weekly lesson, he hides away and won’t get in the car. You’d think he hated the very idea. Of course he loves it when we get there and I think he just has some separation anxiety – he doesn’t like being away from his pack.
In August 2022 we entered our first agility competition. Baldrick took to it like a duck to water and went clear at his first attempt. Unfortunately, I didn’t; I caught one of the jumps with my trailing hand and that was us eliminated. I let the poor lad down.
He now has more Facebook friends than me via his own group – Life with Baldrick. His followers regularly respond to his posts and love seeing what he gets up to.
Like all cockers he has his quirks. Throughout the day I am the focus of his attention. But when we settle down for an evening in front of the telly, once he’s made sure I’m in my regular armchair he doesn’t want to know me! When I get up to make the tea he has to check what I’m doing but that’s it. When I let the dogs out for a wee he won’t go out with the others unless I go first. When we come back in he ignores me again! I’m told this kind of thing is normal for spaniels.
Baldrick has loved lockdown. I now work from home which has meant we are now a part of each other’s lives. He has helped me make that transition. I now walk all the dogs every morning and it sets me up for the day. Pre-lockdown my role with the dogs was very much helping Samantha and I don’t mind admitting it was sometimes a chore. Now I have Baldrick I am invested in all the dogs and it has given me a real focus other than work.
This marvellous caricature was drawn by a wonderful artist, Holly Rutter. She has really captured his dignity and his quirky expression. Please contact us if you would like her details.
Copyright © 2023 Morley Riches - All Rights Reserved.
Vat Number: 435 3456 95
Morley Riches, Chartered Surveyors is a trading name of Rushbrigg Limited, registered in England and Wales No. 14612930 at 4&5 The Cedars, Apex 12, Old Ipswich Road, Colchester CO7 7QR.
Suffolk Office: Rushbrigg House, 4 Low Meadows, Hacheston, Woodbridge IP13 0DQ
Rushbrigg Limited is part of the Morley Riches & Ablewhite group of companies.
Phone: 01206 505709