Basset Fauve de Bretagne ” proportions”

Getting to grips with length to height ratios in this scent hound…. under ” General Appearance” the three key statements are as follows –
short legged
rough coated
moderate length

Its a basset breed, therefore by definition will be short legged.In my other reading about the Basset Fauve de Bretagne, supported by Club seminar handouts,one finds that the breed is the shortest in length of the french basset breeds. Once upon a time once aficionados attempted to set up a ration of length to height to aid breeders, exhibitors and judges, I wasnt around at the time and it doesn’t appear in current literature. I regularly speak to judges who complain about how varied the breed is, no two the same in any class, that sort of thing. As a breeder you can think you have bred a gorgeous litter – and aged six months, the proportions, height and other things might be completely different than you thought they would be. These little hounds might grow too tall, stay too small,you name it.

I’ve done the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen judging seminar and was really interested to learn about type and proportions in this associated breed. After all, they come from the neighbouring ” county” to Brittany, the Vendee. This club does have a measurement of length in their standard, its experts wanting PBGV to fit within a certain compass after describing the breed as ” short legged” and “compact”.The best proportions for excellence are, they think, ” length of body from point of shoulder to point of buttock exceeds height at withers at a ratio of approximately 7 :5″.

So – labouring the point – if BfdB are regularly described as the shortest backed of the basset breeds they should appear to be not so long as the PBGV, shorter than their ratio of 7:5. However if any dog is too short it wont be able to move efficiently. It will crab, sidewind, not be able to keep its four legs in rhythm as it moves, and presumably not be as efficient in the field. I’ve seen the shortest examples of the breed unable to move in a straight line.Reading into the detail of the standard  you find a request for length, as well as width and depth,of chest. The ribs should be carried well back and the loin is described as strong.Would a BfdB which was proportionately as long as it was high ( measured from shoulder to buttock in the same way as the PBGV) be too short backed to be typical at 5:5? Might it still be a bit too short at 6:5 ?

Applying your ruler to photographs, you probably wouldn’t want your mythical ideal Fauve to have the same length/ height ratio as a Basset Hound, that is for sure – or to be as compact as the Beagle. Whatever else is going on a Fauve should never be able to be mistaken for a Dachshund from the distance !

The recommended height is given within the breed standard – 32 to 38 cm. The breed standard of the country of origin allows tolerance should the exhibit be an exceptionally good one.Yet this appears to be the only parameter, and how can one judge in three dimensions when only given one measurement? Older hands than I speak of many changes over time to the appearance of the breed in the UK. One friend could have taken up the breed many years ago but thought they looked like rather poor Dachshunds, so in her eyes at that time they were too long and low. Another friend has been involved in showing this breed for long enough to have seen “group think” changes over dog- generations: within five years going from lower and longer ( ” think Basset Hound”) to appearing compact and more square ( ” think Beagle”).

There has to be a key decider here, and that for me is ” what is going on in the breed’s country of origin?”. So, to the biggest show of the year in France, the National Elevage. Here are some photographs and comments from me about some of the winners from Cerilly 2014. I can’t get into the mind of the judges but we can look at their selections from huge classes. These experts had hundreds of the breed to overview, and no single judge decided on the outcome, they split the classes between a panel of four. After looking at and grading a class the judge would call at least one colleague into the ring to jointly decide upon the outcome – top four winners from their group of excellents. It was fascinating.These judges all have a main primary interest and purpose in obtaining the right sort of BfdB to hunt with.We can safely assume that their idea of proportions has been honed in the field,i.e. from watching what works.These winners will be fit for purpose.

Below – two of the ” Rallye de Ramondens” dog champions, Dali winning the class over Dino, both by Brick.

below: the junior dogs class, final selection with the class winner to the left ( Huno du Cirque des Falaises).

The best in show winner was Galaxie du Vallon de la Peupliere, a three year old, handler wearing a black shirt in this photograph ( number 329). Her breadth of chest and general rib development is noticeable.

In essence, these are chunky broad little hounds with lots of breadth of chest and sturdy short legs. They have much the same proportions regardless of height at shoulder. They look well ribbed back, short and strong in loin – yet they don’t strike me as being too short, and all moved straight and true. Of course, there were other shapes and sizes at the show, but with the numbers involved the judges could sift these out and home in on their winners.

I havent gone as far as getting out my ruler, I don’t think these photographs are good enough as I was darting around ringside and they aren’t straight on to the lens. It might be an interesting exercise, one day.

Redemption – his history ( 4 june 05 – 5 december 14 )

American champion Carrickaneena Slieve Gullion 

Redemption Sweepstakes oppositepictured as a puppy winning a sweepstakes ( Connie Smalley, IWADV) 1.  12-18 month dogs – Carrickaneena Slieve Gullion. “It is the movement. The reach and drive, the strength in the loin, the length of leg. What a stallion-like hound. This is one to keep an eye on for the future. “


We had to make the hard decision on Friday. Redemption’s rear end was no longer functioning. We had watched his hindquarters becoming weaker over the last few months. When you know a dog , you know when he is puzzled, and getting more tired, finding life a struggle. On the last night he could no longer rise. Asking the vet to come to the house that last time is something we can do for our canine friends. He leaves a vast gap in our lives.

To honour his memory, the history …. which started in the early 1990s when Eileen Flanagan contacted me to ask for semen from Ch Mochras Ipse Facto. Over the years I asked her how things were going. The bitch the A.I. was intended for failed to conceive. I must admit I rather forgot about “Maxim in the freezer” and some years went by……

On one of my trips to look at hounds in the USA I attended the IWAGs initial show, the one held in conjunction with the Somerset Hills dog show, judged by Dagmar Kenis Pordham. I visited                     ” Carrickaneena” for the first time and spent  time with their hounds, marvelling at Logan who was then over eleven. I don’t think I had ever seen such a huge and big boned elderly wolfhound, and he was one of a great many veterans in this kennel. The bitch I liked best was  his daughter  ” Tootsie”, so named as she had a white foot. Ch Carrickaneena Treisce had lots of bone and was very shapely, there was some talk of ” bringing Maxim out of the freezer” but I can’t pretend I held out much hope for puppies. Tootsie had lots of relations living to great ages, many of them shown at this the first veterans speciality, which became a feature of the Garden State show.

I learned that Tootsie had been insemenated and was in whelp. Then – on my birthday – a rare call from the USA. An exhausted yet triumphant Eileen was calling to say that she had ten puppies – which then became eleven  puppies ! Redemption was the last born, he was seemingly dead on arrival, brought back to life by his breeder. This name stuck. I asked if there might be a puppy in this litter for me, and was told yes….

as a baby - first pose

E mails started to come in regularly. I have kept the one which told me every dog puppy was entire aged 5 1/2 weeks. The Government had colluded with us by changing the importation rules, allowing dogs to arrive direct from the USA providing they were over eight months of age and had a rabies injection. I arranged to visit in February 06 to see Redemption aged eight months, rather a formality as I was looking forward to having him, but its hard to take a dog ” sight unseen”. Eileen had also kept a son and a daughter for herself and seemed rather quiet while she showed me the youngsters and we agreed that Redemption should join me. I then asked where Eileen’s own dog puppy from the litter was, and learned that he had died the week before due to the most tragic of accidents. It was typical that Eileen tried to stay quiet, and was preparing to send me the remaining dog – but of course this couldn’t be allowed to happen. We agreed that Redemption would stay in the States to be shown, stored for A.I. and mate his first bitch, at which point I would hope to bring him to the U.K.

Time passed, and Eileen’s daughter Eileen Jnr began to send over a series of fantastic e mails giving the news of Redemption’s many wins over the summer. He made his title in double quick time, with some glittering prizes along the way. By the autumn he had mated his first bitch with all the proficiency his sire had shown some fifteen years earlier. He had an easy flight to Gatwick, and young Eileen arrived  in time to show him at Crufts – he was just within age for the special junior class, which he won.

Settled in at home, I showed Redemption a little, but never really did so to his advantage, although he gained his stud book number and was liked by breed specialists who remembered the sort of dog he resembled from the past. He absolutely hated having his ears stripped, would do anything to get out of this, yet would stand for hours to have the rest of his body groomed.

He had three litters in the UK and one in Germany. His first son Solstrand Arthur Ardfuail quickly established himself as an outstanding sire in his own right, but followed his father in being rather lazy in the ring! For Brachan, the outstanding dog in their litter went to Germany and became a champion for Dagmar Deirich. For Rainster, their first champion Ch Rory, top winning IW in his year. In Germany Helga Muller produced Ch Temhair Germany. In America – I have lost count. His breeder repeated the mating with the last straw of semen from Maxim, and fortunately produced another champion of her own ” Jack” who has also proved to be a great sire.


Below -Ch  Brachan Glen Finochty, Solstrand Arthur Ardfuail, Ch Rainster Rory with Eileen Flanagan, visiting Rainster the year Rory took Best in Show at the IWC club show.




Ch Rory


Redemption was I think a “prepotent” sire, as even today you can see red brindle heavy boned big hounds with his size and substance coming through from Arthur and Rory. Three generations of champions now, the collected Cousinage jokingly called ” the Redemptionistas” . In many a show entry the winners have Redemption lurking – I think Bev Poole has the youngest of them ( via Ch Gambling Man, Ch Another Stripe, Arthur – great grandchildren).

Redemption’s heart tested normal at all his regular checks through to the end. At home, a very easy going greedy hound who never tested your strength by pulling or other bad behaviour, unless there was a bitch in season around!  He loved his food and especially his mints, a favourite variety of which his breeder carried with him whenever she visited the UK. I was so pleased she could see him for a last time this Summer, just after his ninth birthday. Throughout his life Demi would go over to the basset fauves and ask them to wash his nose and ears, and at the end of his life had a special friendship with young Marc, who is lost without him.

As are we all.

The whelping box

The hours I have spent on my knees at the edge of a whelping box ! In 1973 we bred our first Irish Wolfhound litter from Buckhurst Theresa. She whelped nine puppies, and I don’t remember now how long it took, but I do remember her leaning against the wall  with her shoulder  as she gritted her teeth ( literally) and pushed hard to bring those puppies into the world. Later generations of wolfhounds lay on their sides and barely pushed at all, inertia seemed more common.It came as a surprise when Erin ( from Ireland) produced all her puppies out with no vetinerary intervention – shots of Pituitrin and sometimes caesarians for those last puppies had become the order of the day.

Wolfhound litters are fraught with danger and difficulty. So many of us have slept with the litters for three weeks  – and still found overlaid puppies, as these huge exhausted mothers fall asleep without feeling the sensation a puppy under their shoulder or legs. Its the reason many of us only had a litter every second or third year. The PSS ( liver shunt) blood test is a stressful time too, as although most go clear there is still the risk that one of your precious ones will have a faulty liver and you have to decide what to do next.

Moving on to the present and the Basset Fauve de Bretagne. Only one of the little hounds has needed surgical help with whelping, Cracker found it hard to produce her big first son in her first litter and gave up pushing thereafter, needing a caesarian. The other family behaves very differently. They take a very long time getting into the active whelping stage. For a couple of days one hears puffing and panting around the place. Annie took over the darkest spot in the house, dragging her preferred bedding in there and lurking, occasionally kicking the blankets around. Lucy loves her sofas and tried out all of them for days, scratching the covers away and feeling contented when she was wrapped up like a mummy, if she could manage that. Later she constructed a nice dry den under an upturned wheelbarrow and spent hours getting this exactly as she wanted it.

The panting becomes more and more noticeable, and at this point we move in to the whelping room which has always been prepared ahead of the due date and shown to the mother-to-be, who usually takes no interest in it. Under the wheelbarrow, behind the shed or in a grimy corner  would be the preferred spot, left to themselves.

Its common to think there is a 63 day ( 9 week) gestation period, but its actually 60 days from ovulation and in my experience fauve dogs don’t miss that day if they can possibly help it ! Lucy and Annie’s litters arrived 60 days from the date the dams were mated, even though in Lucy’s case I wasn’t sure when that was….. but there was a single day when Duke could have got to her – and despite them ignoring each other in my presence, something more must have happened ….

Nowadays I don’t keep a vast supply of stock to hand. I ensure I have some calcium Pet Tabs, as sometimes the bitches become shivery part way through a whelping and my vet suggests one or two of these will help during the delivery of a litter – where a bitch is prepared to swallow anything half way through a whelping, not all do. My whelping boxes are a succession of  disposable cardboard ones, with wooden dowelling rails to keep the puppies away from the edge. These might save a puppy from being squashed between a tired bitch and the box side, although in my experience these little mothers have sensations that ” The Princess and the Pea” fairy story heroine would envy, they know where their puppies are at all times. I have kitchen towels, my blunt ended thermometer, the scales, hand sanitisers ( medical version – scrubbed hands first, up to the elbows ), clean towels and lots of dog bedding, ideally brand new. I have some bitch replacement milk in the cupboard, and some eye droppers rather than  bottles and teats.

The whelping bitches won’t have eaten for at least a day.Their shivering and panting, scratching at beds and pacing around, builds up until you feel exhausted for them. Especially when the first preparatory “not quite contractions but heading that way” stage lasts for 12 hours and you are leaned upon, sat upon, and shivered at regularly through the night as you sit vigil with them. Did I mention the whelping room has a big sofa, a TV and everything I need for a stay of a week or so?

Finally the puppies are almost ready to appear.A t last the tail goes up, crank handle style, and some proper pushes begin. Sometimes the little mother feels sick and retches, or groans with the pains, the whole process isn’t called labour for nothing….. and within an hour or maybe two the first puppy puts in its appearance. It can be scary when this appearance is two feet and perhaps a tail…. especially fora first puppy. One hopes they come within their buffering “plastic bag” but they don’t always. Poor Marmalade once had a big puppy born feet first ( breech) and tummy outwards, the worst possible angle to get him into the world. The books say you can help the process along, but its pointless going in too early or doing other than working with the contractions and waiting until there is enough puppy visible to grip with a towel and to pull – with the contraction – in the direction of the bitches’ stomach, never downwards or outwards but upwards and inwards. Marmie’s puppy must have  hit the spot to empty her anal glands at the same time, another eye watering occupational hazard for the human assistant.

Arrival – and some bitches are so mad for placenta you can’t whip it away from them. Not a great need to, as they are full of iron and its instinctive for the bitch to remove anything which might attract a predator – also, why leave this great meal, when their instinct tells them won’t be able to go out hunting for a while? This gives me the chance to get the puppy into a big handful of paper towels, cleaning the mouth first and giving a  gentle yet vigorous towelling to the ribs to get that important first gasp of air into them. Once they are breathing for themselves , my hands go down to the umbilical cord to compress it  hard with a pinch, and rip – pushing back in towards the puppies body –  at the exact place where its programmed to tear, about half an inch out from the body. No scissors for me, I imitate what the bitch would be doing if she wasn’t so interested in the cleaning up process. By this time the rest of the bag will be off the whelp and the mother will be keen to clean the puppy to her own high standards. As the next puppy arrives the last one can be picked up and quickly weighed and checked for markings etc. My notepad is at the ready, in case  a vet needs the history at a later stage. Fortunately this is rarely required. Later on I review just how many were breech, or head first – and can I still match the note of any markings to the actual puppies now they are dry? This is the reason many breeders use coloured tapes, as with an entire litter of little brown whelps (with no white on them) its tricky to do the daily weigh- in.

Strong puppies will wriggle themselves onto a nipple and suck as if their life depends upon it, which of course it does.  Its normal for a puppy to be dazed and confused for a while, to recover from its delivery and dry out for a few minutes before trying for the milk line. Little Minnie from my third litter fell back a day or two after her birth,we quickly realised she wasn’t doing very well. I gave her glucose and water mixture in an eye dropper and held her onto a teat to suck before she became too weak to do so. This was all she needed. A day or so later she had so benefited from the extra care ( at least an eye dropper of rehydration every couple of hours followed by individual time on the breast) and she was fending for herself. We kept up the attention, moving to bitch replacement milk to help the supplementation along, and she grew into a lovely strong bitch, one of the biggest in the litter when mature. A great improvement on the feisty little spider we started out with. Had she been a ” fading puppy”, upsetting her mother by crying incessantly and not doing well, she would have been pushed to the edge and left to die. Not that humans allow that, of course, we would ask the vet to either help or to put to sleep. One day I may have a fauve puppy who is not healthy enough to thrive on its own, this is  sad to think of, but fortunately so far this healthy little breed has produced healthy little puppies who grow to adulthood with no difficulties.

As time goes on and I learn more by watching the little mothers  my respect for them and their instincts grows. They know better than us when to push and when to rest. They are devoted to their puppies, and keep comfort breaks for themselves to a bare minimum. As their puppies settle into a sleep/ eat/ sleep regime, so they will leave their babies for longer periods.

More experienced mothers enjoy their litters tremendously… it is great to wake up  and see them lying there, blissed out having suckled the puppies overnight . I don’t really need to be there overnight on the sofa for a week or more, but do it as I too bond with the mother, and am there if a comfort break is needed overnight. To be aware of  eclampsia and risks of insufficient calcium  I continue to give a calcium tablet daily for around three weeks, and  I provide big bowls of lactol or whelpi bitch replacement milk drinks ( as well as water) to the mothers. They can expect to be fed exactly what they want to eat, which for the 2014 litters is headed up with casserole steak and chicken thighs. Ideally they will fancy the Royal Canin ” Starter” food, which is amazingly nutritious and which the baby puppies will move on to when they are weaned.

Time moves on, and in a few weeks time the teeth will be through and the little mothers will spend less and less time with their puppies. The day will come when a curious older sister or auntie is allowed in to babysit –  they are so eager to visit – and by around six weeks of age the mothers will have handed most of the care over to the pack females, who adore puppies and are so gentle with them. The puppies will be learning incredibly quickly from every dog and human they meet, and will be in and out of the house as a “swarm” , getting into everything and encouraging even the most staid adults to drag tempting toys across their path. Everyone loves puppies, and I really think the young bitches do an apprenticeship in mothering ahead of their own turn. The retired grannie generation provides the discipline – and in the case of Cracker, the essential scary bossy hound to be respected and bowed to. I will know all the puppies  by name and they will start to respond it as well as to the Acme 210 whistle… its my aid to recall, and begins when they are three weeks old.

Ten weeks arrives, and by then the ” friends and family” puppy judging will have been held. I hope to have worked out who I am keeping and who is heading off to their new homes. No matter how much I prepare, its still a sad day for me to say goodbye to these little characters, as they are used to this home and the pack and clearly expect nothing better. The new home criteria has to be that it will  be even better in terms of attention, love and care than mine would be.

We love to invite everyone back to the six month puppy party, complete with silly games, and host a frantic mob of youngsters becoming re acquainted and completely ignoring their owners in all the excitement. Which is ok, as it is their time, and I can catch up on stories of bad and good behaviour and we can share some laughs about their various antics.

Eventually the adult pack will meet an ” ex puppy” again, romp the youngster around the garden,  remind him or her of their  place in the order of things. Every “fauve family member” is accepted by the home pack if he or she came from here. The adults will play with the young ones, or if the visitor is older it will be joining the supervisory group on a sofa.

It has been one of my favourite things to do, breeding basset fauves and launching them into the world as companions, working hounds or show dogs. I have made some good friends along the way.








Are you ready for a puppy?



I’ve just started using a “puppy checklist” with those nice enthusiastic people who are contacting me because they are starting to look for their first family Fauve. The first step is seeing just how deterred they are when they learn about the scent hound attitude to recall – as many never bother to reply to my first e mail asking if they know their hound will need a definite training commitment and an owner who needn’t expect to see one of this breed turn on a farthing and dash back to their side as a gun dog would. There are some lovely obedient fauves out in the world , whose owners usually include the phrases ” he is incredibly greedy, even for a Basset Fauve” and ” Tesco cocktail sausages, cheese or chicken bits go out for walks with us”. Yet if your walk takes you past a freshly dug rabbit warren…. expect transgressions, as fresh rabbit is clearly a very strong racial memory for this breed.I have a dog who can easily spend two hours looking at a mouse hole waiting for its occupant to come out – and if you happen to have a business meeting sooner than your hound is ready to give up its station deep in the brambles, this could turn into a problem……. 

Back to the check list. I was a little worried the first times I used it, after either a chat or an on line conversation with the enquirer. Usually these questions and answers can be loaded into our conversation when we actually meet, when the ginger tide of the fauve kind has lapped over a new family with its usual delight.  Yet I have come to realise that often visitors are coming a long way and have busy lives –  if I forget to ask one of the essential questions early enough it could turn into an insurmountable problem to disappoint a would be puppy owner when they think the dog is all but theirs . Does it seem as if i am a nosey parker, asking so much about someone’s lifestyle ? Since I want one of my fauve family to be settled with someone who has the same value set as I have, perhaps not. Happily my first questionnaires have come back overflowing with detail, which has been so reassuring. And here it is……. 

1    Where is the puppy going to live ? Which rooms can he or she access, and what will be out of bounds indoors?
2   Your garden. What type of fencing do you have, would you consider your garden safely fenced? Where will you be taking the puppy to go to the toilet – perhaps in the middle of the night? 
  1. Your front door. Do you have a front door opening onto the street, or a fenced front garden with a gate that closes before you get to the road? Can you, for instance, insert a child or dog safety gate across the door of the  room which the puppy will be using to ensure he or she will be safely contained? This will be especially important if children are around, or adults who don’t understand your puppy will have no road sense if he or she gets out of the house alone.  
  1. Safety. Do you have any areas where you have used cocoa mulch or any  plants ( laburnums, poinsettias) which are poisonous to dogs? How can you make these areas inaccessible?  Do you have steep/rocky areas inside the garden , or a deep pond  or swimming pool – and can the puppy be kept away from potential dangers? 
  1. Livestock. Do you keep chickens, rabbits or have any small pets, are these safely contained ? Does your neighbour have anything next door which would tempt your fauve to dig to get to it? 
  1. If you have cats and a cat flap – does this let into a safely fenced garden ( as the puppy will be able to use an unlocked flap from an early age) 
  1. What other arrangements will you  make for his or her care while you are away from home ? ( For holidays or emergencies I will look after a fauve bred here, if you are close enough). 
  1. Planning for the future. Who will be responsible for your pet if anything should happen so you cannot keep him or her ? Do they know my contact details,  as if no one in the immediate family can provide care your Basset Fauve should not be passed on, resold or sent to a rescue centre – as they might not know enough about the breed to be the right home.( We will sign a contract together in which you agree to only bring him or her back to me for re homing, at whatever age). 
  1. How much time can you give to the exercise of your adult fauve every day  – and do you have any canine playmates lined up for him, if an only dog?  
  1. Your vet. Have you details of their emergency service, should you need them out of hours ? Will you be insuring your dog? 


Most would be owners are sensible – yet I have been surprised over the years. I’ve been told that a puppy would be perfectly OK in a third floor flat ” overlooking Battersea Park” with two working owners who planned to leave the puppy with the nanny and two under fives for 10 hours a day. I wasn’t at all sure the nanny had been informed of this additional duty. I’ve had a splendid couple decide they really couldn’t do sufficient fencing to keep their hound safely within their bounds – their gun dogs had always stopped at the dry ditch, but I could see one of the basset breed treating the ditch as a very fine place to hunt from. One fauve has escaped from her garden, she went under the garden shed and discovered it wasn’t fenced behind there,had gone into the village and been hit by a speeding car. She was fortunate not to be killed and its the reason you suggest insurance – the main cause of death for this breed is road traffic accidents. I’ve been visited by a lovely lady who was too disabled to walk a dog and thought a garden the size of a concreted postage stamp would suffice for his needs. Rothko went to a home with cats, and was diving through the cat flap with gusto – fortunately into their safe garden. Missy skipped out of the house, and was found at the local pub scrounging crisps when partying visitors left too many doors open in a row. Dylan has had to be fished out of the swimming pool….. and so it goes on. If someone hasn’t owned a fast moving puppy before – if there is any trouble they can get into, then they will!

Not so long ago I was part of a chain of Fauve breeders returning a puppy from the South coast to a Northern breeder in stages – as the new elderly owner wasn’t able to manage the puppy, yet her family didn’t want to confess this to the breeder and make the long trip to return the pup. This youngster was put up for sale within the week on a Free Ads site. Could I avert this situation arising, had I been this breeder? I don’t know, as people do lie to get hold of their dream. Years ago I sold a Wolfhound to a lovely couple who seemed the perfect home – except the wife had a terminal cancer diagnosis and the husband was fulfilling her wishes by obtaining a puppy of the breed she always wanted. Nine months later this beautiful hound was bereaved and looking for a new home. Perhaps had I asked more about exercising the adult hound something more might have come out. 

I adore the whole process of having puppies, seeing them grow up and learn with every passing day. Yet I can’t keep them all. Nothing is nicer than letting a puppy go to its forever family, seeing him or her settled in and inviting the puppy and its humans back to the six month puppy party for exciting games of hunt the sausage and mad romps as they remember each other all over again. My instructions are re written regularly, incorporating so much previous owners have told me – possibly too much, as it means the new owners look in their “bible” and don’t necessarily feel the need to give me a call. Yet we keep in touch, and as the Fauve family spreads outwards, so the enquiries come back in again. ” I met one of your owners in xyz place/ my friend has one of your fauves/ i saw your website and wondered if…..” and off we go again. in 2014 four of the waiting puppy owners already has their first Fauve – did I mention they are addictive? 


The Basset Fauve and epilepsy research – UK

Over time I have heard rumours of epileptic basset fauve de bretagne hounds, and when the opportunity came up to attend a lecture on the condition a couple of years ago of course I attended. Dr C. Mellersh is a leading geneticist at the Animal Health Trust and was speaking to an audience of Griffon Vendeen breeders, as epilepsy is becoming a problem in that breed. If you think about your French geography you will realise the two departments where our related breeds originated are very close to each other, and its certain that French hunters will have used ancestors of both breeds in the past. Could epilepsy have a common starting point, in Petits as well as Basset Fauves?

Dr Mellersh explained that the AHT collects saliva samples using a kit. The owner swabs the inside of the cheeks of each candidate hound with brushes they provide, which are then saved into sterile tubes.  They needed at least 12 samples from Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen to start research into finding which genes might be the source of the problem, and they had received enough to start their work. Additionally they needed a number of samples from elderly Petits who had never had a fit and could be considered clear of epilepsy, as their “control” group.

A couple of years passed, and this Winter  I decided to take up the genetic research angle with Brian, the research assistant  at the AHT. I wrote to him and asked if the AHT would be interested in any samples from BfdB, and if so which sorts of hounds. He asked for swabs from any hounds I could discover which had suffered from epilepsy, plus samples from hounds over the age of twelve who had never shown signs of the disease. He sent me a number of kit sets to issue to interested people.

After a calling notice on the Facebook page of the BfdB I received four requests for kits from owners of affected hounds, and a number of additional requests from owners of the suitably aged  ( 12 + and unaffected ) veterans. The AHT has asked for a full vetinerary report ( case history) on each affected hound, as epilepsy can be “idiopathic” ( no cause understood), and they will need as much information as possible before beginning their analysis in order to remove dogs with no genetic reason for epilepsy from their research group.

I’d like to stress that I have no interest in what is sent to the Animal Health Trust, and because owners and breeders are often afraid of the “stigma” of producing any dog suffering from an inherited disease this is as it should be. All I will do is issue the kits to anyone who asks for one. An addressed envelope to the AHT is inside the kit.

Brian has told me that if they have sufficient samples they will check the BfdB results against the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen results when they are sure they have found the gene markers for the PBGVs. If we are fortunate it will indeed be the same mutation and our breed can benefit from research already done for the other breed. If it is a different mutation then it will be a much slower task to find the right genes in our breed, as we don’t really have enough samples here for the AHT to work on – they have other breeds in a much worse state and will concentrate on looking for their DNA markers.

The aim with any inherited problem is to discover a gene marker, and thereafter a DNA test to identify carriers and affected hounds across a range of specific diseases. With a DNA test carriers can either be removed from breeding, as a carrier will be unaffected, or perhaps the best specimens can be used – but only with tested clear mates, so there is no chance of producing affected progeny. From the tested offspring the best unaffected hounds who don’t carry this genetic problem could be selected to go into the next generation of breeding stock. Affected hounds can be identified before they are bred from and removed from the breeding population. Its a superb way of removing risk from any canine population. At the moment we could unwittingly breed “healthy” carriers together and produce affected progeny.

I should stress that the risk of epilepsy in the BfdB is very low indeed – to have only found four affected hounds in a population which grows, in the UK, by around 100 registrations per year and has individuals which can be expected to live for upwards of thirteen years is a very small problem, but breeders need to do all they can to keep it this way or remove it completely.

While writing about the AHT I was contacted by Anu Ahlroos – Lehmus, who works with the department at Helsinki University in Finland which identified a DNA test for epilepsy in the Lagotto Romagnola breed. They too would be interested in saliva samples from hounds affected with epilepsy as they are researching the basset breeds and have thousands of samples on file already. If anyone needs her details please let me know.

If breeders are concerned about the risk of producing epilepsy in this breed there is something which can be done right now. The Dutch club did its own research into pedigrees in the late 90s. I have had translations done from the Dutch of the original research papers, let me know if you would like a copy.  There is also a lady within the Dutch club who maintains a database showing which lines might be unsuitable to breed together as there are carriers or affected hounds in the background. As with my own experiences with PRA in another breed in the early 90s, in the days before DNA tests, the only way to keep clear of an inheritable disease would be to reduce the risk of accidentally breeding carriers together – so it would be worth an e mail to our Dutch colleagues to ensure you are not accidentally breeding in a manner which might produce affected basset fauves. You will find them very helpful.

Finally, a word about procedure. No blaming, and no whispering about show ring rivals !  This attitude is both old fashioned and counter productive. If any breed has problems then these are the responsibility of us all.  If you do  lack understanding about basic genetic principles – get to some of the excellent lectures run by the KC or the AHT and start to learn. No one ever sets out to breed a dog with a problem – its how we deal with it thereafter, with compassion and helpfulness, which brings a breed back to rights quickly. As I already know – as the group I worked with managed to eradicate a problem in another breed by working together and being open and careful with carrier lines. We trusted each other and got results. Its the only way…….


2014 show results

October 2014

Marmoset and Lucy were shown at the BfdB championship show. Zetty won Limit bitch, Lucy second in PG bitch, Dr and Mrs Hubble’s Marignac Junior dog.

June, July August 2014 

Yes, still busy at home! A rare outing for Irish Ch Milo, Jo piloting him to BOB at Southampton show. Judged the IW Club of Ireland show in June. Helped organise the wonderfully successful IW Health Group fundraising garden party at Lake House in July. In the rush Zetty won two or three more limit classes and Tid picked up a third at Hound show, a great class with six champions present. Attended the Elevage in France instead of the usual week in Ireland, and will now be even busier bringing on some new youngsters ready for next year…….


May 2014

Ever so slightly busy with puppies at home…. so missing some shows. Ch Melchior won the dog Challenge Certificate at Bath, with son Marignac ( John and Sue Hubble) reserve to him. Zetty won limit and Clementine second in open. A lovely show for the amount of “mochrashounds” support from the gallery, I hope to get a number of you into exhibition mode next year !

Christchurch, Zetty Best of Breed.

Guildford, Clementine was Best of Breed.


April 2014 

We don’t quite know how she managed this, but Ch Mahogany picked up the Points Trophy for Top Winning BfdB bitch 2013 at the Fauve Club AGM…… we also had the excitement of showing her at the Contest of Champions, a great night as Redemption the wolfhound’s great grandson went Best in Show. Well done Ch Moralach the Gambling Man !

Marmoset went with me to Ireland on the trip to take Duke home, and we took in two dog shows ( as you do). Zetty won her second green star with Best of Breed at Banbridge from Hound specialist Felicity Thompson ( Barnesmoor) which was rather nice.  Only five more to her Irish title, but the Blevwils Fauves are now much harder to get past……

South Western Hound, and John &Sue Hubble’s Norbert ( M. Marignac) was kept in to the final six for best in show and puppy group 4 after winning both best of breed and best puppy. Excellent result for this ten month puppy.

March 2014

Crufts ! a good show for us again this year, with Ch Melchior winning the open dog class containing four other champions, Martel winning another puppy class, and in bitches Ir Ch Clementine second in veteran aged 9 1/2 and Marmoset second in Limit despite her youth.

Hound Open show: Martel second in puppy, and Clementine won Open.

Basset Fauve Open show: Marmoset won limit, and John and Sue Hubble’s Marignac won puppy dog.


February 2014

This was a GREAT month for Sue and John Hubble’s Norbert ( M. Marignac) with three best puppy awards at open shows leading to a hound puppy group second and two Hound puppy group wins.

Manchester Ch Show: Martel won puppy dog again, Annie second in open.

Zetty ( Marmoset) won two best of breeds, she is being brought back tp the ring for 2014 now she is more mature, she will be two in April. Best BfdB at both Maidenhead and Southampton, and 4th in the Hound Group at Southampton.

Ir Ch Hibeck Clementine was BOB at Lichfield for Frank Kane, with Martel Best Puppy.

Hibeck Creme Brûlée won three more postgraduate classes.

January 2014:

Ch Mochras Mahogany ( Annie) was Best of Breed at Boston Championship show and her young half brother Martel reserve best dog for the second show running, also best puppy.

Annie in the group ring

Martel ( Murray) is pictured below – adore this head !

Martel aged 8 months



Blog posts

As we reach the end of the year it seems the wins at the top level of Ch Melchior and Ch Mahogany have made given Mochrashounds ” Top Breeder 2013″. A great result, considering my first BfdB litter was only born 5 years ago. Four Irish Champions now, and an Irish Junior Champion, and the two in the UK, not forgetting Ch Marzipan our first export ( Norway).

Sweeping up the Autumn results – Annie her first two res CCs and Tid another CC from the BfdB Club Championship show.

Aug 13: Its been some time since I updated this list and the wins have been coming thick and fast ! Another double for Ch Melchior and Ch Mahogany at Paignton from Mark Cocozza, following Annie’s third CC at Leeds ( Ir Ch Milo was third in open there). Hound show, just Harmonie and matriach Ir Ch Clementine, the latter winning veteran bitch.WKC, Annie CC and Harmonie won Junior – en route to Ireland, where Harmonie won her Irish Junior Champion title with five excellents and Annie was BOB three times and Green star winner five ( Harmonie took the sixth one !).

Windsor, fauve family excelled themselves here under French Hound specialist Linda Skeritt ( Monkhams). Ch Melchoir CC, Mahogany ( Annie) second CC, BOB and pulled into final few of the Hound Group. Casper second in puppy dog.

Southampton, delighted that Ian and Jo’s Bramble ( Muscadet, Ch Latour x Ch Clementine) actually stood still on the table and earned her first prize. Annie was best of breed this time, over milo, and the pair were second in a big brace class.

Three Counties and I will always enter hounds for Mr Howard Ogden, always so kind to the dogs and interested in the breed. Zetty took her fourteenth first prize and Annie was reserve best bitch, winning open.Won Fauve breeder group but didnt stay to the end for the Hound group competition.

Southern Counties Another good show for us, a Finnish judge. We like the Scandinavian judges as they are well trained, know construction, and you can guarantee they wont be ” looking up the lead” at faces, which in my view is the bane of dog shows, when judges dont judge whats on the ground on four legs…. rant over ! Annie best bitch, beating three champions. Casper won puppy dog, Zetty won Junior bitch. This is Zetty’s thirteenth first prize, she is still unbeaten in her classes. It cant last….Even better, our breeder group was second in the Hound breeder group in stiff competition.

Bath and Zetty won Junior.

Guildford (Open) Ir Ch Milo Best of Breed, with Annie second to him in open. This was a great show for the Mochrashounds, as Caroline and Garth’s Maple, Annie’s sister, made her second visit to a dog show and was reserve Best of Breed. Young Harvey ( Marmite) did very well to be third in Junior, he was beautifully handled by young Holly. We had a small family gettogether which the hounds thoroughly enjoyed !

Birmingham National Annie Challenge Certificate, Tid res dog CC. Milo and Marmalade’s father completed his title and is now CH and Irish Ch Venquest Popcorn at Hibeck – thank you judge Zola Rawson, Hibeck and Mochras took all four top awards and young Casper qualified for Crufts.

The Mini Circuit ( Ireland, early May Bank Holiday weekend)

South Tipperary Annie Green Star, her seventh, completing her Irish title. Zetty 1st junior and res green star.

Fermoy International Annie reserve CACIB and Zetty 1st junior. Zetty was in contention to win overall best bitch ( at 12 mths two weeks!) but I chose wrong and handled Annie in the challenge, which meant Zetty didnt show well enough for Stephanie. My mistake…. I’ll keep to Zetty the next time i have two in the challenge, she is such a mummy’s girl…..

Hound Association of Ireland Annie green star bitch and Best of Breed. Zetty won junior

WELKS Zetty won her first junior bitch class – she remained unbeaten as a puppy !

Basset Fauve Open show Zetty won puppy bitch and Milo second in Open dog, Lucy won post graduate bitch.

Ashbourne and District – Zetty ( Mochras Marmoset) best puppy in breed and fourth in the Puppy Hound Group.

Maidenhead and District – Zetty best of breed as well as best puppy and third in the (adults!) Hound Group.

In Norway, Marzipan is now a full champion and has her hunting certificate. Well done little Miss ! the judge admired her dedication on the trail of hare, no other fresh scent distracted her from the animal she wanted and he noted he had never judged a Basset breed with such dedication to the one type of prey animal.

Its never been easy, breeding Wolfhounds…….

I came across a small piece of paper recently and thought I would record what is on it before this is lost again. A small yellow page, must have been written some time in the late seventies, maybe early eighties. This was in the days when I kept a notebook by the phone and scribbled a transcript of most of the conversations I had regarding Irish Wolfhounds.I was like a sponge, collecting pedigrees and every possible piece of information. This would help me to breed better wolfhounds, I thought, when the time came to chose a sire for my next litter.

This little yellow piece of paper isnt from one of my usual notebooks, and I wont be writing about those any time soon. Once I am sure everyone referred to is safely tucked in their grave I might leave these to the Irish Wolfhound Club. This single sheet must be a record of a conversation with someone – but who? That most important piece of information isnt on there. How could I have thought I would ever forget who I was talking to? Its likely to have been someone with good connections to Ireland who had already been in the breed for a while, and these comments must have been the result of my questions, trying to verify information about dogs or about problems I had come across already.

“Splash marked bitch at Ballykelly”. I had seen my first puppy with a large white face blaze at Marumac not long before, a baby from the Ch Carrokeel Coillte Merlin x M. Clary litter. Neither Mary McBryde or I had ever seen this before, but it wasnt long before I met Ballykelly Tigernach, Tony Doyle’s white head- striped male who was called ” Badger” at home. In these far off days new breeders were told they should look at culling litters if too many puppies were born, and mismarks and blues should be the first to go, if there were any. There were rumours of puppies born with big white legs, even a collar like a Collie’s – and in her typical fashion, Mrs Nagle had brought out Sulhamstead Motley, a dog with a big white chest and both a sock and a stocking in white, to make a point about conformation being more important than colour. She never extended this theory to blues ( dilutes) however – and thats a whole other story !

To this day you will come across breeders, some of them Irish, who loathe white markings and follow the Deerhound standard in wanting as little white as possible.I watched Kathleen Kelly of Nutstown dismiss some superb hounds from the ring in Dallas at the IWC Speciality she judged, having pointedly put her hand upon their white feet as she went over them. Her main winners barely had a white hair outside their chests. I have also witnessed the opposite extreme. In Norway, as at one of the East Coast Specialtiy shows IWAGs, there is a class for ” Best Irish Spotted Wolfhound”. Irish spotting is the term used in colour genetics for a dog with white edges – in its extreme extension there might be a saddle of black on the back with white head, legs and tail. In Wolfhounds we might see white up to the pastern, a tail tip, a big white chest and perhaps a white snip up the face, hard to detect when the hound is adult as the whiskers cover the muzzle area.

I can understand both viewpoints. The Kennel Club  Breed Standard is no longer clear on how to treat white markings.The breed club still follows the “old standard” in retaining the link with the Deerhound. Some breeders still  follow the underlying suggestion from the  IWC standard to follow those colours acceptable in the Deerhound, white being minimised.Yet Tony Doyle of Killykeen admired the white marked coat pattern and perhaps felt the phrase ” Irish Spotting” claimed the colouring for the Home Country.

Back to my piece of scribble.Breeders very soon found it hard to avoid the very white marked Sulhamstead Motley’s best son and grandson, champions Mogul and Wizard, and a scattering of white marked puppies come through to this day. Should we be worrying about it? There are worse things in an inbred breed population, and when I chose a dog with big white socks as my BIS at the last EIWC I thought he was the best constructed and best moving dog present on the day and disregarded the white feet. Not everyone will think the same.

Moving on….. “Int Ch Colin of Nendrum a poor stud”, this would have been an ” ah ha” moment for me, as I couldnt understand how such a beautiful hound could leave so few offspring. Wolfhounds have improved in the libido area over the last forty years, but back then you could speak to breeders who owned or knew of dogs which wouldnt mate.Ruth Jenkins of Eaglescrag wistfully told new breeders that she wished she had even a single puppy for every trip she took to Sulhamstead sires. Half of their champion males from the 60s- 70s left no progeny. I wonder how we compare today? I think our sires are more reliable, or perhaps its that we can sort out the ones with poor semen quality and not waste our bitches time with them.

“Ch Ballykelly Reamonn’s grandson  Navan died aged 15 months, heart condition ( enlgarged)”. I must check my death records book to see if I recorded or knew what Reamonn died from. Even in those times I was collecting information about what dogs died of, especially when they died young. This was probably Dilated Cardiomyopathy, DCM, something we knew to fear but didnt know how to avoid.

“Brabyns Red Rory x Melina puppy died of heart attack while under a year” and here was another one, this time based on Ch Petasmeade Chieftain of Brabyns lines. Susan Hudson ( Bowers) of Brabyns wasnt someone I particularly respected. She bred to make a living, and as a lifelong hobby breeder I couldnt get to grips with anyone who bred dogs to keep themselves ( as opposed to going out to work to keep the hounds). Her wolfhounds could have rather strange temperaments. Miss Hudson was kind enough to offer me a lift when she came across me as a foot passenger on the Dublin ferry, heading over to watch Helen Baird ( Outhwaite) judge the IWCI club show. She had a beautiful wheaten male called Donaghadee, but he was extraordinarily shy. If it occurred to me to wonder why he needed ” travel sickness pills” upon disembarking from the ferry I was too in awe of older breeders to question it, and this neurotic dog was a lamb by the time he was in the ring even if his pupils were dilated out to their edges. I wonder what was used? Donaghadee won that day, and later became a champion in the UK. I never bought stock or used dogs from this kennel as I was too sensitive about the ” natural” characters of the hounds after this experience.

There were a fair few nervous or downright neurotic wolfhounds when I came into the breed. No doubt I was interested to discover ” Thornwick Aran produced nervous puppies to proven good temperament dogs”. Her son Ch Boroughbury Justice was one of the best sires the breed has ever known, you certainly noticed his many champion offspring, a great leap forward. He went as a slightly older puppy to Betty Murphy ( Carrokeel). I also noted ” Justice passes on his head type, main exception to a poor headed Tolkavalley bitch”. I knew Justice, he was a rather reticent hound and Betty had worked hard at socialising him. He had a superb head and expression and could be depended upon to reproduce this. Over at Eaglescrag Justice’s aunt Rossan was also mated to Ch Caio of Eaglescrag and produced superb hounds such as Toby and Tansy – and the latter was desperately fearful, as were others bearing Rossan in their pedigree. Yet the hounds she was bred to were the most steady and charming of males.

In later years I have heard poor Fintan blamed over and over again for having a poor temperament. He was just lovely, a forward going and friendly dog in all circumstances. He was, however, mated to Rossan and had a very shy son who in turn produced some very nervous progeny…… maybe there’s something behind these two influential matriachs which was responsible for the far too nervous descendants. Another area of great progress, as wolfhounds of today are so much steadier and more forward going, you rarely see a neurotic hound out and about.

” Ch Ballykelly Molly Mulligan had bad entropion”. I pored over her pedigree looking for any connection with my own entropions, a brother and sister in my first litter, but there was none. ” Boroughbury Ballykelly Kilpadraic poor tail, hysterical barker, ugly head with light eyes”, I cant think why I should be interested  but I must have been – and any interest would have waned on hearing this of him!

“Brabyns Cailte died whelping, two dogs hand reared, one to go to the Finneys in Ireland and the other to Elsie James”. Gulliagh and Boroughbury affixes respectively. Susan Hudson wrote an article for an early IW magazine about rearing Mic and Mac. I loved Caillte, a superb bitch in my eyes at that time. “Patricks Day has osteochondritis, Ch Sulhamstead Match blamed”.Patricks Day was a most lovely puppy yet I wouldnt have used him at stud from the moment I heard this. OCD was rife in this era yet I cant now say I thought Sulhamstead hounds had any great amount of it.Perhaps Miss Hudson was in the know, or perhaps she was doing the customary breedery thing of blaming the only line which didnt come from her own kennel.

“Brabyns Connal and Colleen Dhu had curly tails ” I had a champion mother and her daughter with ring tails and wouldnt have wanted to double it up.

” Neither Eaglescrag nor Brabyns has ever had a distension ( gastric torsion). Blamed on incorrect feeding or habits”. We were all terrified of bloat, and were taught to feed hounds from chairs so they didnt bend down, to get them to eat slowly if possible and to never exercise until two or more hours after a meal. This comment might point to other factors than feeding habits. Both kennels had well tucked up houndy shaped animals and maybe they were genetically less likely to bloat than the heavier bodied sorts that were thicker through the middlepiece. I just dont know.

Here endeth my small piece of paper. If anyone around at the time has any slant of their own to put on what is basically repeated gossip please let me know – its breed history, after all, and memory being what it is/ was…….


some thoughts about judging

I dont judge dogs that often. In the past I always refused to judge anything other than Irish Wolfhounds, as all the time I was working the one breed was enough to think about. Some things stick, however, as I have been watching breeds being judged by others for some 43 years now.

The starting point has to be knowing your breed, closely followed by knowing your own mind. How often has one watched a judge “scratching their head” as they decide between exhibits? Its tedious watching someone re-do judging which really they could be getting on with as they first go over the hounds. Ringside doesnt see it as the exhibitors getting their moneys worth, they see a ditherer. How often have I heard colleagues muttering ” just get on with it” or even ” it doesnt get any better the longer you look at it” ! If you really cant make up your mind, move them again and pick the better mover. It gets you out of stasis.

I judge as I go along. The first dog is in  first place in my mind until I go over the second dog, which might go up a place against the first dog seen, or might stay second. And so on. In huge classes I doubt whether even the best judges can hold all the dogs in their heads in this way. I have friends who, liking the european system, grade dogs as they go as either excellent or very good, with the less than excellents not likely to make the cut. Do this by making a quick note in your book at the going over stage, or by sending the dogs to one corner of the ring or another – but this latter choice is rather hard on exhibitors. Remember Miss Pacey judging like this at one of the Olympia shows years ago, we dont often see it nowadays. Even in those far off days I registered that all the old ladies in hats were in the top corner !

I set great store by movement. I cant help this, its the way I have learned to differentiate the well handled from the well made. If the handler makes a set for the corner when you have directed them in a straight line up the middle then they are either novices or they are out to fool the judge. There’s the well known judges dance, when you have to hop sideways to see how the dog is coming towards one. I dont think enough handlers look up when they turn and head back for the judge, and certainly not enough ensure the dog is trotting towards the judge, rather than you the handler. If the dog is a very uncontrolled mover you can expect me to ask it to go again more slowly. I’ve exhibited dogs for over forty years. I too know to make a mess of the trot up and down when I have a dog which isnt worth looking at from that view but has a striking side gait ! I’m not even a good handler – and have made all the mistakes one can make over time.

I am hard over on co ordinated movement. If the dog is crabbing/ sidewinding, why is this? Too often its because the dog cant go on a straight line as its front and rear angulations arent balanced. Maybe its back is too long or too short, or its not in the best condition. This is when its worth walking the dog to watch exactly what the problem is, you can pick it up in slo-mo what you cant see it at a fast trot. I’ve asked a handler to swop sides with a hound before now. Some dogs learn to crab as a response to the speed, or lack of it, of the handler. Asking the handler to move the dog to their right side and go again can magic the problem away – if the dog still does it, then there is still something incorrect in its construction or soundness on that day.

So, you know your own mind and you know the breed, and how it should move for maximum efficiency – what next? That great judge Frank Kane has put it far better than I can in his article on integrity. Be true to yourself. Have courage. You are on your own out there and cant get a second opinion. If there is an ultra fit scruffy hound there with great construction and a handler with no idea, is that hound better than Mr Important’s charge, beautifully presented though his hound is? If you think so, then scruffy unknown dog has to win. Grooming can be improved upon, construction cant. You may well be thinking now ” hang on a moment, isnt it supposed to be a beauty show?”. Er, no it isnt. Handlers are showing the judge that they have an animal which meets the standard of excellence for that breed and ideally that the dog could go out and do what it was bred to do straight after the show. There is a lovely and true anecdote about a famous international champion which was allowed off lead for a wee en route to a dog show. She leapt off and chased a rabbit, returning caked with mud. The exhibitor could hardly bathe her at this late stage, yet the hound still won the certificate. The best dog has to win, not the best groomed, but its true its wonderful when the two conditions converge.

How to be brave as a judge? Have the courage of your own convictions.Exhibitors know their trade and some are wonderful handlers, and none of them go into the ring hoping for a second prize when they have been around for a while. I know I am quite self effacing as a handler, looking down at the dog and looking under my eyelashes for that signal that brings the dog into the line up ( you hope !). Others stare out the judge. You can see some people “willing” the judge to ” look at me, look at me”. Its amazing how often this works. Its why some folks have a showing ” uniform”, so the judge always knows Mr or Mrs Important is the one to seek out by what they usually wear. Red is often used – the colour of a first prize in the UK, look how often you see it on some handlers (!).

It is possible to turn a sows ear into a silk purse in the world of dogs.Exhibitors spend considerable time dedicating themselves to grooming and presentational skills in order to convince the judge they have the best dog. The judge needs to think through the logic if things arent quite as they might expect. If the handler has left a load of hair on a dogs neck, why is this? Disguising a ewe neck, is it? Handler is stringing up a hound so it can hardly breathe – why is this? Make the person loosen the lead and see if the dog 1) stays where it is ( was it on the edge of flight?) and 2) still has any sort of neck and head carriage without this ” assistance”. If the handler is staying close to the dog and you suspect he or she has a handful of dog cheek or throat in his hand, ask  them to drop their hands and look at the dog on its own. Funny old thing, sometimes you find a dewlap or a far- from- attractive amount of loose skin. The same if the handler is sitting beside the dog – are they helping the topline with a hand lifting the underline on the side the judge cant see?

Some dogs are trained to faff around when a judge approaches the mouth. This can happen by accident ( exhibitors spend far too much time wrestling with mouths of youngsters as they figure out whether the bite is going to be correct, and the dog can get into the habit of fighting for its head). It might have been allowed to get away with it in the hope a judge would give up and assume it was ok. The funniest experience I ever had as a judge was getting into a dogs mouth when the handler had curved her fingers over the area where some premolars should be. I could tell the difference. Persist, or downgrade the hound if you dont get a clear view. Always penalise narrow underjaws when you judge wolfhounds. its prevalent enough for the Scandinavians to have added it to their list of serious breed faults as its potentially painful for the hound when the canines are forced into the gum line, or even into the palate. Somehow I have never been able to get worked up about misplaced incisors, as long as the bite ( the set of the canines) is ok. When you judge you will get your own set of priorities about every part of the dog, but do be consistent.

” to their faults a little blind, to their virtues ever kind”, something I wish i were better at. Given time enough its just too tempting to write War and Peace in the critique. Its a novice judge type of thing, to try to list absolutely everything so the mystery critic ( your inner critic?) can see you havent missed anything important. Stick to a few essentials.Its rather nice to put criticisms in terms of ” winner had the better head/ ears/ movement on the day”. Yet why on earth write something anodyne about an animal which is a clearly second rate creature? I once spoke to someone who was thinking about breeding their bitch, a hound which was always last in the class no matter how many were in it. This lovely owner was committed to breeding a litter as there was never a word of criticism the times it was first out of one or second out of two. Not everyone can read between the lines when they start out, know that the  ” what a lovely character, enjoyed his day out” sort of comment equals ” its a pet, retire it”. Judges need to say what it needs to have improved at the very least. If the dog is unsound – do i need to say this? – dont place it.

In some entries, usually at championship shows or overseas, it falls to the judge to be the “baddie”. Mrs Nagle did this in America in the early 1970s, still talked about today. She reacted so crossly to straight rear ends ” stifles like sticks” that you never ever see a rear like that in the States to this day. We hear about ” the drag on the breed” – that fault or faults  which are endemic and which most breeders should be thinking to do something about. In America right now, and in the frequently expressed opinion of UK and Irish judges, that something is mouths. The bite of the dog isnt mentioned in the standard there. This doesnt mean it should be ignored. As one wit put it, the standard doesnt state the dog must have four legs but we can assume it should have them. Wolfhounds shouldnt have to catch up with a wolf and consider then whether its armament would be up to the job – breeders should think about mouths and bites too, as they do everywhere else in the world.

In the UK this “drag” is probably lack of quality and houndiness and beautiful movement.Where is the lovely neck, the clean shoulder and upperarm, the forechest?  There are always too few hounds with this combination, and the judges need to put up those they find. If there are more than two in any class consider yourself fortunate.

Another well known phrase is that you cant please all the people all of the time. The cynics’ truth to bear in mind as a judge is this –  straight afterwards your only friend will be the winner ( and only then if they also got best puppy). Following judging all those nice friendly folk who assiduously ” liked” your least utterance on Facebook will vanish away – with perhaps the exception of the Best of Breed winner. Just as you talk about all the other judges, so people will talk about you. You will have repaid a friend for their last award to you, given a good prize to someone you have always fancied, gone for Mrs X as she always wins everything on reputation…. all this background chatter has to be ignored. If you were fair and judged the dogs as you saw them on the day, then chatter is all it will be and you will know your integrity is intact.

You dont judge to be popular, to settle old scores, to stick out a banner of your idea of “The True Type” (only to be seen twenty or more years ago, and hasnt the breed deteriorated since One last bred Oneself). You judge as a responsibility, to add something back to the breed, be it what you know or at the very least your honest opinion on the day. You judge as fairly as you know how, you are pleasant to exhibitors, you dont dress to scare the horses ( sorry, hounds) and you have the humility to remember you will be back on the end of a lead the next week.You will also possess the secret knowledge that your exhibit really isnt quite as good as the one belonging to Mrs X, which really is a superb hound despite what everyone has been saying. Judging as part of a breeder’s toolkit…… now that sounds like another article one day…..


Basset Fauves – learning about function

I’ve been looking at this breed for over twenty years without particularly analysing them. Having owned them for the last nine it was time I fitted together the breed standards of France and GB ( they are slightly different) and figured out how the standard helped this basset breed actually hunt. We arent allowed to hunt with dogs in the UK, but I did see a chance to learn last year. By good fortune I blundered upon a hunter, living in Finisterre, Brittany, who has used the breed on rabbit, hare and deer for three canine generations. He has no interest in dog shows but owns a share in a shoot and also hunts his fauve pack three days a week in the season. I took an interpreter, as his English is about as good as my French ( learned in school and not used much thereafter). Dagmar Kenis Pordham ( Solstrand) isnt only interested in sighthounds! She was the first person to give a basset fauve a best in show at an open show and was a great help as she knows all the canine terminology as well as admiring the breed.

What did I learn? At first sight this pack had the most superb hindquarters. As a sighthound person I had been privately wondering if my determination to own and show basset fauves with straight hocks and decent drive ( in IWs we abhor cowhocks) was as a result of forty years of conditioning by Mrs Nagle and other luminaries of the Wolfhound world . They were hard over on the subject of strong thighs and second thighs and hocks turning neither in nor out. Was I right to want the same in a scenthound breed? These hunting Fauves had the most stunning backsides –  Mrs Nagle would have approved !  I watched the massive amount of drive these rears produced, packed with muscle as they were, and determined to stay on the same track. Straight hocks producing parallel action. Nice to watch.

A 9 month puppy from the H litter
A 9 month puppy from the H litter

The next feature I admired and which was common to all these hounds was a strong neck. I havent seen much of this in hounds shown in the UK, short necks are common yet these moderate length necks were all arched. Another lightbulb moment. As in sighthounds an arch of neck provides strength and is an indicator of a well laid shoulder. These little hounds had moderate angulation, everything about them was unexagerated – yet they too had this feature of laid back shoulders and arch of neck.

I then picked up that the bitches were definitely a size smaller than the males, it wasnt at all hard to see which sex was which. Both sexes werent particularly groomed, but their harsh coats were definitely not overlong and they were of wiry texture. Talking to their owner, he said he used to use Petits but had to give them up as his hunting area was too full of the sort of stuff which catches in coats, and he was fed up grooming the burrs out of their coats when he brought them home. Ah, function as appropriate to countryside – the Brittany fields are small and thickly hedged, the woods are dense. I dont know the Vendee at all but do know the PBGV has to have as much coat as it does as it needs protection from brambles. Short harsh jackets must suit the Brittany wild areas rather better, and my man had switched to the breed appropriate to the country.

Gina 12 mths old
Gina 12 mths old

Even the smallest hound had a big capacious chest, yet in proportion, and upperarms were definitely laid back, setting the foreleg beneath the body. The set of the humerus is another key area for me in sighthounds. Good layback there adds to the shock absorbing function of the front. Clearly it matters in the endurance hunting of the scent hound too.

Now to something I had wondered about for a while, the crook. I asked this hunter if it bothered him that the forelegs on his hounds werent completely straight. He looked at me as if I was mad. Of course they had a crook, he said. This was a Basset breed ! Back in the UK there seems to be a great desire for completely straight ” beagle like” forelegs in the showrings. I’d started to breed for it. I’d  also passed the B list seminar to judge PBGVs, and know their standard allows for a slight crook ( even if you cant see it beneath the coat). Here was a pack of hunting hounds which does 10 – 13 kilometres three times a week in the season. These little hounds have great stamina and endurance and can put on bursts of speed too. I had a good hard look at their forelegs. Straight underneath the humerus they nonetheless had a slight outward turn at the pastern ( the crook). So, a completely straight foreleg and a crook at the pasterns, not huge but definitely discernable. No coat to hide it either. Another lighbulb moment. If these Basset Fauves could hunt over the country they were bred for, who was I to look for straight forelegs in another country where we dont even hunt? The standard allows for a slight crook, and surely if the hunters found straight legged hounds hunted better wouldnt they be breeding for it? They dont. So, mental note to look for straight forelegs, no bandy bone there, but a crook isnt something to have the horrors about, quite the reverse. Its a bit of a relief, as sighhounds with no ” give” at the pastern, despite their straight appearance viewed from the front, knuckle over and break down as time goes on. They need some flexibility under the pastern, and so do the basset breeds.

Heads werent an afterthought here, all the hounds had defined foreheads ( the amplified French standard describes it as looking like a Norman arch, not a dome). As a result the ears were low set, level with the eye, and long. I so admired the ears on these hounds, inward folding and no problem reaching the end of the nose when pulled forward. As you would expect, all the noses were huge – another important breed feature.

Another H litter puppy showing slight crook to forelegs and the typical head of her kennel
Another H litter puppy showing slight crook to forelegs and the typical head of her kennel

How about the contents of the head? Rene was very proud of the Brevets du Chasse his hounds had achieved in hunting trials. I was there to look at a litter, and mother Diva had her qualification on deer, hare and rabbit. Groomd up I had the private thought that Diva and Gina would easily gain their titles in the UK.The hounds were quiet and responsive to their huntsman, very friendly and completely happy to dash around as a pack with no squabbles. Perfect pack hounds, and this great temperament transfers well to life as a family pet.

Perhaps I should mention the mouths, as judges have told me “mouths are a problem in your breed”. Every dog in this pack had a full mouth and perfect dentition. Stands to reason – they need their teeth for work. When I showed someone the inside of Harmonie’s mouth not so long ago they reeled in shock – such big strong teeth wouldnt disgrace a terrier. And a terrier too does a fair bit of killing with its teeth, which is why terrier judges are so very keen on big well set gnashers.

Moving along several months, and Harmonie has settled in well here. She has a page to herself in on the website. She is so intelligent and loving, I have great eye contact with her and she isnt as ” scattery” as some fauves I know, she applies herself seriously and is very obedient. Her brother Hasard is in Ireland and already on route to his title, admired for his sound action and compact body.

I learned some useful lessons at a good point from Rene, and hope to return before too long – I still have an ambition to watch fauves hunting! The littermates retained by the home kennel won best puppy at the informal pack puppy day back in the Spring, and I have my eye on what young Gina might produce one day…….


Est. 1970 Irish Wolfhounds and Basset Fauve de Bretagne