Irish Wolfhound diary 1977

I would have been aged 23 or so when I penned this diary originally. Here it is, now typed out and given some sort of punctuation. It was my very much younger self. Where I have had second thoughts or needed to add context the parenthesis are marked < as this>. 

 Update dated  2015.

I generally used pet names for the hounds and have inserted their full names and that of their owners where I remember these. Mary McBryde ( Marumac) and I had started our interest in Irish Wolfhounds at around the same time in 1970, we corresponded for a while and shared what we discovered about the breed. By 1977 Mary had become a student at Oxford and was soon to become Mrs Noel Poolman, she wrote a thesis on colour inheritance in the Irish Wolfhound. I lived with my parents in the Midlands and  helped by looking after some of the early Marumac hounds when Mary went further North to breed her foundation bitch to a black dog. Mary was very interested in the colour, which was extremely uncommon at that time. Sally ( Marumac Atalandi) was later to become well known as the dam of the top winner Ch Marumac Bahbarella, the bitch which put her kennel firmly on the map. 

Kennels were much larger in those days, many having upwards of 12 hounds in residence, the largest had teams of stud dogs. Many kennels retained two bitches from their litters, one to show and the other to have more litters at home. Shown bitches often had “only” three or four litters, their sisters being much more ” productive”. Brabyns, Erindale and Pendomer had no other sources of income than puppy sales and studs in this era and regularly bred two litters per annum from their bitches and from six to nine litters from each bitch. Some started to have litters aged 13 months. A Brabyns bitch from Ballykelly had nine registered litters, 56 puppies, with Miss Hudson. When Mary Mcbride visited there in 1972 or 73 she was offered puppies from five litters available at the one time, aged 5 months down to two weeks of age.

We had no idea that virus rhinitis was inherited, at this time it was a puzzle and breeders were afraid that it might be transmitted at the time of a mating, or caught like a virus. I think its more likely that this condition was inheritable, is currently called PCD ( primary ciliary diskonesia) and is now uncommon in the breed. >

16th January 77

Mary McBryde over, taking Sanctuary Monagh of Marumac to Delkerry Black Buzzard again to try for two or more matings in limited time to try to get a “take”. Unlikely I feel as Annagh is getting older and doesn’t look in top condition. Her daughter by Ch Caio of Eaglescrag Sally ( Marumac Atalandi) and Aniera ( Jason of Sunningdale ex Royden Colleen) are staying here for the weekend. Sally having lost her coat looks less attractive than she did at LKA, very long straight stifle although the hock is low set. Tail has a very pronounced curl. Aniera was a present from Dagmar ( Kenis Pordham) I would class her as a pet at this age – such straight shoulders affecting her front movement badly, she’s very restricted. Straightish stifle which might improve with age, top line and croup could have more shape to them, tail short and carried scimitar fashion. The head type is strong on this bitch line, all the same “ long triangle” without much stop, from Edgecroft Sheelagh onwards.

Mary rather liked Launa and Tara ( Mochras Gaelauna and Gaeltara, my two keepers from Ch Outhwaite Hamish x Ch Mochras Banrion) and thought Eaglescrag Larkspur of Mochras was much improved, she looked terrible when she last saw her in the Summer. Saw lots of photographs. Many old Sulhamsteads, also puppies belonging to Dagmar. The Shalfleet one looks horrible. Samson ( later to be Ch Eaglescrag Lysander) has a bad cut on his paw. Heard a treatment for bald tails is rubbing in vitamin E. Mrs Gibson ( Delkerry) has four puppies by Ch Eaglescrag Toby. Hope to hear more about them when Mary returns. The puppies are apparently good ones. Ch Hamish has a predisposition < did I mean to say ” appears prepotent for”> for substance and these are his first grandchildren. Dam ( Brianna) has a longish, “humpy” top line but is otherwise a good one. Ch Delkerry Black Blizzard will probably be mated to Eaglescrag Liam.

January 1977

Phone call from Dagmar, who will be taking Shauna ( Royden Colleen) to Ch Hamish shortly. Helen ( Baird) worried her by saying Hamish is a reluctant stud. Problems at Solstrand, including Lysander, who has removed stitches from his foot and left such a mess it cant be stitched up again. He is going cow hocked through inactivity and standing on hard surfaces. Moya ( Shalfleet Elaine) has developed a curly tail and bursars. Another hound has been returned from the Shauna x Jason of Sunningdale litter, a tall dog with a faulty mouth.

Phone call from Frankie ( Shaw, Franshaw). Franshaw Allegro had eleven to Hamish, two black. Poor Leggy had inertia and needed a caesarian, she is feeding them all happily but two are snuffling and bringing milk through their noses. Could be something wrong with their digestive tracts? Frankie fears virus rhinitis. She also has a flea epidemic on her hands.

February 1977.

Crufts. As usual too much to write down. Main news is that 5 of Frankie’s Hamish litter had virus rhinitis and have been put down, including a black bitch. Mrs Gibson is selling all of her wolfhounds for personal reasons. Everyone upset for her. Lots of litters on the way.

Judging was erratic. I fell for ( Mrs Titheridges Camlet) Glendower all over again. Oh for more masculinity in head and more size. New Petasmeade ( Ross) very Chieftain – esque in body, appalling head tho and a ring tail like P. Fernie. Glad I’m not alone! < my Ch Banrion and her daughter Gaeltara both had ring tails, common at the time and a preoccupation of mine, clearly>. The Erindales out in force, all looking and moving rather well. Some youngsters over from Ireland, I liked ( Rathbone Scotts) Tullygirvan Fingal best, small but quality except in head. In open Ch Outhwaite Hamish and Ch O. Am Cu looked surprisingly common and neither reached out in movement. Ch Eaglescrag Toby in top form, moved better than the rest. Ch Erindale Tristam sluggish. ( McCoy’s) Cu Uladh Uladh ( later Ch) in coat at last, moved well but ugly head.

In bitches Brabyns did very well, Bleisce ( later Ch) and Tara both much beyond this kennels usual for temperament and quality.< many of their females were shy in this era>. Didnt see much beyond yearling bitch but did notice Charlotte of Bokra’s small size and dippy top line, Sally close behind and raw outline. Open – Ch Clodagh of Eaglescrag looked lovely, also Ch Kyritz Zephyr of Camlet belying her age as usual. Ch Sanctuary Mona on top form and worthy BOB.

Also heard on the day – Clodagh < Ch, of Eaglescrag, dam of Lysander, Linnet, Larkspur, Liam etc> has missed to Ch Eaglescrag Toby,  Eaglescrag Morvagh has been mated to him instead. Punch <pet name for an Eaglescrag young male> gorgeous but undershot. John ( Briggs) has mated Nuala to Toby. Jenny Mason ( Eriskroy) has kept both the Franshaw Brannigan youngsters, her Tralee a well deserved second in post graduate despite drooling as usual. Alan Hyatt ( Buckhurst) is keeping a dog from Young x Dana, also a bitch from Ch Hamish x Fianna.

Talked to a lady at ringside who had bought Tempest from the Ch Fintan of Eaglescrag x Thornwick Rossan of Eaglescrag litter, she needed an osteochondritis operation ( both forelegs) aged 14 months. £90 !  Ruth ( Jenkins) gave her a replacement puppy Ch Fintan x Tansie, which has again needed an operation for OCD. This lady doesn’t know what to do about breeding wolfhounds, having now two hounds as companions she doesn’t want to start all over again.< I have a feeling I was offered Tempest, or one from that litter, but took Larkspur from the Kestrel – Ch Clodagh breeding>.

Letter from Ruud Van Grieken ( Holland) detailing his experiences looking for stock in the UK . Puppies ate the letter, so information as follows:

  1. Petasmeade litter, best unsold monorchid.
  2. Petasmeade litter, offered pick of litter which came down to another monorchid or a bitchy dog.
  3. Special trip to see a 9 month Edeyrn bitch, described as being of no quality.
  4. His Brabyns Tostal described as being too short backed now
  5. Buckhurst bitch purchased.
  6. Delkerry, 3 males two monorchid and one lame. Bought the best, although monorchid, also the dam Brianna.

He wants me to keep him informed of litters and to if possible inspect interesting litters for him. Complement that I was the only person truthful about my own litter. Like the thought of seeing puppies. <Von Mirable Spectatu affix, hugely successful with Ch Petasmeade Clontarf and not as fortunate in his attempted purchases in this period>

Frankie ( Shaw, Franshaw) rang. She has discovered all five of her Franshaw Fagin x Dinah puppies suffer from the wobblers disease, two have been put down, the rest are being run on for observation. This could mean the end of her current breeding plans, wobblers is thought to be hereditary. The Liverpool University specialist has operated on 9 IWs for this. Funny I have never heard of anything from breeders. Hogan from the Franshaw Doulagh x Allegro litter has been put down, diabetes.

March 1977

Mary rang, Annagh has missed. She went through all the motions of whelping on Saturday but no puppies. This could be a blessing, with exams and another term coming up puppies could have been too much. Sally is now to be mated at her next season, she came in late and its now 8 1/2 months since her last season, a yearly cycle is feared or at the very best 9 months. Mary is thinking about ( Camlet) Esquire, Ch Fintan and Liam ( Eaglescrag) and trying to evade curly tails. On the other hand she is thinking about Panormania Samson for Aniara first litter. I wonder why she is refusing to consider Hamish while using his sons? < this, obvious now, was because they were both black and therefore more likely to sire the colour or carry it> Certainly now virus rhinitis has come from Hamish not a good idea, but this wasn’t the case earlier in the year. Samson having a sperm test just in case.

Message from Dagmar, she has first refusal on Black Buzzard when Mrs Gibson decides to sell. She hopes to show all her hounds at the Club show, doesn’t think Shauna is in whelp to Hamish but doesn’t particularly mind. The young hounds will be campaigned this year. My opinion sought on the next batch of judges, but I don’t know how they will respond so wasn’t much help. As usual with Dagmar chatted for around an hour.

18th March, visit to Franshaw.

Frankie’s nine week Hamish/ Allegro puppies are very poor indeed. For bone and substance the worst I have yet seen, also every one has a Dane- shaped head and the promise of light eyes. Light brindle coloured pups, the black male was horrible in front, long in back and light eyed and sold before we arrived. These pups look as if they will be small when adult. Movement all over the place, weak pasterns, flat feet, high hocks – most upsetting to see. The smallest bitch is down with rhinitis and in pain from a stifle injury, will probably be destroyed. The three remaining Fagan x Dinah pups are pathetic to watch, trembling constantly.

Thought the adults were rather fat to my eye, especially the young bitches. Extra weight suits the Eaglescrag bitch, Brodie also looking well. Gina has her sire’s thyroid deficiency. Hannah and Lenagh typey, especially the first, tall too. Noticed tails. lots of high carriage and curls but not in the ring, luckily. Floragh’s is nice < later the very beautiful Ch Franshaw Floragh>.

Frankie has heard that Mrs Pyke ( Elpyk) has sold a puppy to Danny La Rue. Susan Hudson has had virus rhinitis. (Ch) Ballykelly Reamonn only fetched about £100 when sold to Norway. Franshaw Doulagh has won his first certificate in Sweden and was placed in the Group.

21.3.77. Dagmar again. Cynthia Madigan ( Boissevain, Branwen) is bringing an Int Champion with her when she comes to England – hurray, hope he is a good one. Roy Hollis ( Royden) has a litter from R. Eamonn x (Ch) R. Topaze. The mind boggles.< both these hounds were extremely angulated, in Eamonn’s case to the point of weakness, and he had light lemon coloured eyes> Dagmar has bought Black Buzzard and intends to have a damn good try at solving his sterility. Heard the Manchester results, judging described as pretty awful in bitches, not too bad in dogs. Discussed virus rhinitis and wobblers. Arranged to stay over the Southern Counties show, added bonus of being able to meet R.M. James.

Frankie also called with the Manchester results. She has heard a horrific report of virus rhinitis at Erindale, said to have lost 100 puppies since the first cases in Erindale Loreen’s litter.

16.04.77 Club show

Took Rosie ( Ch Banrion) Bron ( her sister) and Tessa ( Buckhurst Theresa, their dam). Talked to John and Marion Kite, who had Lara and Brabyns Ailm there. They want to mate Lara this year to an Eaglescrag male, inwardly horrified at this as we all think Lara has HD. Jenny ( Mason) has had Rhubarb ( bred by John Briggs) put down. She had only 5 % vision by this stage and was unhappy. < you would have to wonder nowadays if this puppy had PRA – no relationship on pedigree to any of the cases in the 1990s>. John ( Briggs) Nuala has had nine puppies to Toby but squashed all but two dog puppies. Ch Cleveragh Peg has died. She contracted enteritis when mated to Ch Sulhamstead Motto and its thought this triggered off stomach cancer. Frankie told me this. For herself, the Fagan x Dinah puppies havent got “wobblers” after all but what it was affecting them the post mortem did not reveal. Floragh has removed half of Hannah’s ear in a fight. Dagmar had most of her hounds there. The Shalfleet puppy Moya is much nicer than I had thought, lovely quality and flowing movement. Stifles aren’t broad but are well curved.

The show itself was fun. All the young dogs looked like pets, no hope for the future there. It was the long awaited debut of Eaglescrag Liam and as usual the arrival was anticlimactic. He is very tall, none too broad, bone not as heavy as the Eaglescrag usual. Very shapely standing, completely straight in shoulder, which is a disappointment. HIs movement is nearly as erratic as ( his sire) Kestrel’s, but in his case caused by his front, he has too much rear angulation and over- runs. All very sloppy and juvenile, another year will help a lot, but not those shoulders. Lysander ( litter brother) although smaller is the better hound at the moment. I didnt think much of the judging, best dog was an ordinary junior < I must look this up this hound in the yearbooks!>

Things improved in puppy bitch. As usual, when I have something nice to bring out so has everyone else. The niece of the Sanctuary ladies has a smasher from Erindale < this must have been Ch Erindale Lady Sasha, with Sarah Baker> , as has Mrs Nelson ( Gledstone). At the end of the classes I noticed that the Brabyns type ones had failed to place, particularly the reds. Hard to understand, that. Ch Outhwaite Athene won a well deserved BOB. I didnt do anything much but Tessa managed a reserve in veteran and Rosie and Bron saved the day with a win in brace. I ended up with a tankard, two bottles of whisky and £1.

Took lots of photos. Mary and Noel were there, Mary like me looking at prospective IW husbands. he has decided upon Panoromania Sampson for Aniara, Lysander for Sally and Buzzard for whichever girl was free at the time. I think Mary has given up on tails ! Looking at Aniara I am not surprised Dagmar gave her away. She has no quality, and that is something Dagmar has an eye for, I begin to see. Can but hope Aniara doesnt contribute many genes to her future puppies. I was a little puzzled to see that Mary doesn’t realise Aniara is straight behind. In retrospect none of hers have particularly good stifles, so perhaps it doesn’t strike her as much as it does me.

April 77. Dagmar, her breeding plans are growing apace and include Shauna to Lysander, Cass to Buzzard ( just to try) and a bitch to Tristran. I cant see Ruth ( Jenkins) approving of an Erindale bitch mating to Lysander, tho. Details from the AGM, I hear the Hollis’ ( Royden) have 60 names to form a new club. Dagmar’s idea of importing an American dog still being thought through, she will know for sure after the trip she makes in the Summer.

Birmingham, dogs judged on the caravan park. Stanley Dangerfield not worth showing under. Rosie off colour, not a good day. Sally mated to Lysander, due July. Long talk to Mrs Saunders ( Erindale) she has two new youngsters in the pipeline from Ireland. Ch Princess is dead. Caught up with Frankie after the show. She tells me Tristan and Jason’s stud fees are £150 ! < must have been above the norm for that time>.

July 77.

Neglected this for some time, been so busy. Tara made a great debut at Leeds, Rosie was sluggish. Everyone loved little Tara. ( Seplecur) Hennessy sold, Ch Seplecur Meaghan to be mated to Ch Motto. Went back to John ( Briggs) for tea and a match, Rosie runner up. Rosie won res CC at 3 Counties. Liam is moving better and looking more together. Linnet ( sister) was shown for the first time and is a beauty. Morvagh is to be sold to Germany, Ruth thinks she has an “ Alsatian” temperament which she doesnt want to perpetuate. Punch has been sold to a pet home. Frankie has had another sadness with the Hamish litter, bitch has OCD and sold to a pet home. Gina has been given away. She has bought in a bitch by Brannigan and has hopes of her. Doulagh is now a champion in Sweden. She is wondering whether to take Floragh back to her grandsire Angus of Arraghglen, who has just sired 11 puppies for mrs Leith ( Arraghglen).

Ireland ( IWCI Club show, judged by Helen ” Outhwaite” Baird). The show was fun, very friendly. Met Susan Hudson ( Brabyns) on the boat and she offered me a lift to the showground. I dislike her more than before. She has a new puppy, by Ch Petasmeade Chieftain of Brabyns ex Cora. Donaghadee ( later ch) was a bundle of nerves and was drugged on the trip to keep him quiet. Tullamore  is due to whelp to Ch Outhwaite Am Cu on the day of Paignton – Susan will leave her with the judge’s kennel maid and go off to the show with Donaghadee. She will get him made up by hook or by crook. < my later notes show that Tullamore died whelping this litter, her fifth, in her owners absence>.

Talked to everybody, met miss Twyman ( Nendrum) for the first time. Went back after the show with Betty Murphy ( Carrokeel) and we discussed much scandalous gossip < why didnt I record it?!>. Next day met a group of people from Finland and Joseph Shoemaker. Rounded off the stay by meeting Mr and Mrs Kelly and their lovely hounds < Nutstown, I remember being very impressed by their foundation bitches, from Dr May >.

Blackpool, a nice show and Ch Eaglescrag Toby went on to win the group, he really is a super hound. Ch Clodagh is due to whelp, small litter hoped for.

August 77

Brabyns Tullamore died trying to whelp the Sholto litter ( Ch Am Cu). Betty Murphy ( Carrokeel) over visiting, unfortunately wasn’t able to get her to Eaglescrag due to Clodagh’s whelping difficulties. Zena Thorn Andrews judged very well, as usual nothing much in the lower classes but i was unexpectedly impressed by Royden Finnegan ( later Ch). I hear his dam is a shocker ( must be to produce Royden Bernadette) which puts him out of consideration for me < I had firm view at that time about never using the son of a poor mother>. Brabyns Gog Ma Gog much improved but crabbing, Ch Sulhamstead Motto looked lovely, Ch Erindale Tristan unexpectedly weak in quarters. Heard he mated a bitch the day before, which could account for it. irish Ch Aoife of Moll Machie just had 13 puppies to him, and the Irish bred ( Nutstown) dog puppy ex the lovely Ch Nutstown Queen rhapsodised over by Mrs Saunders. Mrs Thorn Andrews cross at me for not having Tara there, I didnt know she really liked her.

Scottish Kennel Club show, a wet drizzly damp morning, just the sort of day Rosie shows best on and guess what a CC. Very grateful to Mr Glover ( Harry Glover, allrounder). I hoped she had a chance but couldn’t be sure, in the end her size and accurate movement did the trick as most of the other title- hunters were lacking in both. Thanked the Lord that ( Erindale, later Ch) Grand Dutchesss was in season, didn’t mind losing to Ch Tristan for BOB. He’s top winning hound this year.

Miss Thomas ( Stephanie Herbert – Thomas) was there with Emma looking very fit and youthful, her two Caio daughters looking thin and dispirited. She also has a ( Ch Sulhamstead) Minstrel son who is monorchid and none too big. Hopes to find him a good home. A brother, Sentinel, was there, never trained to trot, curly tail, too much roach over the loin, very tall and substantial however with a good head. Solomon ( the monorchid) has a high curly tail, straight shoulders and close hind action, curvy body lines, nice head. < the dam Augusta a daughter of Ch Caio of Eaglescrag, I would have been thinking about Ch Minstrel for my own Caio daughter, hence this interest in the offspring>.

Jenny Mason there with three youngsters, including her ( Franshaw) Brannigan offspring Glendora and Gulliver. Gulliver is very promising, Cora less so, not so good in head, stifle and top line as her brother. Both have good tails. Several unknown-to-me males shown, none any good, also a poor- looking Ch Toby x Ch Kelt daughter with little bone or stifles to grow into, also a curly tail. The Charltons have a good looking litter by Ch Toby ex Eaglescrag Fennagh < this was a half brother, half sister mating onto Ch Caio of Eaglescrag who had OCD, no surprise many of this litter were affected with this condition per my later diaries >. Don Weiden ( Sedeki) is in the States now. Ann ( Blake) is coping with (Brabyns) Gog- Ma- Gog, he is a nit- wit. He’s due to be mated to Ch Buckhurst Winifred and Erindale Mollie plus others before he is exported.

Visit to Mary to see the litter. 6 weeks old, signs of straight top lines and high tails there. Universally heavy bone and tight feet, didn’t recognise the head type, all less fuzzy faced than my little bear cubs. Considering both parents ( Lysander x Atalanti) have long straight backs curly tails and close hind action I wonder what they will be like? < thats how much I knew.The best, Ch Bahbarella, ended her life as the bitch CC record holder and had parallel hind action and a good tail!>. One dog and one bitch more attractive than the others, i suspect the bitch might be a less massive version of her mother, the dog very nice indeed just hope his tail doesn’t spoil it later. The dog pup Dagmar is taking is a chunky lad but fear for his head and top line. Sally much improved in shape after her litter, its matured her, expect her to be winning well shortly. Aniara still no better, not worth showing. With all these faults I wouldn’t risk breeding from her, no doubt Mary will produce lovely progeny to confound my theory but I would still wonder about future generations, all these defects to keep on being careful about not doubling up on. Hard enough with just a smattering of faults on each side. < Aniara left no progeny>.

Dagmar had brought along heaps of Californian wolfhound pictures, struck by the very different head type, deep stops and straight appearance in stifles. Didnt think much of the puppy she has bought but did like his father and grandfather, both well known champions. The dam is rather nice too, smallish but nice. Apparently they are under 33” and no tail curls at all. < Dagmar’s acquisition of the brood bitch Am Ch Gerdins Kerry of Heart G in 78 proved to be a very significant one. She was visiting the “ Keystone” kennels of Donna Elzer’s, Ch. Ko – Op was one of the nice dogs there at the time >.

Leicester show, the classes were amazingly well filled at the top although weak until post grad. Could not follow Jean Lanning’s judging, all shapes and sizes went up. Ch Motto has a distinctly flat top line nowadays I realise. Saw Oakenshield Cadmus for the first time, a very shapely male with lots of substance but none too big and a ring tail. Hilary Jupp has mated one of her Sulhamstead Franco daughters to (Camlet) Glendower, who is similar to Cadmus in looks. Ch Am Cu was out for the first time in ages, not enough angulations for me and moving better behind than in front. Everybody was coming over to say hello, even the southern faction who normally don’t “ see” me. It can only be on account of the show I am due to judge soon at Tunbridge Wells.

Birmingham show, one beginning to look much like another, also the hounds! Decided afresh that Joe Braddon an ignorant old tyrant. Not unknowledgeable about dogs, quite the reverse, but he seems to do odd things for the pleasure of the upset. Res CC Witchesbroom Wizard was just not sound, or handled to advantage to hide this. The smallish curvy males were thrown out. Ch Sanctuary Mona shown for the first time in ages, still has her old quality but was too fat and her movement suffers. < I had a good litter by Ch Witchesbroom Wizard a few years later, as did many others – he must have been very young here and needed time for his action to settle. Superb fronted male, broad chested with lots of hind angulation and substance on maturity. Joe Braddon did have an eye for quality in a wild young dog, who certainly had a massive length of stride>.

LKA, Ron Baird ( Outhwaite) had a harrowing day because of the huge entry. As usual I flitted around ringside chatting to all who came my way ( to be continued, end of 1977 diary entries).

A table I created at the time showing stud dogs available to me in the leading kennels : 

Sulhamstead – Woodside Finn, Branwen Miles, Major* ( these three struck out)  Mentor, Motley, Mono* Ch Minstrel, Master, Ch Motto.

( presumably the asterisk marked the monorchids, I know Major was).

Eaglescrag – Ch Caio ( struck out) Ch Fintan, Ch Toby, Kestrel ( struck out, he had one litter and died young)

Sanctuary – Ch Revog, Dylon ( struck out) Mighty Monarch – i seem to remember Dylon was sterile.

Brabyns – Connal, Feccna ( struck out) Ch Chieftain, Slainte, Fionn Mac Connal, Red Rory ( struck out)


Young, Bran of Blakesley ( struck out) Errant

1970 – 1973 registrations – this would have been extracted from the IWC Yearbook covering this period, in the days before computers…. no idea why listed in this order at the time. 

kennel name number of litters number of pups registered number of export pedigrees issued

































Of interest, the low litter sizes at Sulhamstead and that both this kennel and Eaglescrag exported half of the puppies they registered. These were the foundation stock of many of the kennels in Northern America and across Europe in their day.

The Karlton Index


“ Every dog to enjoy a healthy, well adjusted, long happy life”.

The first thing to be said is that its a pity I feel the need to do an introduction to something which has been running for so many years now. It has the approval of the Kennel Club and respected bodies who seek improvement in the health of pedigree dogs. Its simple, well led and not profit motivated. However, I mention the Karlton Index in the Basset Fauve de Bretagne “ world” and  am meet by a puzzled stare, followed by in other cases a look of disdain or complete lack of interest. What is this Index, and why should we (at least) know about it?

Phillipa Robinson is a member of the CIPD and holds a Masters degree in Human Resources management, where she has done award winning work as a consultant.This was my field ( strategic HR, Business Partnering) before I retired, and probably why what she says rings with such resonance for me.

Business management, and in particular business improvement, is no mystery. It can be used  to transform more than just profitability, staff retention, any of the other things which matter in organisations. In Phillipa’s case the poor health of her own companion dogs ( genetic disorders) and the ignorance of breeders and breed committees about health issues led her to transfer her skills set to the world of pedigree dogs. Coming close on the heels of the “ Pedigree Dogs Exposed” TV programme, it has rightly been seized on by the more pro active breed councils and committees and KC “ management” as one of the tools to help us out of the worst dangers of “closed registry” ( pedigree) dog breeding. Some breeds are in a worse state than others and the BfdB in a far better place than most – but thats no reason for complacency.

You will need to Google the Karlton Index to obtain the detail, the website is an excellent place for a visit with easy- to – follow slide shows and other content to help you move on once you understand the concept. First grasp the idea  “ Measuring progress in dog health”. Its an easy framework for a breed to get to grips with. Break it down into stages, and its simplicity itself.

  1. measure progress
  2. look around -what breeds are doing the most to ensure the future of their breeds?
  3. which breeds are making meaningful improvements in health issues?
  4. which breeds are avoiding serious health issues ?

A breed does this through a four point plan across the following themes:

  1. Leadership and strategy
  2. Communicate and engage ( with owners and breeders within the BfdB community)
  3. Participation ( of owners, breeders and other interested bodies)
  4. Evaluate impact.( through surveys, or through asking those who have the information).

These cycles can be gone through over and over again, and measured each time. Did I mention the cycle of continuous improvement? In most workplaces there will be something like this.

There’s a sixty point scoring system which Phillipa ( presumably, with help!) completes bi- annually based on information from every breed listed by the Kennel Club. The BfdB breed scored nothing out of 60 the first time the K.I. measured it in 2011. It scored 6 points out of 60 in 2013. We scored nil points for leadership on both occasions. Leadership in this context means the breed club as a body.

2015 is upon us and all breed clubs have been sent the first part of the process for the next measurement, a questionnaire. The next full scoring will be in Summer 2015. If we are to show an interest in the breed’s healthiness and progress towards ever more “fit for purpose” hounds we need a strategy, as the BfdB Club doesnt have one. Its enthusiastic breed health co ordinator Steve Cole has run a questionnaire about breed health, which scored us a number of our 6 from 60 points in 2013. Its main theme was the lifespan of our hounds and common problems. Very positively the results showed that the breed lives on average for longer than had previously been thought. Following on from  the questionnaire there was communication ( by Steve in a talk at the last AGM, and articles in the “ Fauve News” breed members magazine ) .Owners raised skin problems as an issue, and an article about general coat care was issued.

There is a perception that we have healthy happy little hounds and nothing much to worry about, and this is true. However…….. I have bred 53 puppies in the last ten years and although this is the statistical norm for me too, there are “ outliers” who have developed problems. In my early days I reared a litter for another breeder which contained three puppies, two monorchids and an overshot. The two dog puppies grew up to have skin allergies. This was an inbred litter – half brother to half sister- were their problems a co incidence? One puppy I have bred has developed meningitis, and her specialist said “ he was hearing of more of this in basset fauves”. I have heard of none other than my own bred hound, so reported this to the breed’s health officer, who has had no reports of cases either. She might be a one off, or might be an example of what different breeders could be having reported back to them – but if every breeder only has one,  and doesnt talk about it, they wont think there is a problem. Hence the importance of communication, so the breed’s “centre” discovers what is happening across all its breeders and owners. When it knows ( and measures) different health related problems it will be in a far better place to advise its community, and can be pro active in speaking to those experts who might be able to research and help.

A quick digression into another breed, which I know well. There was a single stud dog who was an acknowledged carrier of PRA in the UK back in the 1990s, and that line was treated exactly as the geneticists recommended at that pre- DNA testing time. As a result, PRA did not gain a hold, there hasn’t been a blind hound bred for many years. Communication, participation, keep under review. Remember the themes of the Karlton Index? It works.

At every committee meeting Steve gives a health report, which includes the numbers of conditions reported to him that quarter. He’s only reporting on me, as either every breeder has 100% healthy fauves with happy owners, or people aren’t wanting to share, since no one tells him anything !. As another initiative ( mine again) has now turned up 7 fauves affected by epilepsy in the UK I rather doubt its the former. I’ve yet to breed one with this condition but the more I learn about it the more I feel luck has been on my side, so far.

Tragically most of the people who contact me about different health issues because of this blog say “ my breeder didnt want to know”. The least our pet owners need to know is who to contact, and that person is the Breed’s Health co ordinator Steve Cole ( see BfdB website for his contact details). He wont be interested in the pedigrees or names of breeders, as there is nil fault in any breeder producing any condition if they were unaware it existed. What he will be interested in, on the breeds behalf, is patterns and trends – especially emerging ones. He may well still be reporting on tiny handfuls of problems, and thats great, but they should not be ignored as each individual report could add up to an issue we need to think about.

The lay person can go into meltdown when they see the word “ strategy”. Can sound a bit complicated. Below is the strategy of the K.I’s  award winners for “ most improved” in 2013, the Bloodhound. The excellent David Gore and his committee have gone into some detail, they have a breed with lots of problems to address, but it boils down to the following:


It is the aim of the Association of Bloodhound Breeders to encourage breeders to improve breed health with the following goals, whilst fully considering all aspects of the Kennel Club Breed Standard and the working functionality of the breed:

ï To maintain genetic variation by increasing the number of sires and dams used

ï To continue to make use of imported bloodlines, ensuring best use is made of imported hounds providing they meet all other requirements

ï To increase the level of hip scoring from 4% of the population to 15% of the population in the next 5 years

ï To continue to reduce the average hip score for the breed over the next 5 years by not breeding from high scoring hounds

ï To increase the level of elbow scoring from an estimated 12% of the population of UK based Bloodhounds to 20% of the population in the next 5 years

ï To reduce the average elbow score over the next 5 years by not breeding from high scoring hounds

ï To reduce incidences of skin disorders by not breeding from any hound receiving treatment for any chronic skin disease

ï To reduce the incidence of eye disorders by continuing to encourage breeders to screen for serious eye defects and by not breeding from affected   hounds

•To reduce nervousness and aggression in the breed by not breeding from nervous or aggressive parents”

The Bloodhound Club’s strategy is a good one as its clear, time related, measurable and communicated to its participant breeders. Any BfdB strategy could well be a very short one as we have so little to worry about – no fears about aggressiveness, hip or elbow problems, for sure. However, perhaps the strategy could include asking breeders to think about the Co Efficient of Inbreeding before they mate their hounds “ the old fashioned way” to purely breed for good looks or winners. The Kennel Club has made this easy for us ( see “ Mate Select”) and because many breeders have imported fresh bloodlines in the last five years or so, it should be easy to find less related hounds to breed together.

We know the BfdB breed is long lived. Our hounds regularly live to over twelve and we can prove it. The vast majority are generally incredibly fit and healthy.Fauve mothers whelp easily without inertia.  Veterans stay fit and healthy into advanced old age. Perhaps all we need to do is measure and celebrate this better – and share what we do with those people who can help us maintain this happy situation.

Our Kennel Club organised a huge on line health survey last year, so large I understand the results aren’t due to be disseminated until 2016. The breed’s health officer will at last receive information statistically which will show where owners think we stand, not just the breeders, although breeders participated too. This should be a good place to begin our own breed cycle of improvement.

Maybe in future another aim of the Karlton Index “ shared learning and improvement” will mean much more health information on the Club’s website. It would be the right place for BfdB owners to look for information – rather than a blog from an individual…..