Situated right in the centre of the Cheshire hunting country, within easy access of all the meets of four packs of hounds, in the prettiest part of the 'vale' is Kidnal House, close to Malpas station. Here is the home of the far-famed 'Cheevra', the most prolific and profitable of all Irish Wolfhound bitches. It is a fact well known in the doggy kingdom that within the last four years this mother of a race of canine giants, now nine years old, has had seven litters, containing 52 pups all told, of which she has reared 46, including two such champions as 'Sportella' and 'The Marquis of Donegal', both bred by that most excellent judge and owner of Irish Wolfhounds, Mrs. Arthur Gerrard, who rivals her husband in her keenness and appreciation of the characterist- ics of this grand race of dogs, that owes so much of its present state of perfection to the great and constant care bestowed upon its development by these two enthusiasts, who both have learnt their lesson from the great master of the breed, Captain Graham, to whom is all the glory of having restored, resuscitated, and almost re- created the ancient Irish Wolfhound. It is only those who have made the attempt to restore a lost breed, or apparently lost breed, that know what such an attempt means. The many journeys to and fro, the buoyant hopes so often found to be delusive, the missing links so perplexing to find in the long pedigree otherwise perfect, the tantalising taunts to be put up with from envious competitors, all combine to make the task a thank- less one; but brave people in this, as in other efforts in life, are not so easily thwarted, for in dog breeding, and in the improvement of the breeds of dogs, great patience, judgement and skill are of vital importance. The motto holds good in this, as in all other great achievements, 'Obstacles are meant to be overcome and not to over- come us'. Captain Graham has proved himself a veteran hero in the strife, and has lived to reap the reward of his tact, judgement, industry and perseverance in bringing the Irish Wolfhound to the high standard of excellence which it has now attained.
The Rev. Edmund Hogan has thrown a glamour of poetic and historical romance round this noble and ancient breed of dog that makes his book, 'The Irish Wolfhound'*, almost an epic poem carried down from barbaric days, when Quintus Aurelius, the great Roman Consul, in the year 391, boasts of the seven Irish Wolfhounds that had been sent to Rome from Ireland, then the 'Isle of Saints', to fight with wild beasts from Central Africa, and other dark places of the Earth, to amuse brutal gatherings in the arena of the Colosseum. It seems a note- worthy fact that several of our King Edwards were great dog fanciers, and more particularly of this far-famed Irish Wolfhound breed. There are many instances of Irish Wolfhounds being sent over from Ireland to the kennels of King Edward I. Edward III had about a score imported from Ireland into England in the days of old, when the quarantine was not so strictly enforced as now. It goes without saying that our King Edward VII has been all his lifetime a dog lover, and owner and breeder of many strains of sporting and non-sporting breeds, and that our beloved Queen, if she has not a wolfhound of Irish breed at present at Sandringham, has in her Borzois several magnificent Russian wolfhounds of great size and symmetry only to be eclipsed in these qualities by the matchless Irish Wolfhounds of the present day. For all are unanimous in the opinion that never has there been seen such a magnificent collection of Irish Wolfhounds as has lately been gathered together at the Crystal Palace Dog Show.
|Biddy of Kidnal|
It would not be a matter of great surprise if before long our King would add
to his kennels some splendid specimens of this singularly patriotic breed
indigenous to our soil, and identified with our Army, for it has recently been
decided by the Irish Wolfhound Club to offer one of the finest of this noble
race to our recently formed Irish Guards, to be the 'dog of the Regiment' as
the goat is the pet of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the bear and the tiger of
other fighting regiments in England and India.
The Irish Wolfhound has 'come to stay', the Borzoi, the Great Dane, and the Staghound must, for all time to come, take a back seat to him as in the days of glory in ancient history he held the pre-eminence with the great monarchs of the past. In Dublin, the capital of the cradle of his race, he is to be seen at Carlisle Bridge, crouched at the feet of Daniel O'Connell, alongside his beloved Irish Harp, seemingly read to spring to listen to the old warlike strains echoed from a far off time, when 'the harp that once through Tara's hall' sounded in unison with noble deeds done by valiant heroes of a glorious past.
|Sheila of Kidnal|
Other great breeders of the Irish Wolfhound, to whom Captain Graham and all
the sporting world are greatly indebted, are Sir John Power of Kilfane, and the
late Mr. Baker of Ballytobin Castle. Mr. Hogan in his interesting work on this
wonderful dog, quotes from very old documents: "They are shaggy-coated, of
enormous size and wondrous speed."
"In 1571, they were bigger of bone and limb than a colt." In 1595 a Spanish poet writes: 'An Irish Greyhound of beauteous build, bay coloured, dark striped from head to haunch.' They are described as 'very able to over- come wolves and stags in fleetness, fighting, and power, an animal which, by his majesty - great size, the marvellous variegation of his colour, and proportion of his limb, is so valuable as to be a gift for an emperor.
|Wanda of Kidnal|
Our illustrations represent 'Cheevra', by Garryowen out of Raheen; a distinguished daughter of 'Cheevra' is 'Biddy of Kidnal House', a dark brindle bitch by Champion Brian II, who has recently taken two firsts, one second, and three specials at the late Crystal Palace Dog Show, the largest and best ever yet held. 'Sheila of Kidnal', a huge wheaten-coloured bitch of abnormal size, own litter sister to Biddy, she has taken first at various shows, and generally distinguished herself. 'Wanda of Kidnal', the third of these 'Three Graces', is also a litter sister of the two former. She is of wheaten colour, and has taken, among other prizes, the Northern Irish Wolfhound Club Challenge Cup for bitches. 'Rajah of Kidnal', a brindle dog out of Cheevra by Mr. Crisp's Champion O'Leary. He is not yet fully grown, although of enormous size for a young dog only seventeen months old; he has taken four firsts and five specials, also now holds the Northern Irish Wolfhound Club Challenge Cup for Dogs. 'Lupus of Kidnal', own litter brother to Rajah, well represents the supporters of the Duke of Westminster's family coat of arms.
|Rajah of Kidnal|
There are in the kennels at Kidnal House several promising puppies by
Champion O'Leary, the pick of the bunch, perhaps, being a light coloured,
shaggy-coated whelp of great bone and substance, showing every indication of
future size and symmetry, in 'Bryan', owned by Miss Constance Cayzer of
Almost equally good, perhaps, are two most promising young pups about six months old, being 'Bryan MacDonagh', also owned by Miss Constance Cayzer, and 'Robert Emmett', belonging to Miss Rose MacDonald of Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.A. If these grand young dogs grow up to their present indication, they will add fresh laurels to the Kidnal House kennels.
|Lupus of Kidnal|
* Note:- The title of the Rev. Edmund Hogan's book is, in fact, "The Irish Wolfdog", not "The Irish Wolfhound", as stated in this article. It is available, in the same volume as Captain Graham's "The Irish Wolfhound", from the Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland.