Forty-five Years in Irish Wolfhounds -
The Club, Dogs, Exhibitors, and Influences

by I.W. Everett

My connection with the Irish Wolfhound Club and the breed goes back well over 40 years, and naturally many changes have taken place in both during that time.

In something like 1890, at Felixstowe, I saw our pack of Harriers passing, and with them, yet absolutely on his own, was a splendid hound which in comparison to the Harriers was very large. He was a medium brindle, about 32 inches or thereabouts high. He had a wiry, fairly broken coat, beautiful limbs—to me an ideal hound for strength and movement. He walked and trotted as if hardly of any weight—and I should quite expect that he would weigh 130 to 135 lbs. Well, I fell for this dog, Hector, immediately, and I was not satisfied until I owned one. This was when and how my interest in Irish Wolfhounds started.

THE CLUB'S PROGRESS
In my earliest connection with the Club, Capt. Graham was the hon. secretary and treasurer, and no words of mine need enlarge on all that he did for the Club and the breed. Possibly if it had not been for this good sportsman, Irish Wolfhounds would by now be a breed of the past.

Capt. Graham was very partial to blacks and black-and-tans. I remember that his dog hound was Osric, a black with tan spots over his eyes, sound limbs, a good coat, but a rather weak head. We should call it to-day quite good behind, but, of course, he was small—about 32 inches or less. Capt. Graham's official duties were taken over by Mr. Walter Allen, a director of Messrs. Spillers and Baker, Ltd. of Victoria Dog Food Products. In his official capacity with the Club and his activities in breeding he was of great help and value to the breed. He owned Lady Kathleen, the dam of Tynagh and Ch. F. Emo and several other good hounds. Kathleen's mate was Ch. O'Leary when the Tynagh and Emo litter were produced.

Mr. Allen's successor in the Irish Wolfhound Club's affairs, as hon. secretary and treasurer, was Mr. Harry Compton, who owned and, I believe, reared, Wolftone. This enthusiast did much for the Club, but, alas! his tragic ending robbed the Club of a fine man. The one to take his place was Mr. J.F. Baily, of Rathfarnham, but who at that time lived at Donnybrook, Dublin. This dear friend of mine owned many good hounds, including Nookoo, Connaught, Nuala, Leinster, Dhudesia and many lesser lights. He held office on three occasions. Mr.Thos. Hamilton Adams, of the "Ivo" prefix, relieved him once for a spell, but with the many claims on his time could not hold the office for long. Still he continued his interest in the breed for many years and owned at the time the largest kennel of these hounds.

At this time Major Shewell, of Cheltenham, stepped into the breach caused by the retirement of Mr. Hamilton Adams, and very generously presented to the Club a number of beautiful challenge cups for competition both in England and Ireland. As well as being secretary and treasurer, he was always one on whom we could call for help when specials were required. He was one of the first to start buying first-class show specimens at their proportionate prices. On the Major's resignation Mr. Bailey was asked again to take office, which he did without a murmur.

The next big episode was the formation of another club for the breed—the Irish Wolfhound Association. This was composed of really hot enthusiasts (perhaps a little too hot), who worked very hard to popularise the breed, and with some success. Eventually it was decided that we (the Irish Wolfhound Club) should, so to speak, take the association over, and this was agreed upon, as no useful purpose would be achieved in running opposition clubs.

If my memory serves me correctly, it was about now that Mr. J.V. Rank joined the Club, and none needs reminding of his great liberality on behalf of our breed. Never has he been informed of the need for some trophy or special but that he has come to the rescue, and frequently he has given beautiful trophies unasked.

I believe that Mr. Rank's first Wolfhound to be exhibited was Ch. Clodagh Caragh (actually Ch. Clodagh), bought about May or June, 1925. She was bred by Mrs. Lackhart (actually Lockhart), of Rugby, and was by Ch. Felixstowe Kilshane ex Caragh, which I also bred. I should think that Mr. Rank has won a record number of certificates in this breed, and he has bred, and bought a great number of our most noted specimens.

At this time we had the good fortune of having Mr. A.P. Strohmenger, also Mr. K.P. Strohmenger, join the Club, and through it a long period of success has ensued. We have had a fine sportsman and a great pacifist to lead us, and I feel that we shall never possibly repay this grand advisor and friend his just due. Of Mr. A.P. Strohmenger's chairmanship of the Club I have nothing but the happiest recollections. Mr. K.P. Strohmenger continued for a time as treasurer until pressure of business made him relinquish this position. Mrs. F. Nagle then courageously took on the positions of hon. secretary and treasurer, and she still holds them, with considerable distinction.

This brings us to Autumn, 1935, when at a meeting of the Club we received the unwelcome news that Mr. A.P. Strohmenger could no longer continue as chairperson, as his business claimed all his attention. Capt. T.H. Hudson was persuaded to accept the office and I congratulate the Club on its acquisition. To celebrate the Club's 50th anniversary a dinner was held at the Criterion, London, on the evening of Oct. 9, 1935.

NOTABLE DOGS AND EXHIBITORS

About 1891 or '92 I saw a Deerhound-looking bitch at Mr. Geo. Crisp's place, Playford Hall, near Ipswich, and this, I was told by the head coachman and kennel manager, W. Threadkell, was Capt. Graham's Sheila (should be spelled Sheelah). She would possibly be about 30 inches, and to explain generally, she was in conformation a very strongly built Deerhound bitch of those days, which would be a very different animal from one of the present-day Deerhound bitches. The present-day bitches are much taller and more lightly built. Sheila was more on the lines of little Ch. Selwood Callach, owned by Mr. Hood Wright, of Frome. A little later on Capt. Graham had a black dog, Osric, which was somewhat lighter than our present-day hounds, but on similar lines to Sheila, allowing for one being a male and the other a female.

In those days there were a few in the North. A Mr. Wilson, a butcher of Liverpool, had a little dog, about 31 inches—a sound little fellow and a great cat-killer. I also got in touch with a Mr. Trainer, of Liscard, Cheshire. He owned Thiggum-Thu and Brian II. Thiggum, I believe, was infertile, and so was Earl Caledon's Bran 925A. He must not be confused with Bran II, for the latter was a good fertile hound. I owned Bran 925A, and after discovering that he had never sired a puppy I destroyed him.

About this time Mr. Geo. Crisp, of Playford Hall, was at the top of the tree in this breed, which was not known a great deal then. In Ireland Mr. R.T. Martin, of Arfane, Co. Dublin, was working very hard with the breed, as was Mr. J.F. Bailey. Ch. Marquis of Donegal, once in Mr. Martin's kennels, was a giant of the breed, but was streets away from being a sound one at either end. Another dog by Hermon, and owned by Mr. Martin, was a medium brindle, and a much sounder dog. Mr. J.F. Bailey owned some good stock, possibly on the heavy side and lacking a little in quality. Mr. Martin first had Nookoo, which he passed on to Mr. Bailey.

Another notable exhibitor then was Mrs. Laura Williams, of Llanthowell Rectory, Usk, Monmouthshire. Her "stars" were Ch. Dermot Asthore (who carried one ear rather oddly—many of his puppies did the same), Ch. Wargrave, Ch. Actara (should be Artara), and Lady Kathleen. In her later doggy days Mrs. Williams gave up the breed and took up Whippets.

Mr. Walter Allen showed some very useful hounds, and one bitch, Kathleen, was dam of my Felixstowe Emo and Major Dawson's Tynagh, who figures so prominently in the Major's book, "Finn the Wolfhound".

Interest in the breed was increased by young Lane Jackson, who reared and brought out a good bitch in Ch. Sportella. She was a biscuit-fawn with dark shadings, and was a front-ranker then. Her head much resembled Ch. Dermot Asthore's. When she had a litter, Jackson asked me to have a look at them. There were five or six with beautiful heads and bodies, but their legs were beyond help. I said that they could never be shown, and he had them all put down.

Col. Richardson, who stayed in the breed a short time, had from me a red-fawn dog out of a litter of 18 by Goth II ex Felixstowe Mavourneen, and sent it to Esquimaux. This hound was Felixstowe Handy Andy, and went to fill an order for the Government there. His job was to help to increase the size of the sleigh dogs. I never heard of the result of the experiment. I had three fosters to help rear that litter. I destroyed three and reared 15, all sound, strong, healthy hounds. I won with Andy under Mr. Shirley, one of the founders of the Kennel Club, at Barn Elms, now called Ranelagh. This show was managed by Mr. Hood Wright, of the "Selwood" prefix. Mr. Walter Williams, a solicitor, as showing a very nice hound in Bally Hooley and a lovely bitch in Daireen; in shape she was much like Rene of Ifold, but was a little more racy, and had perfect hindquarters.

Major P.G. Shewell's first Irish Wolfhound was the dam of Ch. Cotswold, which was in the first litter the Major bred, and which was sired by Mr. Geo. Crisp's Ch. O'Leary. He was a good hound, undoubtedly spoiled at times by that distressing trembling almost like chorea. Several of O'Leary's stock had this complaint, but it had nothing to do with distemper, for he never had it. It was said to have been caused in him by his being severely thrashed when about a year old for jumping a stream into a meadow and picking up and bringing to his paddock a fat ram lamb. This trembling appeared in many of his puppies up to the third and fourth generations, and Mrs. Laura Williams' Flynn, a very fine son of O'Leary, suffered from it.

Mr. Thomas Hamilton Adams showed and bred many good hounds, and, like all of us, others good in parts. His Ch. Ivo Dennis was a very nice biscuit-fawn dog of medium size, nicely balanced. Many others of his breeding did a lot of winning. One large tall bitch was Ivo Isult, which I remember quite well. I expect that she stood a full 33 inches or even a bit more, and in those times that was a great height. Another of the Ivo hounds was Hy Nial. Although there was some mystery about this hound, I am positive that he was bred in Mr. Hamilton Adams' kennel. He was sired by Ivo Dhulert, a dog who carried some of my outcross blood.

OUTCROSSING

In speaking of the outcross I am reminded that although I kept my pedigrees going, and, of course, registered at the Kennel Club, I have hardly ever mentioned it in print.

I felt at the beginning of my time with this breed that we sadly needed some new blood, and I thought that one of the best to do it was Major Shewell. I suggested this to him, and went over most of the ground with him, hoping to interest him sufficiently, but I failed in this, and he said that it was too long a job, and that he wanted to breed only what he could show. So I decided to start myself and see if I could stand the rattle singlehanded.

I began by using a Great Dane dog, Felixstowe Bob, which I had bred, and mating him to a Deerhound bitch, Felixstowe Lufra. Then I used a bitch of that cross to an Irish Wolfhound dog, and this I did for four generations. The result was Gara and F. Eriss, two sisters. I had destroyed the others. The Major said that he would buy these two bitches; they were the entire results of my outcross breeding, except for Ivo Dhulert. I told the Major I could spare him one, but to this he would not agree, so I passed on F. Eriss to Mr. G.G. Moore, of Droemore, St. Claire, Michigan, my former client for Ch. F. Gweebarra. As I had destroyed all outcross blood up to the fourth generation, it will be understood that my expenses were high.

I kept Gara, and in the first litter were Ch. F. Gelert, Ch. F. Kilrush, Jinn, Muth, and another, and from subsequent litters a whole host of them went to various parts of the world, and I am positive that they did the breed good, in spite of several who said many unkind things about this outcross.

Well, we have gone on ever making some improvements in the breed and also making a few mistakes, but on the whole advancing gradually and, I hope, surely. I think that this will continue if we will watch our steps and not accfept as the standard points which in reality are foreign to the breed. Such are too short tails, square and lippy muzzles, short bodies (or, as some say, "too short in couplings"), short square sterns, too much trimming, too much fat, and too little muscle. Movement must be square and generous, not a snappy, high action, but long and fleet.

We must also remember that while we need a reasonable spring of rib, we do not want a barrel-like body. as with this invariably goes a fleet brisket, which does away with heart and lung room, and this in a galloping breed must not be. Again, do let us be more reasonable about their coats. Many of the poor animals benched would, if called upon to live an outdoor life, succumb or, at least, suffer from want of natural protection from the weather—and this in a breed whose native country is a wet one.

We have gradually acquired sounder and more correct formation, greater size (not just height), and are keeping free from coarseness on the whole. Ears are improving, and so are hindquarters. Movement is better, there is more regularity in type (there is still room for more), and constitutions are stronger.

Were I younger I certainly should be tempted to bring in some more new blood, but I should use a fawn Great Dane bitch and a Deerhound dog. The bitch should come from a line whose length of body was rather pronounced, and of course, of fawn blood, not black or harlequin marked. This conformation should definitely be in the ancestors even if not present in the bitch herself; naturally, if she were of medium length it would be all the better. Another essential point is that preference should be given to a Dane who owns, and whose ancestors own, small ears. The reason for ruling out harlequin blood is that with it white feet, pasterns, blaze, and chest stars are very likely to appear and, alas, on what is often the best specimen. There is also the risk of a wall-eye, or at least one eye lighter than the other.

The Deerhound used should be of the old Highland blood. The reason I stress this is that we need to be sure not to get Borzoi blood in the breed, as was once done through some Krillut blood. For several generations we suffered from it in heads and temperament. I understand that Mr. Hood Wright brought it in through a half-breed, a brown-brindle which originally came from the Duchess of Wellington's kennel. This was used in Deerhounds and in Irish Wolfhounds. Another Borzoi was brought in through, I think, the grandsire of the Irish Wolfhound, Goth II. The Borzoi was Korotai, and, through this, it took many generations to get rid of uncertain tempers and weak heads. I believe that one of the early supporters of this breed, Mr. W.K. Angelo, whom I knew quite well, used this Borzoi cross blood in the Irish Wolfhounds in his deer forest at Fort Augustus. We also had some flat sides to breed out. In referring to the Borzoi blood I am not trying to crab this breed, but am pointing out that it is not a suitable hound to bring in as an outcross.

The most satisfactory way to use this outside blood is through the female; therefore the outcross males should be destroyed at birth. In using the Dane bitch and Deerhound sire the Irish Wolfhound type would set two or three generations earlier. My mistake in my last attempt was in not using a thin-eared bred Great Dane. My Dane, F. Bob, came from cropped stock, which, of course, was best where thick and heavy ears existed, as the cropped ear, if thick, stood erect more firmly.

My latter remarks on bringing in new blood do not, I admit, come in well with the earlier part of the article, but they may interest some readers.

A HOPEFUL FUTURE

We have now a large number of Wolfhound breeders who are members of the Club, and who are very successful at shows. There are, I think, something like 25 North of Birmingham and a much larger number South of "Brum".

It seems that there is more thought given to the production of soundness, type, and size (than there was years ago) by improvements in diet and general treatment. Working more by the aid of pedigrees, and not just allowing promiscuous matings, is also needed. It certainly does not follow that two tophole specimens will produce their like, still I firmly believe that much of this disappointment is caused by breeding from these outstanding hounds at a time when they, each or both (the bitch in particular), have been overworked by exhibiting, for example; and that is why the well-bred moderate specimens give better stock, as they generally live a more even and healthier life.

I have noticed much more of recent years the tendency there is in our Club for breeders to discuss breeding and rearing problems, and so help each other—a good and essential feature of a successful Club.

Looking back over the past 45 years of the Irish Wolfhound fancy, I am pleased to have had a "finger in the pie" of the Club and the breed for such a period, and I do think that wonderful strides of improvement have been made in that time. I hope that we shall continue to work together for the real benefit of the breed and its Club, and try to keep a tight curb on our individual interests.

"Our Dogs", December 13, 1935

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7/14/2008