I'm often asked how I came to get a Deerhound in the first place.  The answer is, 'Because of the floor plan at Manchester Dog Show when it was at Belle Vue'.   I had known a Deerhound as a child and he had captured my imagination and I decided that's what I wanted. But on the other hand, one never saw them around and I thought that they would be very hard to find.  However, I did know someone who had a Wolfhound, and so I thought they might be easier to get and that I would go to Manchester show in my lunch hour to have a look. At the time, 1975, I worked in Manchester city centre and Belle Vue was but a twenty minute bus ride away.  Ignoring the fact that there would also be time to get in and out of the venue and an hour or two to look at the hounds, plus the journey back, which added up to somewhat more than the allotted time, I set off. In my defence, those were the days when Friday lunch-times often spilled over a little into the work of the afternoon.

Once in, I set off to find the Wolfhounds and here is where I thank the committee, because I had to go past the Deerhound benches in order to get to the Wolfhounds.  As they say, the rest is history, because I never did go to look at the Wolfhounds. There were rows of benches full of Deerhounds, lounging around and waiting for the time they were allowed to leave. As we know, the only thing better than one Deerhound is a lot of Deerhounds. I was smitten. Walking along the benches, one in particular made it difficult for me to look at any others. This was Ch Ardkinglas Neva - not because she was beautiful, although she was, but because if I started to move away, a great paw would come out to stop me.

Ch Willeycroft Tacha

That was the year we moved to Hebden Bridge and I changed my job to work part-time. In due course, through contacting the then secretary of the Deerhound Club, Miss Hartley, I was put in touch with Billie Tucker who, along with her husband Tuck, bred the Willeycroft Deerhounds. I finished up with two litter sisters by Ch Geltsdale Torquil, nicely bred but both with a rather soft coat so, trying to do the right thing, I hardly showed them. Four years later, I got Willeycroft Tacha, who became my first champion and foundation bitch. As a youngster she did very badly, but together we learned and she blossomed.  Her greatest achievement was winning BIS at the Breed Show in 1984 under Dr David Shaw.

The first Stranwith litter came in November 1981, containing Novra, who won a CC and a RCC, and Nimbus who went to live with the Tuckers initially but came back to me when Billie was ill. He damaged a foot as a youngster so wasn't shown, but he sired four champions. That was quite a good start.

Stranwith Nimbus

In Tacha's second litter, to Ardkinglas Sam, there were only two surviving puppies, Rhyme and Reason.  No one who saw Reason ever forgot him because he was the most fun, exuberant boy you could imagine, and he loved showing.  He was a very special Deerhound and won 23 CCs, equalling the then male record. I was so lucky to have him, because he made showing such an enjoyable experience. He wasn't easy to show because he couldn't stand still for more than a few seconds but he and I spent a lot of time laughing about it, which of course made him worse. As a youngster he would trot back from his 'triangle' and carry on up the judge until he had his legs around their neck and he was looking straight into their eyes. And whatever he was doing, his tail never stopped wagging.

Ch Stranwith Reason

Not having anything of my own from Nimbus, I bought in his daughter, Kilbourne Jade of Stranwith, who gained her title and, mated to Reason, she produced Ch Stranwith Jago.

Ch Kilbourne Jade of Stranwith

Ch Stranwith Jago

I also bought Waterfield Days at Stranwith, by Reason, as she was from the best Ardkinglas bitch line, which I had always wanted. I mated her to Ardkinglas Kipper, a dog that was never shown, but I'd seen him as he lived near me and he was out of Ch Val, doubling up on the bitch line. From this litter I got Ch Delilah, possibly the most delightful Deerhound ever as she was so incredibly patient with any of the other Deerhounds of any age, who could walk all over her and use her as a cushion to lie on, and she never seemed to mind.  She was also very beautiful and won RBIS at the 2000 Breed Show.

Ch Stranwith Delilah

Mated to Ch Almondbank Ardua she produced Stranwith Hebe, who won a CC and a RCC before dying young from a ruptured pyometra and none of her daughters bred on, so that was the end of that line. My original bitch line from Tacha, through Rhyme, also came to an end when I couldn't get puppies from Arizona.

So by 2003, I was down to one old girl and faced with the daunting prospect of starting all over again, in what I think of as Phase 2.

 

Phase 2

I was very lucky because Jean and Tom Rhodes had got their foundation bitch, Stranwith Sian of Gentom, (Reason x Novra) from me. The dogs they had used over the years were either dogs I had used myself or tried to use without success, so it was ideal and the closest I could have hoped for to my own original bitch line, coming through Novra in my first litter, rather than Rhyme in my second, as my Phase 1 hounds did. They kindly let me have a bitch from this line, Gentom Maura at Stranwith, and she gave me Morag. 

It seems fitting to me that Sian is Jean's favourite Deerhound of all time, personality-wise, and Morag is mine. What a wonderful exchange!

Sadly Morag sustained a serious injury at eleven weeks and spent eight weeks with one of her hind legs heavily bandaged.  When the bandages eventually came off, one leg was four inches longer than the other and I didn't think it would ever be right. She spent a year more or less running wild with her brother and taking as much exercise as she liked, because I didn't see how it could get any worse.  Miraculously she eventually became sound and her hind movement, at nearly eleven, is still better than most. However, because of that, I didn't consider showing her for quite a while and so she didn't have a long show career and missed out on her title, though won two CCs and three RCCs.

Stranwith Morag

Burtonbank Alice at Stranwith

All my Phase 2 Deerhounds now are related to Morag. The following year I also got a bitch puppy that was related to the other line I had in Phase 1, whose grandfather was Delilah's son, Handsel (Hebe's brother).  This was Burtonbank Alice at Stranwith.

Two years after this, due to their breeders parting company, I got Alice's mother and aunt, the litter sisters Burtonbank Tousle and Thrill (by Handsel).At the start of Phase 2, I had pondered that problem that we all have - how to have youngsters coming on without getting too many Deerhounds in total. So I decided that I'd try just keeping bitches and no dogs, much as I love the dogs.  As is often the case, Fate had other ideas.

Burtonbank Thrill

Stranwith Trevarrick

Thrill was mated to Leoch Balerno and had four dogs, no bitches.  So much for that idea then.  Not only that but the best dog, Trevarrick, injured a hind leg in the nest and, though it never caused him any problems and he could gallop as well as anyone, it wasn't always perfect at the trot so I couldn't show him.

 

Mated to Morag, he produced one of my best litters, containing Ch Symphony, one of my very favourite dogs, and Int Ch Scherzo, living in Norway, as well as my own Song. The boys have each produced a number of champions, and Song has continued my original bitch line.

Ch Stranwith Symphony

Stranwith Song

Int Ch Stranwith Scherzo

Ch Stranwith Ebenezer

Meanwhile Alice produced Ch Ebenezer in her first litter and Ch Ariadne, by Symphony, in her second. Ebenezer is a lovely out-going boy who loved showing and I always thought similar in type to Reason.

Ariadne is fairly close to my ideal for a bitch: kind and affectionate, she has a lovely old-fashioned head of the sort that were often seen when I started but now are quite rare - refined rather than coarse and with no stop. She also has kind dark eyes and small fine, well-set black ears. She is a good length, curvy and well-proportioned with good angulation and good width across the thigh giving powerful hindquarters. All finished in a coat of the correct length and a very attractive colour. This is what I'm aiming for.

 

Ch Stranwith Ariadne

Ch Pharcourse Noah at Stranwith

The fact that she has a great character is the icing on the cake - she has lots of funny ways and quirks that I know she has developed to make me laugh.  Funnily enough, her half-brother Ch Pharcourse Noah at Stranwith, also by Symphony, has a similar character and can be quite the clown.  Like his father, he is so easy to take to shows as he is totally non-confrontational, not bothering other dogs and literally turning the other cheek when they bother him.  He looks at me as if he is just shrugging his shoulders at their bad behaviour.

Ariadne had strong views about not wanting to be a young mother and missed to three different dogs, so that instead I decided to have puppies from Demelza and Dimity.  If Ariadne had been more obliging, I may not have had my other young girls, Rafaela and Neve.

Then a fertility vet told me that she didn't think I would ever get puppies from Ariadne.  That was the only incentive Ariadne needed and (thanks to Jean and Tom again) she consented to have puppies from Gentom Semper Fi. These are the youngest members of the Stranwith family at the time of writing, Flora and Flint.

I think the four youngsters show the virtues listed above and will hopefully carry the Stranwiths forward.


Thoughts and Aims

Some of the qualities I'm aiming for are mentioned above in my descriptions of the hounds I've had. Below is an expanded explanation of what I am aiming for when I breed. Please note that when I write the word 'long' I do not mean 'over-long' and when I say 'short' I don't mean 'too short'. The aim is balance, though we may disagree on what balance means.  Having an artistic eye, it is very important to me that my hounds illustrate the balance and the aesthetic points that the standard requires, as I want to take pleasure in looking at them. When any hound (not just mine) shows perfection in any one point, I am really drawn to looking at it and it makes me smile.

Briefly, my ideal is a workmanlike hound that looks as if it could do the job for which it was originally bred. We have to leave aside one of the key components, which is the keenness to do the job, which can't be measured in the ring, so we can only look at the appearance.

To me, a workmanlike hound will be long rather than short, giving the flexibility and agility to cope with any terrain. For the same reason, they should not be too long in the leg, which would put the centre of gravity too high and reduce the ability to corner at speed. (That does not mean short on the leg, but the centre of gravity should be low enough to be stable).

The hound should be balanced - length to height, with a good length of neck, not over-long, but certainly not stuffy, and it should be covered in a good mane. The angulation should be balanced front with rear, with both preferably well-angulated. There should be a deep and long ribcage and a good topline with the arch over the loin. A long, low-set tail in a graceful curve. A good, thick coat of the correct length, with a ragged appearance, will finish the picture, along with sound movement, with a long stride in profile and the light elasticity that comes from good angulation, strong joints and toned muscles.

The above describes the overall appearance - first impressions when seen in the field or in the ring. The head and feet are more than important and need much closer examination.

The head, while long in itself, should be small in proportion to the body. It should taper gradually to an aquiline nose and have very little stop. The skull should be flat  and the ears should be as small and fine as possible, set high and well back on the skull, so that it is easy for the hound to raise them above the head. (So many in the ring would not be able to do this and they tend to look coarse). The eyes should be dark and set obliquely, with a soft expression.

The feet should be small, tight, well-knuckled and facing forward at the end of slightly sloping pasterns. The pads should be as large and thick as possible, giving the appearance of the hound walking on little rubber balls.

The head and feet are the things, above all else, that denote quality. It is possible to have a good or even excellent hound with an ordinary head or average feet.  But it isn't possible to have a great one.

In a nutshell

The hound has to be typical, which for me means overall balance with good angulation all round, correct ribcage, good width across thigh, low hocks. Beautiful head and ears, strong neck, tight well-knuckled feet, correct coat with mane. Personality.

(These are the points in the order they are judged, not necessarily the order of importance).


Further thoughts

Size

There is no doubt that these days the height of bitches is getting way above what it needs to be.  When used for their original work, the standard minimum height was 26 inches for bitches.  Now it is 28 inches but there are few of that size, or even 29'', in the show-ring and we are losing that end of the scale. And at one time it was said that 'even at her greatest height, she will not approach that of the dog'.  This is how they used to be.  In the days when they used to hunt, Deerhounds were considerably smaller than in the present day show-ring so size is not an indication of the ability to perform their original work.  I have always loved the size difference between the male and female, which used to be greater than in any other breed, and therefore prefer bitches to be around 29.5 - 30'', which is acceptable for the show-ring and still small enough to sit on my knee at home.

I don't have a set idea as to the height of males that I prefer but, liking the size difference, I prefer them to be over 32'', though not over 34'', which I feel would, in most cases, reduce their agility when hunting.  It is simply not necessary and it is rare to get a male above this who is still typical and isn't coarse.  Above all, a male must have quality and presence.

I would always prefer a male with a few faults but 'something about him' to a dog with few faults but few virtues either - in fact a boring specimen.  'Boring' is the worst of faults!


Movement

It goes without saying that movement is very important because it can indicate how the dog is put together.  True movement coming and going is rare, but very desirable as it is the most efficient way to propel the dog forward with the least effort.  Good profile movement is even more rare but a joy if you are lucky enough to see it.

Easy and active is the best way of describing the ideal profile movement.  In general, the longer the bones, the more propulsion there will be (provided the movement is in a true line!), which is why good angulation is desirable. Where the dog has the correct angulation, is healthy with supple joints and is fit and well-muscled, he may display that wonderful elasticity of movement that one rarely sees, which looks absolutely effortless.  This is the ideal as it is the most efficient at moving forward at speed and causes the least wear and tear on the joints.

A dog moving effortlessly can, to the unthinking eye, look lazy, but he will be taking fewer strides to cover the same ground as his rival whose short-striding legs are taking twice as many paces just to keep up.  Rushing a dog round the ring at high speed should really not fool a judge.

Movement is important because, in the past, a dog would not have been kept or bred from if it could not perform its job. However, when breeding, showing or judging, the most important thing is type.

If the only good thing about a dog is its movement, that does not make it a Deerhound. If it did, then we could take any breed into the Deerhound ring as long as it moved well and call it a Deerhound. It wouldn't be.  The very first requirement of a Deerhound is that it looks like a Deerhound with all the wonderful characteristics of the breed.


Judging

Most of the above applies to my aims when breeding, which aren't always achieved. It is a constant challenge though a very enjoyable one.

Judging is different.  I am much more forgiving when judging than I am of my own dogs and when breeding. I have to live with my own dogs and see them every day, so they have to be what I enjoy looking at. Type is everything, but I accept that I am rarely going to come across my ideal type of look in the ring, and I can admire good examples of the various looks produced by any breeder.

I love judging. I love seeing so many Deerhounds together and being so immersed in what I'm doing.  I love seeing potential stud dogs, mature bitches and puppies at their first show. I love the anticipation of finding something exceptional.

Deerhounds are hounds - they are not obedience dogs or robots. I don't like to see a row of statues. I only need to see a few strides roughly in a straight line to see how a dog is moving. They don't need to stand still for ten solid minutes - I can see what they look like when they are fidgeting (often they will look better when they are standing comfortably - you only have to look at your own dogs at home to know this). I particularly don't like to see puppies looking bored, there will be plenty of time later to look bored.  I want to see them having fun and showing a good relationship with their owner.  I don't even mind adults having fun. A personality is the icing on the cake.

I can forgive the occasional fault if the virtues are there in abundance. I am not a fault judge - I'm a 'virtue judge' and will overlook one or two less desirable points on a hound that has perfection in another point that I particularly prize or I think is in decline in the breed.

Occasionally when looking along a line-up initially, I come to a dog that stands out from the rest because it resonates with the picture in my mind. Sometimes these dogs make my heart skip a beat, sometimes they just make me smile inside. These are the moments that stick in my heart and make judging especially memorable.

Copyright - Kay Barret 2016

 


 

 


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