Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

generated in size.” Goldsmith, in his Animated Nature, published in 1774, says: “The Irish wolf-dog is now almost quite worn away, and very rarely to be met with in Ireland. The wolves being destroyed, the dogs also are wearing away, as if Nature means to blot out the species when they had no longer any service to perform.” In 1803 Reinagle depicted an Irish greyhound, and the splendid animal he has left us is one that any modern fancier might be proud to breed, as may be seen from the outline sketch of it which I reproduce. About this time the wolf-dog frequently figures in Encyclopædias and books dealing with dogs, as being an interesting illustration of a fast dying race. By the middle of the nineteenth century we read, “No pure, unmixed specimens now exist, even in Ireland,” and with that the colophon might have been set to the history of the breed, but for the endeavours of Captain Graham, Major Garnier, and others, who rescued it almost at the last moment from an extinction as complete as that of the greak auk. To a most interesting brochure compiled by Captain Graham I am indebted for much of the information contained in the foregoing paragraphs.

To the Irish Kennel Club belongs the distinction of having been courageous enough to establish a class for the resuscitated breed at its show in 1879, thus affording scope for the somewhat crude specimens that were then being fashioned on the traditional lines. One prize was awarded to a cross-breed between a Great Dane and a deerhound-a dog that stood 33 inches at the shoulder, and displayed “much wolf-hound character”; the other prizes went to dogs that had a strain of the “old blood” in them. From this date forward the breed progressed steadily. In 1886 the Irish Wolf-hound Club was founded, and soon afterwards the

Kennel Club granted the breed recognition and registration. In the 'Nineties it was awarded a tolerable space on the stage of the dog-showing world, and, what was more to the point, some very fine hounds were born, such as Ch. O'Leary, Ch. Dermot Astore, Ch. Wargrave, Ch. Ballyhooly, and others, who have engraved their mark deep on the modern race. But it was reserved for the twentieth century to see the breed literally galvanised by one of those curious waves of enthusiasm which sometimes arise to push forward a good cause. One or two fortuitous circumstances conduced to this sudden popularity, but the wonderful “levelling up” of the type of the breed had probably more to do with it than anything else. The beautiful hounds that had been gradually perfected out of the chaos of the past, with care, veneration, and devotion, pleaded their own cause. In 1902 it is no exaggeration to say that Irish wolf-hounds were one of the principal attractions at Cruft's, the Dublin, the Richmond, and the Kennel Club Shows; and at the latter, where Captain Graham judged the breed he had done so much to save from extinction, he was complimented with a bench of thirty-six as fine hounds as have ever been brought together in the history of dog-showing. Throughout the year the consensus of expert opinion was unanimous that the breed had come through its difficulties (the greatest of which was to eliminate the Great Dane character and the smooth coat which that cross introduced), and was on the threshold of breeding true to type. This really wonderful result has been due to the patience of a few ardent fanciers in the past, who have found worthy successors in Mr. Crisp, of Playford Hall; Mrs. Gerard, of Malpas (the owner of that splendid bitch Cheevra, of whose death I hear with great regret as I write these lines, for she was the dam of more living Irish wolf-hounds, including several championship winners, than any other half a dozen bitches); Mr. Martin, of Dublin, to whom the native land of the wolf-hound owes a deep debt; and last, though by no means least, Major Shewell, of Cotswold, Cheltenham, who has brought together or bred a pack of Irish wolf-hounds that is a prize-bench in itself, and in whose magnificent kennels it may be safely predicted the breed will work out its own further perfection.

Before I proceed to quote the contributions I have received upon this breed, it may not be uninteresting to give a few notes I gathered during my short personal acquaintance with it. And more particularly in regard to breeding, of which I have had some experience, and in which, besides the difficulties of rearing whelps, there arises one danger which calls for attention. The whole of the present breed of show Irish wolfhounds are practically descended from two sires, Brian II. and Bran II. Of the thirty-six specimens exhibited at the Kennel Club Show of 1902, eighteen were in the first, second, or third generation descended from Brian II., sixteen from Bran II., and only two from other sources, which could not be described as clear out-crosses. In 1903 there were twenty-five hounds benched; of these seventeen were descended from Brian II., five from Bran II., and of the remaining three, two were of the former sire's blood on the dam's side, and the third was not a distinct out-cross. So much for the figures relating to the sires. Of the sixtyone dams of the exhibits at these shows I cannot speak with equal confidence, but twenty-five at least were bitches of the strain of Brian II. or Bran II., and I doubt not several more, with whose pedigree I am unacquainted. I think these figures prove that an outcross is highly essential in this breed, and in my own

mind I have little doubt that the awful mortality that exterminates whelps in a wholesale way is in some measure due to in-breeding. The loss of a whole litter is no unusual occurrence—the survival of four whelps a very rare one. Although the wolf-hound is generally a magnificently strong, hardy, and healthy animal when it is grown up, it is one of the most delicate of dogs in its growing stage, and personally, from my knowledge of the holocausts that have followed distemper contracted at dog shows, I would never exhibit a youngster under twelve months old. To my certain knowledge distemper contracted at shows within the last two years was the direct cause of a dozen as good hounds as any one could sorrow to see lost to a breed that cannot afford diminution in its numbers.

The following records from my kennel book, relating to the “weights and measures" of growing wolfhound whelps, may be relied on as accurate, and are informatory :

In the most successful litter I reared, by Wolfe Tone ex Kyltra, of which nine out of ten survived, the aggregate weight of the litter at birth was 23 lbs., and the weekly weights of the best and weakliest pups as follows :

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

I attributed the stamina of this litter to the fact that the dam was a perfect out-cross, she being by a dog unrelated in pedigree to Wolfe Tone for several generations, and a deerhound bitch. Of another litter of eleven born about the same time, and treated in the same way as regards foster-mothers and food, every single one died.

The following tables show the growth of a couple of Irish wolf-hounds, month by month, from weaning to a year old :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

The comparative "pauses in the proceedings” of Wolfe Tone at six months old and of Wolfe O'Brien at four months were caused by attacks of distemper ; the 23 lbs. the latter dog put on between his fifth and sixth month was a record in my kennel. The heaviest dog on the wolf-hound bench was the late Finn, belonging to Mr. Walter Williams, weighing 148 lbs.; the tallest hound was one exhibited at the Richmond show, which measured, it was said, -and he looked it, 353 inches ; unfortunately he was not perfect otherwise. The tallest champion hound I have seen, and probably the best, is Cotswold, the property of Major Shewell, and the subject of my illustration ; he can touch the scale at 347 inches, I believe. There are several dogs measuring over 33 inches, but the clear 34 is very difficult to obtain, and 32 inches is about the average of the breed. Princess Patricia of Connaught and Juno-of-the-Fen—both 33 inches at least—are the tallest bitches.

« ForrigeFortsett »