654 Selecting the Blood

by   David Hancock

 Over a century ago, a Gloucestershire breeder Capt Graham, decided to re-create the real Irish Wolfhound, and, from the skilful use of blended blood, produced the modern breed. He and his knowledgeable fellow-breeder, Major Garnier, established a number of rules for cross-breeding in the pursuit of a fixed type. These are surely of value to any serious lurcher breeder and can be listed as:

Quality is much more dependent on the dam than the sire. Muscular development and conformation comes mainly from the dam. Bone and size are more dependent on the sire than the dam. Colour is almost wholly dependent on the sire but coat texture is almost wholly independent of the sire. They considered too that all these attributes became modified by any impurity of blood, or, in other words, a lack of line-breeding to 'fix' traits. With hunting so limited nowadays, I do hope that performance won't gradually be relegated and false reputation accepted.

 Down the long years of dog breeders seeking better dogs, some  breeders have succeeded and some have not. It is important to learn from those successful breeders and benefit from their hard-earned knowledge. It is vital to learn from the very best breeders not those with the best brag or the loudest voices. Raymond Oppenheimer owned the Ormandy Bull Terriers, the most successful kennel of its time, raising the quality level of the whole breed. Unlike so many show breeders he was happy to share his extensive knowledge of breeding with his peers, his twenty key points for success being:

1. Don't make use of indiscriminate outcrosses, an injudicious one can produce an aggregation of every imaginable fault in the breed.

2. Only line breed to complementary types, a successful combination could bring great rewards.

3. Don't take advice from unsuccessful breeders; if their opinions were worth having, they would have proved it by their successes.

4. Don't believe the popular cliche about the brother or sister of a great champion being just as good to breed from -- it depends on the dogs themselves.

5. Don't be kennel-blind; self-deceit is a stepping stone to failure.

6. Don't breed from mediocrities; the absence of fault does not in any way signify the presence of its corresponding virtue.

7. Don't try to line breed to two dogs at the same time, you will end up line breeding to neither.

8. Don't assess the worth of a stud dog by his inferior progeny, all dogs sire a proportionately large percentage of rubbish; what matters is how good their best efforts are.

9. Don't allow personal feelings to influence your choice of a stud dog, the right dog for your bitch is the right dog, no matter who owns it.

10. Don't allow admiration of a stud dog blind you to his faults.

11. Don't mate animals which share the same fault, or you are asking for trouble.

12. Don't forget that it is the whole dog that counts; if you forget one virtue whilst searching for another you will pay for it.

13. Don't search for the perfect dog as a mate for your bitch, it doesn't exist.

14. Don't be frightened of breeding from animals that have obvious faults, so long as they have compensating virtues. A lack of virtue is far the greatest fault of all!

15. Don't mate together non-complementary types, an ability to recognise type at a glance is a breeder's greatest gift.

16. Don't forget the necessity to preserve head quality, it will vanish like a dream if you do.

17. Don't forget that substance, plus quality, should be one of your aims; anyone can breed one without the other.

18. A great head plus soundness should be your aim.

19. Don't ever try to decry a great dog...a great dog should be a source of aesthetic pride and pleasure to all true lovers of the breed.

20. Don't be satisfied with anything but the best, second best is never good enough.

 Oppenheimer was a show-dog man but his Bull Terriers triumphed and his breeding methods are reflected in his lasting contribution to the breed. He was helped by having an outstanding kennel man, the great Tom Horner, but he was very much the guiding light. Can lurchermen learn from his words? There is no shortage of lurchers nowadays, the sporting press is full of notices advertising their sale; my local Blue Cross rescue kennel is full of unwanted ones! There are most definitely too many being bred and if there are so many unwanted ones, too many being disposed of too. Are the ones being bred any good?

 Breeding sporting dogs is not just a production line, the ingredients of the product really do matter. Temperament in most family-owned dogs is all too often downgraded or overlooked. Biddability is quite often not actively sought in breeding stock, but for the novice sportsman the dog's ability to respond to commands can mean the difference between retaining or disposing. A giant lurcher might suit the braggers but, in these times, who wants to feed a dog which doesn't fill the pot? Bull blood can bring determination, persistence and pluck; unwisely chosen, it can bring with it dog-aggression and great stubbornness. Saluki blood can bring considerable handsomeness but does it produce rabbit-catchers? Deerhound blood can bestow stature but does that suit your country, your quarry, your needs?

 In his informative book, Lurchers and Longdogs (Standfast Press, 1977), Ted Walsh has written: 'The lurcher must have speed, stamina, brains, courage, nose, soundness and a weatherproof coat. The speed need not be quite that of the Greyhound; indeed, it is the pure speed that tires out the Greyhound so quickly. Stamina is essential to the dog that has to run down his game and repeat the exercise as soon as he has got his tongue in again. Without intelligence the lurcher cannot be trained in obedience; he must have courage to face thorn hedges, wire, rough going and water; he must have sufficient nose to follow up and retrieve wounded game.' Whether your lurcher is rough or smooth coated, 30" or 22", from Collie, Saluki, Deerhound or Whippet blood, the blend of blood has to meet Ted Walsh's criteria. As always in breeding livestock, the shrewd selection of breeding material brings success; the dog will always be more important than its birth certificate!