Greyhound World Congress. Photo Bo Bengtson.
Sat, 07/16/2022 - 12:20am

Greyhound World Congress …

… and a little about Whippets, Windsor, etc.

Going to England in early July is usually a special treat for us dog people. That's when Windsor Championship Show takes place in a suitably royal environment: The Home Park, where the show is held, is a private, 655-acre royal park, administered by the Crown Estate. Windsor Castle is so close that you can almost imagine Queen Elizabeth looking down at the dog show from her window, and dog enthusiasts should also note that Dash, Queen Victoria's favorite spaniel, is buried somewhere in the Home Park. (We never found the grave!)

This year there was the added attraction of the Greyhound World Congress taking place in Camberley, close to Windsor, on July 1-4 — the same dates as the dog show. I had initially agreed to judge a championship show planned to be held at the Congress' host hotel last year, but there were lots of changes. To begin with, there was the outbreak of Covid-19, which necessitated moving everything a year forward. Then the show committee decided there couldn't possibly be a large enough entry to keep both my Australian co-judge Kristine Coralluzzo and myself occupied, so they asked if I would be willing to judge a separate Greyhound Club championship show instead, giving the breed three opportunities for CCs in a few days. I agreed, of course.

The regular Windsor Championship Show classes for Greyhounds were judged on July 1 by Gavin Robertson of the famous Soletrader PBGVs (BIS at Crufts and behind many top winners in the U.S.); I judged the Greyhound Club championship show on the same grounds later the same day, and finally there was a second breed-club championship show in Camberley at the end of the Greyhound World Congress on July 4.

There were several other changes, including at least two concerning the host hotel, but the one that received the most traction was that the Australian judge had to cancel her assignment. She was replaced by Mrs. Rita Bond, an English breed specialist, who with her husband Ian owns the Seeswift Greyhounds.

When the club announced the size of my entry I thought they were joking: 39 dogs were entered, and the announcement of that figure was prefaced by “We are pleased to tell you …” I eventually found that this is in fact quite an impressive figure these days. In the past five years there have been exactly five litters registered with the Kennel Club, on the average one per year. Espen Engh from Norway told me he was delighted to have 18 Greyhounds entered at the Hound Show in a few weeks, Gavin had 28 (many more than usual), and there was a “huge” entry of 48 for the final club show. No wonder the purebred show Greyhound is at a low ebb. However, it is NOT listed as a “Vulnerable Native Breed” by the Kennel Club, although only 16 Greyhounds were registered in 2020 and 10 in 2021 — many less than some “vulnerable” breeds. Why? (It would be interesting to compare British registration figures with those in the U.S., but the AKC does not divulge how many registrations of any breed there were last year, just that Greyhounds were 142nd in “popularity” of all breeds — ahead of e.g. Salukis, Briards, Affenpinschers and 50 other breeds.)

My own show catalog provided some interesting facts. Entry figures were inflated by nine retired racing Greyhounds (the British show people are much more tolerant of race dogs than American Greyhound exhibitors!); 16 of the dogs entered were imported to the U.K. from other countries, and a further nine were owned by foreign exhibitors and obviously born abroad. That left a total of four show-bred, native Greyhounds — a far cry from the old days when imported Greyhounds were a rarity, foreign exhibitors were non-existent, and this type of show would probably have been at least twice as big. (If you say that the total adds up to 38 Greyhounds instead of the 39 listed in the catalog you're right, because one of them I'm not certain about — but it's definitely NOT an English-bred show Greyhound.)




The conformation quality was a little uneven, as might be expected with so many ex-race dogs present, but the winners were wonderful. (It might seem odd to criticize a racing Greyhound's conformation, since most people believe that the breed is built to do what the breed was bred for, but it helps to remember that Greyhounds were NOT meant to run after an artificial hare on a track, but to course a live hare in natural terrain — which is illegal in the U.K. these days. The now nearly extinct, true coursing Hound was by all accounts much more stylish and attractive than most racing Greyhounds. Further, as somebody said, somewhat waspishly, “They wouldn't even be here if they were any good at racing …” — which is probably a truth with some modification.)

The dog CC and Best in Show at the Greyhound Club show under me was the dark brindle Ch. Ina's Fashion Dedicated To Boughton (Ch. Sobers Amadeus Karkati x Ch. Ina's Fashion Bright), born in Germany from a litter of 15 puppies, all registered, that included the Group winner at Crufts this year, Ch. Ina's Fashion Desirable. She was not entered at either breed-club show but was BOB at the all-breed show, where Dedicated was not entered, and Group 2nd after a Bazinga Pharaoh Hound.


Dog CC & BOB Greyhound Club Championship Show 7/1/22, judge Bo Bengtson. Photo Paul Lepiane.


The BIS winner was very classy, smooth and handsome, won his 18th CC, and has on occasion been BOB over his even more famous litter sister. I also very much liked his red, younger cousin from Italy, Sobers Gaston (Ch. Sobers Ulysses x Int. Ch. Sobers Achillea Karkati, litter sister to Amadeus), who won his first CC earlier that day under Gavin Robertson. There were also a handsome French male, Ch. Graal Quest Once In A Life Time, and an older Italian dog, Int. Ch. Sobers Cassius, both of whom had American-born dams (from Aroi/Aryal and GrandCru, respectively).

Among the bitches I chose a stylish and sound litter sister to Gaston, Sobers Geraldine, who won her first CC but had already earned her Italian championship. Reserve CC went to a similarly red and very correct import from the Czech Republic, Ch. Europa Decuma Via Windspiel (Ch. Sobers Vagabond x Ch. Estet Classic Rubina at Decuma), owned and shown by the well-known Windspiel kennel in England. Other bitches that impressed me were the almost 6-year-old red dam of Gaston and Geraldine, Achillea; the tall and flashy white-and-red Ch. Ina's Fashion Extraordinaire, and the red brindle all-English Ch. Zoraden My Girl at Chosovi, who didn't show herself off at all but was very correct. Best Puppy was the very promising red bitch Ina's Fashion Famous, with her brindle litter sister Ina's Fashion Finest of Chosovi close up: The latter had won Best Puppy at the all-breed show earlier that day and was in fact Best Hound Puppy.


Bitch CC with judge Bo Bengtson. Photo Paul Lepiane.


Bitch CC & BOB Greyhound Club Championship Show 7/4/22, judge Rita Bond. Photo Bo Bengtson.


Best Puppy at both championship shows, here with judge Rita Bond. Photo Bo Bengtson.







We had planned on going to the Windsor show the following three days, but instead we ended up attending all the Greyhound World Congress lectures. There were several reasons for this — distance, transportation, the weather … (It rained A LOT during my judging, but the whole show was covered by tenting that I heard cost £120,000 for the four days, or almost $150,000 ….) The show was smaller than it used to be, but still a lot bigger than any AKC show: with 7,371 dogs making 8,836 entries, it was a few thousand dogs short of what I remember from the past. Eight breeds had more than 100 dogs entered, and of course it pleased me that Whippets had the largest entry of all: 152 actual dogs making 191 entries. (They were followed by Labrador Retrievers, which had 144 dogs entered; Golden Retrievers had 129; Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, 123; Cocker Spaniels — English, of course — 109; Flat-Coated Retriever, 106; Dalmatians, 104, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers had 102 dogs entered.)

I was able to watch some of the Whippet judging before being escorted to my Greyhound ring (and a lunch that included prodigious amounts of strawberries and cream, in the best Windsor tradition). I'm old enough to remember when Barbara Hannaford and her Shalfleets were a force to be reckoned with in both the Greyhound and Whippet rings, so it was nice to see her daughter, Jane Wilton-Clark, win the dog CC, and later BOB, in Whippets with the particolor Shalfeet Heatwave. I was not around to see the sensational Dutch bitch being defeated by a non-champion in the Open Bitch class. (She had been BOB and Group 2nd at Crufts, and BIS at Bath, the Whippet Club championship show and the Whippet World Congress in Italy last month, so it was all the Whippet people seemed to be able to talk about …)


Judge David Knights does a little jig with his best dogs in the Whippet ring … From left, Best Veteran Ch. Danluke Lord of the Rings, Best Puppy and Reserve CC Zoraden Macchiato, and CC & BOB Shalfleet Heatwave. Photo Bo Bengtson.


For the all-breed show results I'm indebted to Higham Press, one of the two outfits (the other is Fosse Data) that quickly and efficiently provide results from British dog shows. The finale was judged by Dr. Ron James and won by the Swedish-born black Standard Poodle Ch. Huffish Rewrite The Stars With Atastar, bred by Charlotte Sandell (known to American Poodle exhibitors from her wins at PCA), but owned and handled by Philip Langdon. Reserve BIS was the Smooth Fox Terrier Ch. Kanix Quintus, owned and bred by Kari Wilberg, originally from Norway but for many years now living in England.

The Best Hound was actually born in Norway: Simon Tien Hansen's Pharaoh Hound Int. Ch. Bazinga Gonna Be A Mighty King. (Simon and his Bazinga dogs are well known in the U.S. after wins at Westminster, the PHCA specialty, etc.) The other group winners were the Pembroke Welsh Corgi bitch Ch. Penliath Bill Me Later (AI), the Curly-Coated Retriever Show Ch. Brightmeadow Never Say Die, the Griffon Bruxellois Donzeata Royal Attraction and a Bouvier des Flandres who I think came from the Netherlands, Sennah Damy v. d. Vanenblikhoeve.




A good reason for not going back to the show was that the lectures at the Greyhound World Congress were so interesting! They were started by Chairperson Clare Boggia (Boughton) with reflections on the 2017 Congress in Norway, the first of its kind for Greyhounds and obviously a huge success. Barbara Hargreaves (Mistweave), who lives in Canada these days, talked about the different breed standards and the need to unify them. Bitte Ahrens (Sobers) spoke about assessing movement in the show ring, and Heather Minnich from the U.S. talked of dual-purpose Greyhounds and showed a lot of photographs: Heather owns several dual champions and has won, among much else, the coursing Grand National. Heather's talk was a perfect prelude to Sir Mark Prescott, who made his talk about running the Waterloo Cup for 17 years — until open field coursing was banned in 2005 — both supremely entertaining and very informative.

Mark Cocozza, one of the most experienced of the British judges and a Sighthound (but not especially Greyhound) specialist, labeled his talk “How 'generous' can you get?” and spoke from an all-rounder judge's perspective. Under General Appearance, the English breed standard includes the phrase “of generous proportions” (the AKC standard has no such phrase). Mark illustrated his talk with some photographs that he chose from several I had sent him of famous dogs from the past. He got the response he was probably looking for: Several in the audience had comments, but I think the general consensus was in favor of the word “generous.” It's a pity it's not in the AKC standard, which must be one of the shortest of any breed. (There is no mention of movement in the AKC standard either, incidentally, which of course doesn't mean that this should be disregarded when judging.)

Geneviève Crop-Margueritat talked about her breeding program at the La Haultière kennel in France since 1968, and there was a presentation of Paul Bartlett's (Ransley)
“History of Crufts,” which included several BIS photographs of Greyhounds. Olaf Knauber (Happy Hunter, Germany) made one of the most constructive speeches I have heard at any dog congress, titled “How to Promote our Breed for Future Generations,” utilizing his background in marketing and advertising. All the Congress participants (nearly 100 in all) were divided into “breakout groups” and suggested reasons you could give to newcomers for getting a show-bred Greyhound as a pet and (hopefully) as a show dog. Unfortunately, the results were not clearly tabulated, but I'm sure the recommendations included such suggestions as the breed's sweet temperament, their long and colorful links to British history, etc. etc.

Barbara Hannaford, who is still president of the Greyhound Club, was not able to be present for the Congress in person. One other great breeder who is no longer active was present both at Windsor and at the Congress in Camberly: Dagmar Kenis-Pordham received a richly deserved standing ovation. When I first met Swedish-born Dagmar in 1967 she lived in Los Angeles, but within a few years she moved, with family and hounds, to England. She won the Hound Group at Crufts with her wonderful Ch. Solstrand Double Diamond and made a name for her Solstrand Greyhounds and Irish Wolfhounds far and wide. Her breeding has been winning all over the world; three bitches she exported are, for instance, behind all the current winners from the highly successful Sobers kennel of Bitte Ahrens-Primavera and her husband Pierluigi Primavera in Italy. (Dagmar actually started with a Sobers bitch all those years ago, bred in her native Sweden by Bitte's grandmother!)




The next half-day presentation — after the banquet the previous night and before the second specialty show — included a long and very important talk by Barbara Kessler (Rumford, Germany) on the health of the Greyhound. Barbara is a veterinarian in research, and she pointed out what I've often felt, that even a mild criticism of purebred breeding practices immediately earns one the enmity of the breeders concerned. Barbara is actually “one of us:” shows, breeds and has a kennel name. Her point was that the genetic base for the show-bred Greyhound is very small. All dogs are more or less closely related, and the great stud dog of the 1950s, Ch. Treetops Hawk, is now several thousand times in almost all pedigrees. Hawk and the other early dogs we've inbred on for a long time were usually outcrosses, the results of breeding an unrelated bitch to a genuinely unrelated dog. Inbreeding and linebreeding on such individuals is often very successful for many generations, but ultimately the genetic base narrows. You have to know a little about haplotypes to understand what Barbara was talking about: Most people — including myself — do not, and tend to throw up an automatic defense mechanism when the need for different breeding methods is suggested. It is clear, however, that we cannot keep breeding as our grandfathers did (or as we did ourselves, if we're old!).

A haplotype is (according to Wikipedia) “a physical grouping of genomic variants that tend to be inherited together. A specific haplotype typically reflects a unique combination of variants that reside near each other on a chromosome.” If you know that much it's already interesting, or frightening, to learn that e.g. Standard Poodles have 31 haplotypes, Salukis have 33, racing Greyhounds seven haplotypes  … but show-bred Greyhounds have just one single haplotype. How we deal with this will determine the show-bred Greyhound's future.

After this, it was almost a relief to listen to Julie Sadler from the U.K. talking about the “Tellington TTouch Training Method,” by which she calms problem ex-racing Greyhounds. Lizzie Pratt joined us via Zoom from the University of Nottingham with an update on the ongoing osteosarcoma survey in Greyhounds. Cathy Gaidos from the U.S. spoke with authority on the Greyhound Club of America's health-related activities: Cathy is a board member and past president of the GCA and also secretary of the Whippet Health Foundation.

Before breaking for lunch and the afternoon's club show — on the lawn outside the hotel — Greyhound Club Chairperson Clare Boggia mentioned that there had been suggestions for a third Greyhound World Congress to be held in the U.S. in two or three years' time. This needs to be approved by the Greyhound Club of America, and Cathy Gaidos agreed to bring this to the club's board for discussion. More news shortly …

The awards at the second Greyhound Club championship show were fairly similar to mine. The same two dogs took the CC and Reserve CC, and my Reserve Bitch CC winner won the CC and was BIS. She looked if anything even better that day, so I had no argument. The only other difference was that my CC winner “only” won her class and Reserve CC went to her dam, Int. Ch. Sobers Achillea Karkati (Int. Ch. Karkati Cesare x my old favorite Int. Ch. Sobers Orianne). Best Puppy was again Ina's Fashion Famous and Best Veteran was the 9-year-old blue brindle male Ch. Boughton Blakeney, owned by Maggie Holder of the Mascott's Greyhounds/Irish Wolfhounds and not entered at the Windsor shows.

Then it was drinks and BBQ on the lawn with much more Greyhound talk. Next morning we packed and returned to “life as usual” in California … It had been a jam-packed weekend! 



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