HOUND HOPES AS CRUFTS BECKONS
Crufts, the most famous dog
show in the world, has
drawn an entry of 21,000
dogs for its four-day
stint at Birminghams
National Exhibition Centre
next week. But combining
farming and showing dogs at
top level means a hectic life
for a Cheshire breeder.
Jeremy Hunt reports
ELIZABETH Garlick chuckles as she explains how Bisto, her top winning Dachshund, was given his name. "When he was a tiny puppy he was so gorgeous everyone just took one look at him and said Ahh."
Now 14-month old Bisto is one of Miss Garlicks team of three standard long-haired Dachshunds who will be heading for Crufts. In the catalogue hell appear under his official Kennel Club registered name of Ranglewood Ramsoms.
A bit of a mouthful but his owner, who runs 110 ewes and some beef cattle on her farm near Marple, Cheshire, admits she has a theme for naming all her dogs. Her affix, carried by all dogs bred at the 20ha (50-acre) Windy Bottom Farm, is Ranglewood – the name of a belt of woodland on the farm. And all dogs are named after trees or herbs. "Ramsoms is another name for wild garlic. I dont think a lot of people have realised the connection yet," muses Miss Garlick.
The standard long-haired variety is arguably the most glamorous of the Dachshund breed of which there are two sizes, each with three different types of coat. Standard refers to the large type, miniature to a smaller version with some weighing under 10lb. There are smooth-haired, wire-haired and long-haired Dachshunds.
* Passion for breed
Along with the prerequisite collie dogs that you would expect to find on any sheep farm, there are 13 Dachshunds here. This passion for the breed stems from the year Miss Garlick spent working on a farm as an agricultural student.
"It was an isolated farm and there was supposed to be a cottage for me to stay in. It turned out to be a caravan. I decided I needed a dog to keep me company and as Id been brought up with a Dachshund in the family it seemed a logical choice."
She bought a standard long-haired bitch, which despite having only half a tail after a close encounter with a cow, was to forge a deep interest in this engaging, and often independent natured hound. Many breeds that were originally produced to work or hunt are often criticised for having been changed to suit the "beauty" requirements of the show ring but the Ranglewood Dachshunds are striving to retain the breeds true characteristics.
"The Dachshund is a hound that was developed in Germany to hunt badgers and it is essential that we dont lose sight of that working ancestry in the conformation and movement of the dogs we breed today. I am aiming for a long, low, lean dog that is well muscled and can cover the ground well," says Miss Garlick.
* Not pampered
Long and low and with flowing coats they may be but these are no pampered pooches. This has been a very wet winter but even the Ranglewood show team make light work of the muddiest of gateways on their daily rambles.
Drying out by the Aga after a morning gambol and glancing up only occasionally with the deepest brown eyes, is one of three fortunates currently in residence in the farmhouse. This bitch is a shaded-red in colour "looks a bit like the colour of a very good mahogany wardrobe", jokes Miss Garlick.
She also keeps reds and has two strikingly marked black and tans. So breed points aside, what are these dogs really like?
"Like all hounds they have a mind of their own and can be very self-centred. If they ever get out as a pack its quite a job to get them back."
Outside in the kennels a noisy welcome awaits strangers. "They are a tough breed. We love them but pampering show dogs does not pay off. They just lose all their character."
The Crufts show team includes the black and tan Bisto, his litter sister – the red coated Marmite – and the red 14-month-old youngster Joseph. These three young stars have already won well in hotly contested breed classes at some of the countrys major championship dog shows.
"Over the last year we have driven more miles than we have ever done before," admits Miss Garlick who reckons these three are the best Dachshunds she has bred so far.
"Showing dogs is a great hobby but the dogs come first. Showing is just an excuse to keep them although my father says showing dogs gives you licence to become a canine kleptomaniac."
To ensure that only the best dogs are exhibited at Crufts the Kennel Club enforces qualifying wins for all entries. The three Ranglewood hounds have all qualified but Miss Garlick says you have to keep Crufts in context.
"Yes it is the most famous dog show in the world but you have to keep it in perspective. If you let it get to you by the time you walk into the ring you would be a nervous wreck. It really is just another show. Well, thats what I keep telling myself."
Although its a critical time on the farm in the run-up to lambing, recent weeks have seen Miss Garlick preparing the show team for the bright lights of the NEC. The dogs have been walked daily for overall fitness and to build up muscle tone. The long-haired Dachshund coat is self-cleaning and mud is easily removed by brushing. But to ensure coats retain their important oils to give that extra sheen for Crufts, they are treated each day with a special coat conditioner.
Dachshunds are greedy and these are no exception. A strict 6-9oz a day of a complete diet keeps them in top form.
"Apart from that, a bath the day before and some judicial trimming of the hair between the toes and thats it. They are a relatively easy dog to get ready for the ring."
Shes pinning her hopes for Crufts on the promising young Bisto whose sire, from the breeds top kennel, was a multiple winner at the show. And in the week after Crufts there will be plenty to do at Windy Bottom Farm. Lambing is still a few weeks away but first there are two eagerly anticipated litters of puppies due.
"But thats dog showing. Always looking ahead. If we dont win at this years Crufts who knows what surprises we might have in store with our next generation."
• Crufts takes place at the NEC in Birmingham between Mar 11 and Mar 14.