History of the Irish Wolfhound in Australia

The Irish Wolfhound in Australia - a overview

This article first appeared in an issue of the Australian publication, "Oz Dog" in 1994.
It covers the earliest known record of the breed in Australia up until 1994 and has been compiled from a variety of sources including contributing breeders at the time.

The history of the Irish Wolfhound has been well documented over the years. In the early 1860’s Captain G.A. Graham, an Officer in the British Army, started to resurrect the breed using the best possible specimens available which included the Scottish Deerhound, Borzoi, Tibetan Wolfdog and some Great Dane crosses. Although Graham himself did not use the Great Dane he did use Dane/Wolfhound crosses and it is to him we are indebted for our present day Irish Wolfhound.

In 1885 a club to promote the more complete recovery of this ancient dog was established in England with Lord Arthur Cecil as President and Captain Graham as secretary and treasurer. One of the first official acts of the club was to draft a standard of excellence for the Irish Wolfhound. Later a list of points in order of merit was drawn up to assist in judging. Although the first recorded dog show was held in Newcastle, England in 1859 it was not until 1885 that the first Irish Wolfhound appeared in the ring. Since that time few major shows have been without some Wolfhound representation. The kennel names of Felixstowe, Ouborough and Sulhamstead made a valuable contribution to the breed.

An interesting article appeared in the Kennel Gazette in England on July 1888 as follows:

"Irish Wolfhounds challenge only Dhulart first - looking by no means at his best had a walk over Garryowen first and shield - an immense youngster with good coat fair head and great bone. He is rather cow hocked but looked so well that he just beat Dhulart for the challenge shield as the latter was soft in coat and looked anything but smart.

Skibbereen - second. Was beaten in all respects - bone, coat, head and size.
Herbert - third withheld. Small and short of character
Bitches Nene - third. Very small and weedy.
Other prizes withheld. Considering the money given this class was most disappointing."

An interesting story regarding a bit of history and the use of Wolfhounds to hunt down and kill wolves was sent by Marcia Francis of Green River, Wyoming.

"I am a daughter of an 1863 Pioneer of Gallatin County, Montana..... I remember when I was four years old I had my picture taken with my father and his fourteen Wolfhound and Staghound dogs. In about 1900, my father, formerly of Virginia and Kentucky, had two Wolfhounds, male and female, and two yellow Staghounds shipped to Montana from somewhere in Virginia. The reason for wanting them was to destroy the timber wolf in Montana so prevalent in that day and a bane of the cattle, sheep and horse country..... The shepherd dogs could not combat the wolves and coyotes. These famous dogs lived to an old age, a very hardy dog ..... My great grandfather brought some [Wolfhounds] from England in the early days, in fact when Virginia was a colony."
Were there Wolfhounds in the USA when many people considered them to be extinct in Ireland?

It is not unreasonable to consider that the early settlers in Australia were also able to transport some of these huge hounds to their new-found country. Hunting was not only a way of life but for some people there very survival depended on it. It is also quite possible that these early hounds were crossed with other breeds depending on the type of game to be hunted.
The old kangaroo hound had a mixture of Wolfhound, Deerhound and Greyhound in its make up. A big powerful dog was most certainly needed to pull down a kangaroo.

Mrs Mavis Neale of Mt Gambier, now aged well over 80 told how her family had owned Irish Wolfhounds on their farm property just outside Mt. Gambier when she was ten years old.
Their names were Tiger and Bluey and both were grey dogs. However Tiger was a sheep killer so her father said he had to be sold. Mavis Taylor (as she was then) was heartbroken when Tiger was sold to a Mr Turnbull from Queensland. On the day Tiger left, Mavis and her sister told Tiger if he was not happy in his new home the moment Mr Turnbull unchained him he was to come home. Nine months later Mr Turnbull informed the family that Tiger was missing. Mavis was convinced that he was coming home and as it was getting near Christmas Mavis asked only for dog food to be put in her stocking.

Her mother and father told her not be so silly but, just to humour her, did as she asked. Early on Christmas morning Mavis was woken by something scratching at the gate. She woke her sister and made her carry the lantern while they ran to the gate.

In the dark stood Tiger barely alive.

His feet were raw and his ribs were showing after his epic journey hundreds of miles across some very hostile country. Tiger did survive with Mavis bottle feeding him until he was able to walk again. Her father let her keep Tiger. He said after what he must have been through to get home, there was no way he could send him back again.

A fascinating story as this was before any documented record of Irish Wolfhounds in Australia.

The first Irish Wolfhounds registered in Australia were by Miss Bella Bruce Reid of the Kildara kennels of Bundoora in Victoria in 1928. These dogs were from the famous Brabyns kennels in England and bred by Captain Hudson. No bitches were ever sold from the litters produced as she was concerned that they would be used as crosses. We know that some were imported in the 1950s mainly for hunting purposes although one was exhibited around 1954.

The next appearance of a Wolfhound in the show ring seems to be in 1972 when the late Dr Phil Cunningham (Pilelo, SA) and Col and Mrs Scott (Ole, Victoria) exhibited their imports at the Melbourne royal show. These were from the Fitzearlach, Tullygivan, Ballykelly, Erindale, Delkerry and Aelius Kennels. A year later, Mrs Buxey (Abdillya Vic) and Mrs Kowalick (Glenmaer SA - now ACT) imported from Brabyns, Buckhurst, Eaglescrag and Witchesbroom kennels so began the Irish Wolfhound fraternity which is in evidence today. That year also saw the start of the Tirowen Kennels in South Australia.

The first litter from the imports was in 1973 at Pilelo from Ballykelly Seorse (Eire) and Tullygivan Sheelagh (Eire) with several others - Ole, Abdillya and Glenmaer -following in 1974. 1975 saw the Drayton kennels in Victoria established while the Pilelo Kennels only produced 4 litters - the last being in 1975. The Ole prefix went on until 1981 and Abdillya bred its last litter in 1984, after which Mrs Buxey returned to Europe.

Drayton and Tirowen are still breeding regularly whilst Glenmaer just has the occasional litter. The Kilrain dogs of Irene Parow also did well and her import Erindale Trader Prince was the first Irish Wolfhound to go best in show at an all breeds champ show in Australia. Irene Parow also returned to the UK.

Another well-known kennel in Victoria was Maynooth owned by the Hockings who were also very active members of the Irish Wolfhound club of Victoria for many years. Brendon is well known as a VCA representative and also as an Irish Setter exhibitor. While his parents, who are getting on in years, have had to forego the company of the breed they love so much.

Names like Anahoe (NSW), Cilldara (Vic). Erinclan (Vic), Clannagael (Vic), Galtymore (Vic), Ramarego (NSW), Greycroft (SA), Hollymorn (SA), Wulfgar (NSW) have been around for many years and are still very active on the show scene. Whilst others, such as Fianna (SA), Findhorn (Qld), Kilkaren (WA), Kilrain (Vic), Milchu (NSW), and Planhaven (NSW )who have all played an important role in the breed are for one reason or another no longer a part of the Irish Wolfhound in Australia.

During the past twenty years many imports have come to Australia and played their part in the development of the breed. Australian Champion Witchesbroom Murphy was among the first of the Irish Wolfhounds imported for the Australian show ring in the early 1970s.

He was bred by Mrs Sheila Kemp from her bitch Sanctuary Casbah by Sulhamstead Branwen Myles. Murphy came to Australia only after being selected and approved at 12 weeks by Mrs Florence Nagle whose breeding knowledge was unsurpassed as was demonstrated in the quality of her Sulhamstead hounds. With Murphy came Ch Eaglescrag Merinda. Again selected by Mrs Nagle along with her breeder Mrs Ruth Jenkins for her compatible lineage which they both felt would be most suitable for Australian conditions. Merinda was by Ch Caio of Eaglescrag x Thornwick Rossan of Eaglescrag

Murphy was the first of the hounds to win an ingroup award at Port Noarlunga South Australia in November 1973. He went on to win challenge dog and best of breed at the 1977 Royal Easter Show in Sydney with Eaglescrag Merinda challenge bitch and runner up best of breed. The first litter sired by Murphy out of Merinda in September 1974 produced eight puppies, five bitches and three dogs. Of the bitches, four went on to become champions with three of them winning in-group and in-show awards. The fifth, Glenmaer Kyle, was never shown but produced two champions from her only litter under the Fianna prefix. She was desexed soon after arriving at the Lewington's home, Greycroft where she spent the rest of her days. That particular litter was born and mainly shown in South Australia.

1975 saw the first litter whelped in New South Wales under "Wolfetone", Liz Monti’s prefix, with Massets Guinness (Imp UK) and Royden Bridie (Imp UK) (she later obtained her title).
The dogs had been mated in quarantine and whelped in Sydney. The three dogs and three bitches were sold to New South Wales homes to give a start in the breed.

Brigid was to be the foundation bitch for Frances Wilson's Planhaven Wolfhounds. She is found behind a number dogs today. Keiran and Drusilla were successfully shown by Bev
Anderson and Kerry Rich respectively. Keiran is also behind the lines coming from Cheryl Pont nee Elliott’s Freyfaolcu dogs.

By far the most successful from a show point of view was Carol Maciver's Ch Wolfetone Trean who was best in show at the NSW club’s first two shows; an open in 1978 and championship show in 1979. A multi royal winner who also enjoyed wins at Hunter Valley Hound Club and runner up at the NSW Hound Club way back in 1978. A tall rangy hound he excelled in movement but sadly left no progeny. He died very young from post operative complications.

Several early dogs shown in NSW came from Phil Cunningham's Pilelo kennels in South Australia. Then from 1977 onwards Fianna exerted more influence through the bitches. Firstly Maureen Madden’s Ch Fianna Aislim and Doug Timbrell's Ch Fianna Andrea, the Lewington's Ch Fianna Angus was runner up in show at the first NSW Specialty Champ Show and he was undoubtedly the most successful dog in the litter. Ch Fianna Corinna (Maciver) and Ch Fianna Creinna (Madden) were also successful in the show ring. All were from the imported bitch Buckhurst Gail x Abdillya Fergus. She was one of a very notable litter whose influence extended also to Sweden through Buckhurst Guinevere.

In the West, Jan Sherriff, who was living in Perth, imported a Wolfhound from Kenya in 1972 via the UK. Jan Sherrif also imported a litter sister to the famous Drakeslete Kyak but no descendants now remain in his kennel. Jan Sheriff owned his first Wolfhound in 1959 and was involved with the Sanctuary kennels in England since 1954. The Cockrams and the Hills were showing in the early eighties but are no longer involved. Although I believe the Cockrams still own Wolfhounds. Many years ago they had a rather nice dog out of Erindale Trader Prince who did quite well in the show ring. His name was Kilrain James Kincaid. Not many people are showing in Perth at the moment. O’Connors and the Scotts are the only exhibitors who enter Wolfhounds over there for competition at the present time.

South Australia has a regular entry of Wolfhounds at most of the Metropolitan champ shows comprising of hounds from the Glenfield, Greycroft, Hollymorn, Cuculain and Tirowen kennels.

Victoria is well represented by kennels such as Clannagael, Cilldara, Galtymore, Erinclan, Roscormac and occasionally Drayton plus a few others I may have missed.

In NSW, as in Victoria, the numbers are quite strong with Ramarego, Anahoe, Wulfgar, Tirsilin, Clarionvale, Artangnan, Ornumflow and several others such as Glenmaer who can been seen at most of the major shows and specialties.

Not a lot is happening in Queensland although Andrew Brown recently took runner up in show at the Hound Club of Queensland with his bitch Ch Tirsilin Aravir. I am told not too many Wolfhounds are being show in that part of the world. In the early 1980s "Troika" David and Barbara Temple, "Deburca" Peter and Jan Bourke and "Mithringgrae" Chris and Harry Burridge were prominent on the show scene but for one reason or another have faded away.

Imports have played a major part in the Irish Wolfhound that we see today in our show ring thoughout the country. Tirowen followed on from Glenmaer and imported Ch Eaglescrag Tara, Ch Eaglescrag Kester, Ch Eaglescrag Rauri and more recently a dog from the Solstrand kennels Ch Solstrand Beau Brummel. Braybyn Ryan's boy went to the Mithingrae kennels in Queensland and Buckhurst Gail went to the Fianna kennels in South Australia.
Buckhurst Murphy and his half brother Neptune a son of Eng Ch Outhwaite Am Cu, one of Mrs Baird's more successful hounds, were also imported.

In September 1981 the O'Mahony's five Wolfhounds arrived at their new home at Cranbourne after a five week boat trip from England. The dogs travelled by sea on the container ship Botany Bay which left England in mid June and arrived in Melbourne on the 23 rd of July.
Since that day the Galtymore hounds have been shown in most states in Australia. Dennis and Anne O'Mahony caused quite a stir travelling half way round the world with their Wolfhounds

One of the early imports, Uasal Moss of Witchesbroom (Imp UK), was a different style of dog to those here. He was from Sulhamstead based lines and enjoyed variable success with progeny from the available bitches.

The Kowalick family imported Sepelcur Red Knight from Gordon Crane in the UK.
Regrettably though he did not sire any puppies here despite a number of attempts with different bitches. Roscormac Kennels brought in Ch Marumac Darrow and Ch Marumac Alfred. Jane Rawnsley imported Ch Hydebeck Declan from Louise Nowell in the UK. More recently imports from Sweden and New Zealand are appearing in our show rings

When the Fianna kennels (Moncurs, SA) were disbanded the majority of the dogs went to Sydney to Maureen Madden. Her Milchu kennel gained a notable winner in Ch Glenmaer Megan whose opposite in group at Brisbane Royal in 1979 is still one of the few successes at this level enjoyed by the breed. Megan left only one litter at Milchu. Several earlier attempts in South Australia to breed from her were unsuccessful.

Several NSW people had been permitted to use the Tirowen import Ch Eaglescrag Kester and the resulting progeny enjoyed considerable success in the showring in NSW for a number of years in the early eighties. Included in these the brother sister Chs Milchu Grainey and Groinne, Carol Maciver's Ch Ramarego Angharad. Jacqueline Crossle had purchased Tirowen Iona who although she could not be shown achieved success as a brood bitch producing, in particular, Ch Anahoe Corrie to Jackie's Ch Cumal Trinity Cu, a son of the Buckhurst sire to Ch Fianna Andrea

During the late eighties, early nineties, several dogs and bitches made a name for themselves up in NSW. Ch Tirsilin Bronson owned by the Birches did a lot of winning with many in-group and in-show awards to his name. John and Michele Patterson's Ch Clarionvale Onyx was another hound that enjoyed considerable success.

Ch Cilldara Cormac over in Vic did a similar job in and around Melbourne at about the same time. Owned by Tony and Maisie Vince and bred by Jane Rawnsley the big wheaten dog consistently took out group and in-show plus several best in show awards in Victoria.

Over in Adelaide Sue Lewington's Ch Greyhavens Holly was a popular winner for many years and possibly won more group and in show awards than any other Wolfhound dog or bitch in SA. Holly was especially popular amongst the Hound Group people for her wonderful temperament. Holly was bred by Jeannine and Brian Hooper at the Hollymorn kennels in South Australia.

The NSW club show records are an easy way to track the passage of various lines and from the early eighties we saw visits by a number of interstaters. The club was fortunate, although of relatively meagre finances it was able to sub contract various notable breed and sighthound specialists which attracted a good entry for shows with numbers to a level which has not as yet been repeated.

Among the successes were Norm and Jean Jeanes with the lovely Ch Eaglescrag Kester daughter Ch Tirowen Concarra who went best in show at three specialties also she was twice winner of the hound group at the then very well attended Spring Fair on the October long weekend.

In the early eighties Carol Maciver's Ch Ramarego Angharad won a number of in group awards as well as class in show at specialties. She also won a number of best gained awards and was winner of the NSW club points score competition.

Ch Brosset Eamon (Torin) 1981- 1990, won best in show at the club show in 1984 also was the club points score winner for four years 1983 -1986. He was six times reserve dog at the club show and had three runner-up in show. He won best in show at the ACT Hound Club, runner up at the Hunter Valley Hound Club and best in group on several occasions at major metropolitan all breed shows including Dalwood charity show and County of Cumberland. He sired among others Ch Planhaven Brianna and Planhaven Heath who won well for Frances Wilson in his early years of showing and he also sired a number of successful Irish Wolfhounds.

Ch Milchu Mavoureen, Torin's daughter ex Ch Fianna Aislimm achieved success with a royal challenge win plus reserve bitch at three club shows she was very shapely and very much in the tradition of the Fianna bitches.

Ch Baskerville Theodore (1985 -1995) was bred by Jenny Mcewan, his sire Ch Marumac Darrow Roscormac (imp UK) his dam was Kilrain Aer Lingus. Theodore was an apologetic show dog and never enjoyed the ring. He was purchased as a puppy to go to Ch Brosset Eamon’s daughter principally. He was widely used at stud mostly with NSW bred bitches - he sired eleven champions and also had the reputation for succeeding with several bitches that had been difficult to get into whelp. Among the notable offspring were the brother - sister combinations of Ch Tirsilin Bronson, Ch Tirsilin Petra, Ch Clarionvale Onyx, Ch Clarionvale Topaz. Other notable winners being Ch Ballybricken Jemima from Planhaven Wisteria came Ch Paramount and Ch Planhaven Morgan was not shown due to losing a tooth in an accident but dam of Ch Ramarego Jason, Ch Ramarego Javotte and Ramarego Jaeger. Ch Ramarego Haelwean continued in the winning tradition with a third generation bitch to win a royal challenge. A son, Ch Planhaven Morgan, went best in show under Mrs Helen Baird UK at the Easter show in 1993. He also won a number of in group awards and was owned by Jean de Courcy Ellis.

Ch Planhaven Revog, son of Ch Baskerville Theodore ex Wisteria Morgan’s litter brother was initially shown by Doug Phillips in Queensland and then sold to Carol Maciver in NSW Revog won the dog challenge at the club show on five occasions, twice best in show and three times runner up in show. He was winner of best in show at the Hound Club Show and was the sire of Ch Wulfgar Falcarragh winner of best in show at the last two September shows in 1993-1994.

There are three Irish Wolfhound clubs in Australia NSW, Vic and South Australia. The breed also has three Wolfhound specialist judges to date; Carol Maciver who is licensed to judge Deerhounds and Wolfhounds, Francis McEvoy who is licensed to judge groups 2- 3- 4- 5, and John Lewington licensed for groups 1 - 4 - 6 - 7. The Irish Wolfhound numbers have steadied during the past few years and the show population makes up a very small percentage of Wolfhounds actually owned in Australia.

John Lewington

Thanks to Carol Maciver, Jan Sherriff, Lorretta van Nunspeet and Maisie Vince for their help in compiling all the information, and to Loraine Benson for some additional information.