"I would like the kennel to be remembered for consistently producing hounds of superior type, with plenty of bone and substance that were still capable of doing a days work."
An interview with Maria published in Our Dogs 13th June 2008
Maria did you grow up in a doggy family?
Yes, my mother had dogs (Sealyhams and ESS) and horses before I arrived, and her father had bred Airedale Terriers in the 1930’s. We purchased our first Dachshund, a Miniature Smooth when I was 4, and added several Standard Smooths over the next 10 years.
When did you become interested in breeding/showing dogs?
My mother had bred from the Standard Smooths, but it wasn’t until I went to Harper Adams University College that I was introduced to the Wire Haired variety. I acquired my first Wire, a Silvae bitch and bred my first litter, sired by Ch. Brockbane Red Rondo in 1983.
Who are your mentors “in dogs“ and why did you choose them?
Does one choose a mentor? I purchased my first Otterhound from Judith Ashworth in 1984, and purchased Boravin Villager from Jean Pretious in 1986. Villager , known as MacGregor at home, was very successful in the show ring and I was completely “bitten by the bug”. I used to holiday at Jean’s and was able to learn a great deal from her. Over the years I both purchased and was given numerous Boravin Otterhounds, and the success of the Teckelgarth Otterhounds is almost solely down to Jean’s input.
What drew you to Otterhounds?
Pure accident! I was living on my own and decided that I needed a large dog in addition to my Standard Wires. I was interested in both Wolfhounds and Great Danes, but really could not afford to purchase a bitch of good enough quality to get me started in showing and breeding. A work colleague Carina Smillie, (German Wire Haired Pointers) suggested that I looked at Otterhounds. My response to which was “What are they?” I managed to find a litter bred by Judith Ashworth and Ruth Brucker, went to see them and was completely smitten. I became the very proud owner of Bryony of Twinrivers in August 1984 and have never regretted my choice of breed.
What are the origins of your prefix and what year was it registered?
I don’t know when Teckelgarth was first registered, possibly in the 1940’s/1950’s. It originally belonged to a friend of mine, a Mr Ron Hunt, who had bred Bulldogs and Wire Haired Dachshunds. Ron died in 1984/5 and I asked the KC if I could take the affix on in his memory to which they kindly agreed.
How did you establish your lines?
As the Otterhound gene pool is so small, I don’t consider that any breeder can establish completely unique lines . All the hounds we have now are descended from the few that were placed in pet or show homes when they came out of the packs in 1977-1984.
In recent years you were Top Breeder in l996 and l998, then again in 2000 to 2007. But did success come along quickly?
I bred my first litter of Otterhounds in January1990, by which time I had owned the breed for 5 1/2 years. A dog from that first litter, T. Fingal became a Champion, and from the second litter T. Ivanhoe proved his worth as a stud dog. He was mated to Vison Harmony from the Ytene Minkhounds, from which I had a puppy bitch called Vison Volatile. To date Volatile’s progeny have won 39 C.C’s, her brothers Varmint and Viking are sires of Champions in the UK and the USA. My third litter produced T. Juno, who was in turn the dam of Ch’s. T Ptolemy and Persephone, born April 1995, and it was these two who contributed to my first success as Top Breeder in 1996. To date I have bred 10 Champions (in Feb 2010, now 13 - more Champions than any other kennel), made up two Boravins and have three Teckelgarth bitches sat on two C.C.’s.
What has been your breeding policy i.e. line-breeding / outcrossing etc.,
Line-breeding in Otterhounds can be very risky. I would be reluctant to mate first cousins, and half uncle mated to half niece, and vice versa is probably as close as I would go. In my experience close matings can result in a high incidence of health problems in the progeny so I avoid going too close. Outcrossing is just about possible, but with a very small gene pool it is difficult to have two totally unrelated hounds. Because the origins of the breed are so diverse using an outcross can produce puppies very diverse in type, which can be useful in itself.
What qualities do you look for when choosing a stud dog for one of your bitches?
It very much depends on the bitch and whether or not I can use one of my own dogs. Yes, you want a dog that will complement any weak points in your bitch, but when sourcing a stud dog from outside my own kennel it is usually a case of finding a dog that will introduce as few health problems as possible and preferably as few faults from a construction and type point of view.
How many Otterhounds do you keep at one time and do they run as a pack?
Until recently I would have up to 30 Otterhounds at any one time, but due to financial constraints and being self employed I only have 6 adults at the moment. Over the last 12 months I have homed several in situations where I can still have access to them for showing and breeding purposes, the individual then has the best of both worlds. My hounds usually live in small groups, and some groups would be exercised together in the paddock. Although having a small number has made the workload much lighter, I do miss being able to watch 7- 10 hounds all out in the field playing together.
Are your dogs kennelled or do they live in the house?
Until recently only the OAP’s would have been able to sleep inside, but with so few they all slept inside this last winter. As I have Otterhound puppies in the house at the moment all the others are sleeping outside again.
Does the breed have any major health issues?
The main concerns are Hip Dysplasia; Elbow Dysplasia; and Epilepsy. Although the majority of the population has hip dysplasia it rarely causes problems, the Elbow dysplasia being more of a concern as in severe cases it can lead to lameness and pain. Epilepsy we all try to avoid, and once we have a blood test to identify carriers we should hopefully be able to eliminate it completely.
Have you imported any foreign blood in to your kennel
and if so, what has been the result?
I have used stud dogs from imported stock which to date has proved very useful. However I would be reluctant to do so now unless the imported stock was pure British in origin.
Is the breed high maintenance with regard to coat, exercise etc.,
Thankfully no, as I hate grooming. Going through the coat thoroughly once a month with a metal comb is usually sufficient. I don’t allow puppies free exercise until they are over 10 months old, and even then only 10 minutes per day. Adults can have as much exercise as they want in the paddock, but quite a few find themselves a quiet corner to have a “kip”, or just sit and survey the scenery. Frankly they would rather be curled up on a settee somewhere!
What three words best describe the Otterhound?
Affectionate, independent and laid-back.
Being a native, vulnerable, breed how do you see the future of Otterhounds and would you really like to see the breed become more popular?
I don’t think that the Otterhound will ever be a popular breed. Until March ’07 I felt that the demise of the breed was in sight. Thankfully the Native Vulnerable Breeds Trust brought the breed’s plight to the attention of the newspapers and to television in March’07. My experience since is that more people are enquiring about Otterhounds specifically because they are vulnerable and want to help. As a result I now have a group of enthusiasts who will get involved in showing and breeding, some have already given their time in caring for a litter that otherwise I could not have bred. Other breeders have also experienced greater interest, and hopefully a percentage of these will become dedicated owners and breeders in the future.
What is the best book on dogs that you have read?
I don’t think I have ever read a whole book about dogs, the best book about Otterhounds I have seen would be Juliette Cunliffe’s book, surprisingly called “The Otterhound”
If you were starting out in the breed now,
where would you go for foundation stock?
Kingstree and Vison Otterhounds
When not showing and breeding your dogs
what other hobbies/interests do you have?
I am a member of the National Trust and enjoy visiting ancient monument, castles,
churches and cathedrals etc.
Finally Maria how would you like your Teckelgarth kennel to be remembered?
I would like the kennel to be remembered for consistently producing hounds of superior type, with plenty of bone and substance that were still capable of doing a days work.