55 years in Irish Wolfhounds!
by Anne Mette Mikkelsen
To be asked to write an article about Anthony Killykeen-Doyle or just Tony is a great honour. But I must also say that after saying yes to do so, I felt petrified, how to write an article worthy of the man, a person who is known by most of us as Mr. Wolfhound; and the backbone of the breed today. I have known him for 12 years now, and he has taught me so much, I know what he thinks an ideal Irish Wolfhound is, what worries him about the breed and what makes his day. To get those thoughts would be another whole article, it is a totally different matter entirely!
This year we celebrate Tony's 55 year anniversary owning and breeding Irish Wolfhounds. He got his first own wolfhound as a birthday present from his parents when he was 11 years old, 55years ago this past May. The bitch was Emer of Ballytobin, they paid £40 for the dog, which was a tidy sum back then. Tony's parents always had Wolfhounds, but rarely registered them with the kennel club. Many breeders, as was practice at the time, had their own pedigree books where they recorded all the information and pedigrees for all the dogs they owned. So it is as Tony often says himself, "I have Irish Wolfhounds in my blood." Not many have such an impressive family background as he. Tony's personal bloodlines go back to his great grandmother Roseann Fitpatrick-Richardsen. She was a daughter of Captain Huge D. Richardsen who is known for doing so much for the Irish Wolfhound breed in the 1840's. Roseann's daughter, Tony's grandmother Catherine, also breed Wolfhounds. Both Roseann and Catherine breed and kept the hounds going through the famine. They both were friends with Captain Graham, it is fascinating to see all the pictures Tony has of his family with the Captian and the hounds.
With this heritage in his blood, Tony never wanted to do anything else but own and breed Irish Wolfhounds. He was sent to boarding schools as a youngster, but he eloped several times and went back to his grandmother and his beloved hounds. He was always determined to do this, and today we can all be thankful he followed his dream. He was determined to carry on breeding and caring for the hounds his parents and mentors had sacrificed so much for to keep through the tough times.
He was very lucky to have all these great breeders as his good friends and mentors; he spent a lot of time in their kennels and learned so much from them: Florence Nagle, Delphis Gardner, Mrs Groverman Ellis, Miss Harrison and Sheelagh Seal. Also his grandmother's cousins, the Loughrey sisters had Kennel Ross, famous for their Irish Deerhounds. Kennek Ross was founded around 1911, they remained productive until well after the second world war. All these mentors taught him everything he knows about the Irish Wolfhound, Tony says they trusted him to remain faithful to what they had taught him, to keep on breeding the old bloodlines, the traditional type.
Now 55 years later, I think we can congratulate him on succeeding at doing exactly that.
Emer, Tony's first dog never produced pups; his first litter was out of Ballykelly Kilkenny of Killykeen. This was about 19 generations ago; we can still see this same style in Tony's breeding program today. He has always been very true to the type he started with and was taught to breed and treasure. Tony says with a great deal of pride and defiance: "I don't breed show dogs, I breed Irish Wolfhounds!" He has dedicated his life to this breed and his beloved hound, he estimates during the 55 years he has spent 3 inheritance, preserving, keeping, breeding and feeding his Irish Wolfhounds.
It has indeed been a privilege to be able to stay with him at his home in Co. Cavan, to be mentored and learn the history, his breeding methods and his ideas. Just learning how he feeds them the old way; with milk, eggs and meat, walking with him and the hounds in the field, just taking in all the wisdom and knowledge. I count it a privilege and soak it all in. Staying there for a week at a time, getting involved in performing the daily routines with him has been a high level education. It has taught me most of what I know about Irish Wolfhounds. When visitors call on Tony he often starts the visit with the declaration "I don't think you will like what I have", modern breeders and Wolfhound fanciers are not used to seeing these old style Irish Wolfhounds. The type is very slow to develop, they not miniature Wolfhounds at the age of 6 months, they grow slowly, and are not fully mature before 4-5 years old. It is very impressive to note that year after year he always has 3 to 4 generations in the kennel. Old hounds looking great at 12-14 years old! We all have a lot to learn from this man.
Today, his dedication and love for this breed, is causing him a great deal of despair. He sees the Wolfhound being compromised by breeders who think they are improving the breed. Tony says that about 90% of the Irish Wolfhounds we see today are incorrect when compared to the hounds of yesteryear. The breed has become too commercialized and developed into a "hairdresser dog", that is not able to do the work it was intended to do. They have become "chocolate boxes wolfies"; low on their feet, with a soft and long coat and way too heavy to do what they were originally bred to do; hunt, kill and protect the family! He is often shocked when reading critiques from specialties around the world, where specialists of the breed have been judging. When he looks at that the best in show critique says: …."would like him a little higher on his feet", he asks. "Then why put it up"? He feels that most of the judges today should not be allowed in the ring, and certainly not be awarding championship certificates to hounds that have very little to do with the traditional Irish Wolfhounds type. In many parts of the world today it has become too easy to earn a judges license and it seems as though everyone would like to do it.
He often speaks of the old great kennels that only breed from the very best stock they had. Years ago a typical kennel would have had 3 to 4 quality stud dogs, today we could only dream of visiting a kennel with a bitch to mate, with such a strong offering of stud dogs. Today many breeders use what is convenient, usually what they have in their own stock. These breeders are not using a critical eye, or thinking of long term consequences when evaluating a potential breeding. Lots of today's breeders pick dogs according to their show ring results. Tony's observations of many of the show dogs in the ring these days today is that "most of them could not even kill a cat", and certainly not pull down a deer, wolf or other large game. Furthermore, after viewing some of them, he thinks they would have problems outrunning the cat!
Tony does take solace in the fact that there are still are handful people in every country that are willing to breed the true Irish Wolfhound, not the typical show dogs we see today. Dogs of great size and commanding appearance, where nothing is short, where LENGTH goes throughout the entire Hound, as describe in the standard. It is length from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail! These dogs have long legs, covering much ground and with lots of daylight under. Dogs according to Tony ought to have a rough coat, not these silky long coats that that are camouflaged with beer or sugar-water and formed into shape. He often says: "Rough coat not to be interpreted as long!" The longest hair should be over eyes and under the jaw.
This 55th anniversary did not pass unnoticed by Irish Wolfhound lovers. At these years Irish Wolfhound Specialty in Ireland this past June one of Tony's best friends, Velda Clark crafted him a wonderful celebration card and had a fantastic cake formed as an Irish Wolfhound head. Velda let everyone of his friends at the show secretly sign the card then after the show she presented it to him, it gave us all the opportunity to celebrate this tremendous anniversary with him, it was a wonderful ending to a lovely day.
So an behalf of all your Irish wolfhound friends from around the world
Happy 55th anniversary Anthony Killyleen-Doyle, may there be many more!