Irish Wolfhound History

The Irish Wolfhound and Coursing

The Amesbury Coursing Meeting

The coursing meeting at Amesbury went ahead in February 1925, organised by James Nagle of the Sulhamstead kennel, and was well attended. The Field ran an article on it:

A coursing meeting for Irish wolfhounds was held at Boscombe Down, Amesbury, on January 28th-29th, under the auspices of the Irish Wolfhound Coursing Club. The first day's proceedings were somewhat marred by the inclement weather, but the card was gone through once in the President's and Steward's Cups. Hares varied somewhat, some being weak, but the greater number of courses proved to be about two miles. The weather was still bad on the second day, but the events were all finished by 4 p.m. Several good courses were witnessed and two hares were killed in ten courses. All the hares were strong and full of running, and the speed and stamina of the hounds were fully tested. The winners were Mrs. Southey's Crewkerne Georgie, President's Cup; Capt. Hudson's King Shane of Brabyns, the Steward's Cup; and Mr. I.W. Everett's Ch. Felixstowe Killcoo the Consolation Stakes. The club has decided to hold its next meeting in October and are negotiating for the lease of ground near Amesbury so that hares can be bred and preserved. At the club dinner £63 was subscribed to provide prize money for the Ranelagh Show in aid of Earl Haig's fund."

Captain A.V. Shewell had written to The Field and his letter was printed in the issue of January 29th: "I have been noticing with regret the recent tendency towards overweight in the breeding of Irish wolfhounds. The fact appears to have been almost lost sight of that the breed is essentially a sporting one. The wolfhound, although heavier than its cousin, the deerhound, should otherwise bear a close resemblance and on no account be as massive as a Great Dane. The results of recent shows make one speculate as to what would have been the fate of Champion Cotswold if bred a few years hence, unless this tendency to sacrifice type and soundness to size is checked. I trust that the approaching coursing meeting will do much to right this matter."

The Field's article on the coursing meeting was followed by a letter by James Nagle in reply to Captain Shewell's letter:
"Capt. A.V. Shewell in his letter to the Field of January 29th remarks on the tendency of the modern wolfhound towards overweight and mentions that recent winners on the bench are too heavy. He expressed the hope that the coursing meeting held for the breed would do much to rectify matters. I do not know if Capt. Shewell attended the meeting, but I can vouch for the fact that the actual winners of all the events were the heaviest that competed. In addition, these three winners were well-known bench winners. Capt. Shewell (and, indeed, all breeders) must not forget the fact that the wolfhound, after running down its natural quarry, has a fight at the end of the run, and need I point out the advantage that weight has in a fight? Champion Cotswold would still have been champion if bred and exhibited within the last few years, as we still have many judges in our breed who value 'type' before actual size, but I would point out that it is possible to have size, type and soundness combined. There is, in my opinion, a decided tendency at the present time to get away from the real wolfhound type, as many of the exhibits of the present day have too much of the appearance of the Borzoi and the flat sides that accompany that type of hound.

The Irish Wolfhound Coursing Club has a rule that any wolfhound which does not come up to the standard of the parent club (Irish Wolfhound Club) as regards height and weight, cannot compete at its meetings."

 Joan Southey
 Miss Joan Southey with Patrick of Brabyns at the
first coursing meeting of Irish wolfhounds,
held yesterday near Amesbury, Wiltshire
 James Nagle
 Two of the dogs in the slips
ready for the start of a course.
(Note: James Nagle is the slipper)
 two hounds on track
 Coursing by Irish Wolfhounds:
A trial in the President's Cup Event
at the meet near Amesbury

The following pictures appeared in another publication, with the caption: "The Irish Wolfhound Coursing Club held its meeting - the first ever held in England - at Boscombe Down, near Amesbury, Wilts, and made a big success of it. Of those in these pictures, Miss Beauchamp is with her Thor of Ifold and Captain Hudson's King Shane of Brabyns; she was helping Mr. Nagle, the slipper. Miss Marlow is with Mrs. A.F. Ellis' Gerg of Ifold, Mr. J. Nagle's Sulhamstead Thelma, and Mr. E. Watson's Plain Clara; Miss Nina Barr is with her mother's Saluki, Kate of Grevel, and the Irish wolfhound, Demeter of Grevel; Miss Strohmenger and her sister are holding Josephine. Mr. J. Nagle is honorary secretary of the club.

 Miss Beauchamp and Mr. Nagle
 Miss D.J. Beauchamp and Mr. Nagle
 Miss Marlow
 Miss Marlow and three competitors
 Nino Barr
 Miss Nino Barr
 the Misses Strohmenger
Miss B. and Miss P. Strohmenger  

Major Harding Cox's report on the meeting was as follows:-



I sing of dogs, and of man! The praise of my "chanty" is diluted only by the vicious perversity of that convicted felon, the Clerk of the Weather. I allude to the strange but exceedingly interesting experience which I last week had as judge at the Irish Wolfhound Club's inaugural coursing meeting, which took place on the classic plains of Amesbury.

It is not long since I had occasion to gird at the Irish Wolfhound as an impostor when assuming the role of sporting dog, in which disguise he sometimes, under some judges, ousted genuine British gun and sight dogs from pride of place in competitions confined to sporting dogs. I now retract, humbly and without reservation, what I have said. My remarks seem to have put the lovers of this impressive breed upon their mettle, so they set themselves the task of proving that, although the legitimate quarry of their favourites is now happily non-existent in the British Isles, the ancient spirit of the chase remains by heredity and atavism (mark how I harp on this master string) as vital and insistent as ever. So the I.W.C. determined to prove their words by a coursing demonstration where their colossal tykes would be afforded a chance of at least displaying their eagerness and determination in pursuit of the timid but exceedingly tricky hare.

And so it came about that the writer was called upon to act in a judicial capacity, to appraise the points of merit displayed by their respective competitors, as far as possible, "according to Cocker" (that is to say, in conformity with National Coursing Club Rules).

The arrangements for this very worthy and sporting endeavour were left in the hands of the energetic and efficient hon. sec. of the club, Mr. Nagle, who, besides being a cynophilist and all-round sportsman, is perhaps the greatest authority on and breeder and exhibitor of Berkshire pigs! His assuredly was no "cushy" job, believe me, but it was accomplished with a perfection of detail the result of which was only marred by the weather, which was of the very worst.

"But what of the wolfhounds themselves?" you will ask. Well, I may say at once that I was both surprised and delighted at their performances, both jointly and severally considered. Many had never previously seen a hare. All were imperfectly trained, and some not trained at all. Not a few were callow, immature specimens which, were they greyhounds, would be ranked as saplings. And who would think of sending a sapling to the slips at this time of year, and on open ground, against a mature runner? Yet among these wolfhounds there were several such contests. These dogs have an enormous stride and cover a lot of ground. Their speed is therefore greater than one might imagine at first glance. It is true that in a long slip behind an "Amesbury stag" many couples failed to get on sufficiently close terms to score a telling point, but they stuck it out in marvellous fashion, and as I had been requested to judge such courses on speed and stamina only my task was an easy one. On weak hares (and unfortunately there was a considerable number of such, owing to the unfortunate prevalence of "liverfluke") these great dogs proved themselves capable of real cleverness. They came round with their hare quite smoothly, popped in some telling points, and occasionally effected a quite brilliant kill. One bitch was particularly noticeable in this respect. She displayed all the cleverness of the greyhound in a long course. On enquiring of her fair owner the why and wherefore of this striking performance I was informed that the bitch in question was "wise to" the homely rabbit, hence her familiarity with the wiles of its bigger relative the hare. In a subsequent course she lamed herself badly, or I imagine she would have annexed the principal trophy. In only one instance did I see a dog deliberately "chuck it", and even then the offender had the excuse of having been terribly hard run in his previous trial. Not content with his managerial and secretarial duties, Mr. Nagle acted also as slipper! No joke this to hold together a brace of highly excited and gigantic wolfhounds and to "deliver" them equitably.


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