America's Great Kennels of the Past

Non-dog people often try to find out what makes dog fanciers tick. In some cases they conclude that it must be the commercial angle - high prices for puppies, dog show cash prizes, big stud fees. While this might be partly so in some popular breeds, it is doubtful if it ever could be applied to the Irish Wolfhound. No one has ever done a brisk over-the-counter business in Ireland's national dog. His size alone precludes such a possibility. Breeders of this largest of all dogs are concerned more with the surroundings into which their puppies will be placed and their future human family than in the matter of actual sales. They want this breed to be appreciated for its true worth.

In the course of many years writing articles on outstanding kennels, few impressed me more than the Irish Wolfhound establishments visited. And of these, one of the finest was the Cragwood Kennels of Mrs. Norwood Browning Smith, then located in Virginia, (later these kennels were moved to California) for the owner was the exemplification of sportsmanship. The article on this splendid breeding plant was carried in the February 1928 issue, about seven years after it had been established. These dates are mentioned because it is of some interest that Cragwood continued to have some fine examples of the breed for another thirty years, until shortly before Mrs. Smith's death in 1959. She never lost her love of the breed. In fact, when in the hospital she missed them so much that permission was finally gotten for two favorites to be brought to her. It made her happy to have them in the room, usually curled up under her bed.

Mrs. Smith was the founder and first president of the Irish Wolfhound Club of America. This club was organized during the Sesqui-Centennial dog show put on by the American Kennel Club at Philadelphia in 1926, and it held its first Specialty two years later with the widely respected veteran, Walter H. Reeves, judging. He placed as best of breed Mrs. Smith's Ch. Cragwood The O'Toole. Two years later the late Frank Addyman judged the Specialty and found as best of breed Ch. Cragwood Ballybilly, later owned by Jesse A. Howland. These were notable triumphs, but they were only incidental to the pure joy that the owner felt in having such splendid dogs where she could see them every day. She seldom wanted to part with dogs, but was really happy if she knew they would be with considerate people who would give them affection along with the best of care. That is why the Irish Wolfhound Club's official list of champions made since the breed was first registered in the United States in 1897 shows as many Cragwood champions finished by other owners as by Mrs. Smith.

It is of some note that Mrs. Smith was the first American breeder to send an Irish Wolfhound to England. It seems that R. Montagu Scott, whose "Ifold" prefix was well known here because of the many specimens of Wolfhound he had sent out to Mrs. Smith and others in the States, was visiting this country in 1924. He saw Cragwood Darragh and was greatly impressed by this upstanding three-year-old male. The dog was at that time a proven stud. In fact, some of the puppies were quite impressive. Mr. Scott prevailed upon Mrs. Smith to send the dog to England where he could be used to improve the strain. This plea probably did not have as much weight with Mrs. Smith as the fact that Darragh would have a chance to run on the 1,100-acre Ifold estate, so the outstanding young dog took the long steamship journey to England.

Another notable event in Cragwood's history came about because Mrs. Smith had been a college classmate of Mrs. Herbert Hoover, and when the kennels were moved to California the two families were neighbours. In any case, Cragwood Padraic, by Felixstowe Kilconly O'Cragwood ex Ch. Cragwood Macha, the latter a great granddaughter of Cragwood Darragh, went to live in the White House. But whatever an Irish Wolfhound's eminence, his or her personality was the factor of paramount importance with the owner of Cragwood. Some were treasured especially, but she loved them all. And when it is considered that she registered some 200 specimens of the breed with the American Kennel Club, her fondness for the breed can be appreciated. Mrs. Smith had known other breeds and loved them too, but the Irish Wolfhound stood first of all. What follows is a replica of the Cragwood article as it appeared in the February 1928 issue of this magazine.

 This estate, where the Cragwood Kennels are located,
is one of the most beautiful in the country. It was
patented in the early part of the Seventeenth Century

Cragwood Breeds a Royal Hound

Mr. and Mrs. Norwood B. Smith Raise True Irish Wolfhounds at Urbanna, Virginia


Dog and man - mammals both - have come down through history, so to speak, paw in hand. They have faced both life and death, and perhaps it has been hard to tell which took the greater courage. For death takes but a momentary dash of supreme courage, while life presents an unending succession of trials that often sear the soul and demand continual courage.

Yet dog has defended and loved his brother and master. Dog has been the unwavering pal of all time. He has not taken account of his master's position in life, of his titles, or of his reputation. He has never wavered. It is because of his steadfastness that he is still able to satisfy man's longing for companionship. He has remained practically unchanged even when man could be criticized for his swaying before the gale of modernity.

Man has not been changed either, if change is meant to convey that his emotions and desires are different. He is just the same as he was a million years ago. It is only his environment that has been altered. If we delve into euthenics or the study of environment's effects upon man, we find some interesting and startling things.

For the surroundings of man certainly have molded the part he has played in the world's history. And since dog always has been the closest friend of man, it is not amiss to mention just a few of the things which environment has brought to the dog in general and in particular to that grandest of monarchs — the Irish wolfhound.

The Irish wolfhound has not merely come from Ireland, rather he is part of that land just as much as the rocks and trees and lakes. And being part of it, the remainder belongs to him.

 Cragwood Delight
 One of the greatest wolfhounds ever produced at Cragwood
was this well-known winner. She was best of breed and
fourth in the sporting group at the Sesqui

Perhaps, the great hound at first resented the invasion of the alien bands of rugged men who came from a source still somewhat unknown to history. But, like a true warrior who finally admits a master, the big wolfdog accepted the presence of man and became his closest and greatest ally and his true friend.

It was this early alliance of two such keen visioned forces of hunters that resulted in an ancient glory for both dog and man. It was not an easy existence that they lived in those Pagan times, for life was cheap and death was violent. The dog was the protector of his master from other men and, more particularly, from wild beasts.

Man could not match the cunning of the native animals of Erin, but man had in the dog a defender who was fully as keen and much stronger than the wolf. Thus the nightly, and even daily, war raged between the dogs and wolves. And as time went on, the odds swung too greatly in favor of the dogs. The wolves were checkmated at every turn. Man was left in peace. The surviving members of that savage outlaw tribe of wolves kept to themselves as much as they were able. Yet history is very hazy on just when the wolf disappeared from Ireland. Some authorities infer that it was not until more than twelve hundred years after fable credits St. Patrick with having banished the reptile from the land. That would mean the early Eighteenth Century.

No matter the exact time, the Irish wolfhound received his name and his reputation for his work in Ireland. Had there been no wolves to combat, probably he would have come down to us under some other name. Undoubtedly, he would have found a foe worthy of giving him immortal fame. His bearing and size alone might have recommended him to the world, for he is the largest dog that has ever been recorded, and his steady dark eyes carry the indefinable power to command.

 Cragwood Conrad
 An excellent idea of the size of one of these big
hounds is had from the picture. Conrad stands
well over six feet in height

These things he has brought with him from earliest times. These characteristics you will notice if you visit one of the big kennels promoting the breed in the United States. It certainly was one of the dominant features I noticed recently when I visited beautiful, historic Rosegill on the Rappahannock at Urbanna, Virginia, where Mr. and Mrs. Norwood B. Smith maintain the Cragwood Kennels of Irish wolfhounds.

Cragwood has gained renown in this breed. Indeed, one of its hounds, Cragwood Darragh, was sent to England to help improve the strain at a famous kennel over there. This is one of the rare occasions upon which a dog of any breed has been sent from America to England, and it is the only time the United States has sent one of this breed to an English kennel.

The Cragwood kennels have been located at Rosegill for barely four years, the Smiths starting to breed the dogs while living in California. They had gathered a nice lot of dogs on the Pacific Coast, so that when the time came to move eastward, a special car was chartered and it carried twelve of the big fellows, in charge of a kennelman, across the entire width of the United States.

Rosegill is one of the oldest of Colonial estates, being patented in 1638, at a time when the wolfhound still flourished in Ireland. It was old when Mount Vernon was conceived and generally is conceded to be the most beautifully situated of the Colonial estates in Virginia. There is probably no other 700-acre farm that has so many and varied natural attractions.

 Mrs. Smith taking the hounds for a run
 There are few places so well adapted for the proper nurturing of the grand Irish wolfhound as the historic
Rosegill estate where the Smiths have their home in Urbanna, Virginia. The large acreage enables the hounds
to take long romps across country. They love nothing better than running before a galloping horse.

It is situated on a cliff overlooking the Rappahannock, which, at this point, is more than four miles wide and salt. To the west of the plantation is the beautiful Urbanna Creek, itself a navigable stream with steamers several times a week from Baltimore and Norfolk. Rosegill has more than five miles of shore line and a very famous Mill Pond where black bass abound. There are fourteen acres of private oyster shore adjoining the plantation, and crabs, clams and saltwater fish are plentiful.

 Mrs. Smith with a group of hounds
 Regardless of this scene, the Irish wolfhound is not a "pack" dog. He would much
rather be in the company of human beings than with members of his own race.
When with other dogs, he seldom starts a fight, maintaining his cool manner always

The original mansion apparently is in as good condition as when it was built, more than two hundred and fifty years ago. To the right of the main house stands the old kitchen with its immense "fire arch". To the left is the old laundry, which has been converted into the manager's cottage.

If the stories connected with the old place are to be credited, the Cragwood Irish wolfhounds are not the first dogs of this breed that have roamed Rosegill's broad acres. One night in the dim past, when the great house was being made ready for a new owner, the man in charge of the work was sleeping on the floor of what was then the "small dining room". He was awakened by a noise or the feeling that some animal or person was near.

Sitting up, what was his surprise to see two enormous dogs looking down on him through the window. One was black, the other white, and they stood with their front paws on the window sill. The man seized his gun and ran out of the house trying to overtake the giant hounds. He followed them until they suddenly disappeared in the middle of a field. One thing is certain, only the ghost of an Irish wolfhound could reach that window ledge from the ground. In any case, it is a harmless bit of folklore which the present owners are pleased to believe true.

The myth fits in well with some of the other fables that have been spun in the past around the big dog. While some may have scanty basis, the fact that minstrels selected the Irish wolfhound as the hero for some of their best contributions shows that his magnificence must have impressed them greatly. And these stories have come down in such vivid fashion that they supplement nicely the authentic history of the breed.

This history remained in the unwritten stage until A.D. 391, when the Roman Consul, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, a stormy petrel of the political situation of his day, writes of them in a letter to his brother:
"In order to win the favor of the Roman people for our Quaestor you have been a generous and diligent provider of novel contributions to our solemn shows and games, as is proved by your gift of seven Irish dogs. All Rome viewed them with wonder, and fancied they must have been brought hither in iron cages. For such a gift I tender you the greatest possible thanks."

 Mrs. Smith with three puppies
 It takes almost three years for one of this breed to fully
develop, yet a good one can be told at a much earlier age.
Three lovely two months bitches are shown

Incidentally, the fact that Irish wolfhounds were used for gladiatorial contests in the stadium proves that the Romans of that day were not averse to using spectacular means of publicity for political reasons. But the fact that the Irish dog was selected as having the most commanding appearance, coupled with great courage, indicates that its fame had gained considerable circulation, or rather a reputation among the ruling classes.

The hound was associated from the beginning with the rulers of the world. The great land barons of Ireland were the first patrons of the breed, for it was not such a dog as could be supported easily by members of the peasantry. An Irish wolfhound would eat almost as much as an entire family. That is why the breed suffered a decline after the extermination of the wolves, for even the aristocracy could see no reason for keeping such a huge specimen when there was no adequate reason. It must be remembered that the breeding and raising of dogs had not become a sport in itself at that early period.

The Irish wolfhound was one of the few breeds considered of enough distinction to be presented to emperors and other rulers. Also, no one below the nobility was allowed to own the dogs. Thus the breed has come down enshrined in regal splendor and royal traditions. It is of the royalty itself.

This background is what adds such color to the kennels which harbor them, and it is especially apparent when they are raised in the true manner of the large estate. They are not suitable to life in a flat, but they are not too large for the small country place. To rightly set them off they need space, broad stretches, and picturesque country such as you may find at Rosegill. Here the Irish wolfhound has, in his adopted land, an atmosphere that is as nearly as possible a transplantation from his native sod.

 the kennel buildings
 Simplicity of design and treatment is noted in this very
efficient kennel. It is adapted especially for the care of
this large type of dog

It might be well to mention something about the breed itself, although more can be learned from photographs than from description. But the Irish wolfhound should be of great size and commanding appearance, very muscular, strongly though gracefully built, while the head and neck should be carried high. The minimum size of a dog should be 32 inches and for a bitch, 29 inches. The minimum weight for a bitch should be 100 pounds, and for a dog, 120 pounds at maturity.

The old wolfdogs were often particolored or spotted and if the words of the ancient Irish bards can be relied upon - and it has been proved that they can - many of the dogs had coats that rivaled Joseph's. Now that the breed has been resuscitated and several clubs formed to care for its interests, spotted dogs are taboo. Any solid color or brindle is permissible, any color recognised in the Scottish deerhound. The coat should be harsh and rough. Eyebrows and whiskers are a distinguishing feature of the breed.

In general appearance these hounds resemble a huge and more massive Scottish deerhound. Length of body must be evident to insure correct proportions.

It is not an easy matter to breed dogs of this size to the correct proportions and of the right appearance, yet Mrs. Smith, for it is she who is the spirit behind the Cragwood kennels, has been very successful in rearing these huge hounds. I think the secret is a sympathetic love and understanding of dogs and horses, inherited from her Maryland father and a Virginia grandmother. Endowed with a natural eye for fine stock, she has supplemented this with more than sixteen years of practical experience in several breeds, commencing with St. Bernards and Scottish deerhounds. A glance at the American Kennel Club records of ten or twelve years ago will disclose a surprising number of champions with the Cragwood prefix.

 Cragwood Brigit
 Standing thirty-four inches at the
shoulder, Brigit is one of the best
matrons in the United States and one
of the favorites at Rosegill

Since taking up the Irish hound about nine years ago, Mrs. Smith has done very little showing, the reason being that she feared bringing distemper into the kennels. Until very recently there were but few Irish wolfhounds in America. If a good one was lost, it might be impossible to replace him at any price. Distemper goes hard with these huge babies as is natural with any dog that grows from a couple of pounds at birth to one hundred and five or to one hundred and seventeen pounds the day it is six months old. An Irish wolfhound at twelve months is only as far on the road to maturity as a small or medium sized breed at six months, in spite of the fact that he weighs one hundred and forty or fifty pounds.

Yet these dogs seem quite in keeping with Rosegill, its acres, and its old buildings. The kennels themselves are most conveniently arranged. The kitchen is twenty feet square, well lighted and equipped with range and porcelain sink with ample drain boards. The supplies of dog foods and meals are kept in galvanized iron bins extending along one wall. The refrigerator is large enough to receive a whole beef, and it is so well constructed that it will keep a "critter" for a week at least, by which time it is consumed.

Leaving the kitchen one enters a long hall with doors on either side. The first one to the left is the dogs' bathroom, which is fitted with a six-foot porcelain tub and piped with hot and cold water. This tub is raised about twelve inches from the floor so that bathing the dogs is not a back-breaking process.

Across the hall is the straw-room where the supply for immediate use is always at hand, for the Mistress of Cragwood believes in dry kennels. Beyond, on either side, are the kennel rooms, eight by ten feet square. Each room has its separate run and two grown hounds occupy a room. These quarters are not heated except in cases of sickness. Collapsible, "knockdown" kennels are installed in the kennel rooms during the coldest weather. The outer doors are rarely closed and then only at night.

At the end of the hall a door leads into a large exercising yard a couple of acres in extent. This yard is enclosed by a seven-foot fence as the Cragwood hounds can jump. It is really an inspiring sight to see seven or eight of these huge dogs sail over a five-foot fence with no apparent effort. Cragwood Delight thought nothing of six feet, and was always kept in a room opening on a specially-built run.

The Cragwood youngsters, as soon as they can toddle, are given the run of the thirty-acre lawn surrounding the Mansion House. They spend their days romping under the trees or taking a dip in the river. They lead natural happy lives, not "kennel-dog" lives. They have much human contact, for besides the men and families who are emplyed on the farm, there is a constant coming and going of sightseers, for Rosegill is a sort of shrine, especially to Virginians. It was the home of two Colonial Governors, while from Rosegill went the first youth to be educated abroad, and so on, and so on.

Mrs. Smith thinks Virginia, especially the Tidewater country, ideally suited to raising these Irish hounds. The climate is very like that of England and Ireland, cool summers and mild winters, the atmosphere at times being a little humid.

An Irish wolfhound, according to Mrs. Smith, requires no special care or feed, only more of it. He should have plenty of good plain food, containing a liberal proportion of meat, about three pounds. It is advisable to give the dogs a change of diet, and feed meat, both raw and cooked. The grown hounds of Cragwood are fed twice a day with the heavy meal at night. Eggs often are added to the menu before show time, while their exercise is increased.

Yet Mrs. Smith says she cannot give a hard and fast rule for feeding these big babies. The best advice is to use eternal vigilance and common sense, to keep them free from worms, and to let them have all the plain, nourishing, easily-digested food they can handle. From the time the Cragwood puppies are weaned they receive five meals a day, and are introduced to dry food as soon as possible. Mushes of any kind are not used except as a transition from milk to solid food. They are apt to be fattening and heavy, and too much weight on the legs is not good. Meat, whole wheat bread, whole Jersey milk, and eggs are mainstays.

 Norwood B. Smith with two hounds
 Norwood B. Smith is holding the Westminster winner,
Wilton Wood Kilbarry, and the imported Felixstowe
Kilconly, two splendid Cragwood hounds

When the puppies are three weeks old they are given a little scraped lean beef once a day. At first they receive a ball about the size of a walnut. The amount is gradually increased until by the time they reach six months of age they are receiving around three pounds of meat a day in some form or another.

An Irish wolfhound believes in large families, but unless you can secure the services of a good foster mother, the whelps and the mother will be better off for reducing the number very materially within twelve or twenty-four hours after birth.

Mrs. Smith says that she never would leave more than six pups on a bitch, while four or five are still better. They do not grow so rapidly if they are crowded in the nest and have to wait their turn for nourishment. As bone and height are to be desired in this breed, and their greatest growth takes place during the first six months, it behooves the breeder to give the pups a chance by supplying them with the proper bone and tissue-building materials and hygienic living conditions.

As soon as their eyes are open at Cragwood, they are encouraged to lap a little milk. Whole milk is used, brought to a scald, and sweetened slightly with Karo syrup.

The puppies never realize when they are weaned, but it is around six weeks. A little cod-liver oil is given to the puppies, also a very small amount of Kalfos. But after the youngsters have cut their second teeth, the owner does not see the necessity for either of these "foods". If the puppy is unable to make proper growth from meat, soft knuckle bones, eggs, whole wheat bread, dog biscuits and rich milk, there is something wrong ........

One of the best ....... was the late Cragwood Delight. Cragwood Macha is Delight's lovely daughter, and she certainly favors her dam. She is only a year and a half old so has never been shown. Cragwood Bridgit, a 34-inch matron, standing on splendid legs, has just left a husky litter by the imported Shaun of Ifold. Cragwood Conrad is a strapping youngster standing close to 35 inches, and weighing 148 lbs. the day he was one year old. Another superb young dog is Cragwood The O'Toole, a half-brother of Cragwood Delight and as like her as a dog can be.

Last spring, Mrs. Smith imported the well-known show and stud dog, Felixstowe Kilconly, to replace the young imported dog she lost in the fall. Kilconly is an imposing grey brindle, standing on good legs and feet and having plenty of breadth across the loin. His coat is quite rough and hard in texture. His dark eyes and profuse brows and whiskers, together with a strong foreface, give him a truly noble expression. He is out of Felixstowe Kilbirnie, which has produced so many good ones, by Ch. Felixstowe Kilshane, one of the most successful English sires.

There is not space to review all the inmates of this kennel, but I must not omit Toyon Bridget, the great-great-grandmother of some of the hounds. She is now eleven years old but still enjoying perfect health. The old hound is as sound as a dog could be, not so very large, usually weighing around 112 lbs., but she always had thrown large puppies. Bridget is a grey brindle, of rough coat and has dark eyes. She was bred by the late Joseph McAleenan and shipped to California when about a year old. Robert Barker's exquisite bitch, Edain, was a full-sister of Bridget but one of an earlier litter.

All of the dogs mentioned have separate and distinct personalities. Perhaps that they have no pack tendency has something to do with this. They prefer the society of man to that of other dogs. The breed is not classed with Foxhounds and Beagles which always run in packs. The Irish Wolfhound is perfectly at home in the house. He conducts himself like the gentleman he is. He is less in the way than many of the little so-called "house-dogs" that are always on the move, darting here and there under foot, up on tables and chairs and emitting shrill barks at the slightest noise or merely to show their joy.

An Irish hound does not go through the house upsetting furniture and demolishing porcelains with a lash of his tail as some imagine. Another point in favor of the Irish Wolfhound as a companion is his freedom from a "doggy" odor. In so large a dog it is quite remarkable.

There are many things that a person interested in dogs can find to love about the Irish Wolfhound. He may be big, but he is gentle to those he cares about and is lasting in his affections. And he has a supreme degree of dignity. Whatever the occasion, this big dog is ready to meet it with a calm and unconcerned exterior. It was this, perhaps, which first drew the attention of the owner of Rosegill.

"I like dignity in a dog," Mrs. Smith says, "and this was why I chose St. Bernards, Scottish Deerhounds, and finally the breed which I dreamed of from the first, the Irish Wolfhound. This great, gaunt, aristocratic hound has such a rugged dignity and majestic simplicity that he has been called a 'Lincoln' among dogs.
"An Irish Wolfhound has the sweetest of dispositions. I have never seen an ill-natured one, or one that I could not trust with a child. I have never known one that was vicious or treacherous. He puts fear into the would-be trespasser by his appearance and great size. If this is not sufficient, his mighty bark will usually bring the intruder to a standstill where, if he is wise, he will remain with the dog on guard until some one comes to his rescue."

This fancier, who is president of the Irish Wolfhound Club of America, is an out-and-out admirer of all breeds of dogs. She claims that she would like to have one of each save the Mexican Hairless. Yet she is partial to the large breeds. As already mentioned, she has had long experience with three of the biggest of them all, and consequently she knows this type better than the others. Her present venture in Irish Wolfhounds does not represent the first time that she has chosen the breed. She decided to procure a pair of them as long ago as 1910, but could not find the suitable one.

If this article seems to be rabidly in favor of the Irish Wolfhound, it may be credited to the real magnificence of the breed. Anyone who has had occasion to meet the big hound in his native atmosphere must become enamoured of him. And at Rosegill, that picturesque spot on the Rappahannock, Mr. and Mrs. Norwood B. Smith have contrived to give to the most aristocratic of canines the surroundings in which he revels. The combination thus produced is something that an enthusiastic dogman would go a thousand miles or more to witness. For the Cragwood wolf dogs of modern times have given to that estate something which can be found in few places of the world — a glimpse of the glories of centuries past.—END.


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