Irish Wolfhound History

The Ouborough Kennels

Started in the early 1920s by James Voase Rank. J.V. Rank was a brother of J. Arthur Rank, the film magnate. Their father was a miller in Yorkshire and had a grinding windmill, from which J.V. built up a business empire.

The kennels were started at Ouborough Place in Surrey but the name Ouborough is that of the Yorkshire town in which J.V.'s father started his business. The first dogs were Great Danes and the first litter produced two champion Best in Show winners. As the Rank prosperity grew, home and kennels were moved to Barn Ridge, a house in South Nutfield, Surrey with 70 acres, which was renamed Ouborough. It was here that the enterprise spread out into Guernsey cattle, thoroughbred horses, and Irish wolfhounds. J.V. also had coursing greyhounds but these were housed in Ireland.

J.V. Rank with pair of wolfhounds  James Voase Rank 
with Clodagh of Ouborough and Gypsalia

Another, final, move was made to a mansion near Godstone, Surrey, which had 170 acres, tennis courts, stables, and a well stocked lake.

It is impossible to mention Ouborough and J.V. Rank without also mentioning J.V.'s kennel manager, Bill Siggers, who was in at the start of the kennel enterprise and whose own Great Dane bitch (re-registered as Lisa of Ouborough) produced that first litter to one of J.V.'s champion Harlequins. The other person who played a major role in the kennels was Patsy Rank, J.V.'s second wife. She had Dachshunds and Samoyeds for some time but her favourite breed was the wolfhound.

Patsy Rank   Patsy Rank with group of wolfhounds

The kennels at Ouborough were designed carefully to give the best possible accommodation and ease of care for the dogs, with kitchen and food storage alongside, and, besides the kennel runs, a wired-in exercise field in which puppies were allowed to romp at will. Adult hounds were often exercised behind a bicycle around the local lanes to ensure good muscle development (a procedure of which Mrs. Nagle (Sulhamstead) and Mr. Everett (Felixstowe) strongly disapproved).

 The kennels in 1930
 The Ouborough Kennels in 1930, near Godstone

The first wolfhounds at Ouborough were Gipsalia (s Felixstowe Tipperary, d Felixstowe Alana; wh. Sept. 16, 1923 and bred by Mr. & Mrs. Wild), purchased from Mrs. Wild, and Caragh Clodagh who was purchased from Mr. Everett of the Felixstowe kennel. Clodagh was bred by Mrs. Bruce Lockhart, by Ch. Felixstowe Kilshane ex Caragh (dam of Sulhamstead Thelma and Conncara) and was whelped April 28th, 1924. She went first to Isaac Everett but when, in 1925, James Voase Rank wished to start in Irish Wolfhounds (he was already very well known in Gt. Danes), Mr. Everett sold him Clodagh as one of his foundation bitches and James Rank reregistered her as Clodagh of Ouborough.

Aged just 10 days over a year old, she was shown at the L.K.A. held on May 8th, 1925, judge T. Hamilton Adams, where she was entered in five classes. She won 1st in all of them, took the Bitch CC and BoB, also winning two cups (New Member's Cup and Non-Champion Bitch Cup), the Crufts silver plate special, and the Graham Shield. At this time she measured 34 inches to the shoulder and was described in the show report printed in The Field as "a fine large reddish brindle bitch, in every way a credit to her owners and breeders." On May 19th at Ranelagh she did not do so well, coming 2nd in Junior and Novice. In the show report she was described as "A huge bitch, nice head, good body and enormous bone, and although so big, she has wonderful quality." Two days later at Bath show, she won Junior, Novice, Limit, and Open, and the CC. She gained her title at Richmond Show on July 7th, where the description read: "was shown in A1 condition; she has size, soundness, substance, and quality in plentiful proportion; a real good bitch."

Some of the other reports of her at shows were: A beautiful hound, very tall with big bone, good body and head (Bath, May 21st, 1925) and at Richmond, where she won her 3rd CC from Junior, This hound continues to improve and is a dark brindle of the right type with great bone and nice expression. Her only fault is in front but she is young yet and may straighten out. A statue of her forms the Clodagh Cup, which is given at the Irish Wolfhound Club Championship Show for the hound with best head, eyes, and expression.

By November, 1925 and the age of 18 months she had won six CCs. Every exhibitor's dream come true? Yes, but tragically, before the end of November she was dead, killed by what was described as "septic pneumonia", which also, three days later, claimed Gipsalia, the other bitch with which James Rank started in wolfhounds. Gipsalia had at least had a litter, so there were puppies from her, but Clodagh was lost.

Ch. Clodagh of Ouborough
Ch. Clodagh of Ouborough as a youngster
Clodagh of Ouborough  the Champion Clodagh Cup
and in the same pose as for the Clodagh Trophy The Champion Clodagh Trophy
Given at the Irish Wolfhound Club Show
for best head, eyes, and expression
 Gypsalia and Clodagh  
   Gypsalia and Ch. Clodagh of Ouborough
(Gipsalia's name - by which she was registered - was always spelt with a 'y' in the Ouborough ads)

During 1925 Isaac Everett, in his "Wolfhound Whines" column in "Our Dogs" wrote: "The Irish Wolfhound Club is to be congratulated upon Mr. J.V. Rank having joined its numbers. This gentleman was of very great assistance to the Great Dane fancy in importing so many good specimens, and at a time when this fresh good blood was very sorely needed. He is now, however, turning his attention actively to Irish Wolfhounds. It is over two years since I had my first conversation with Mr. Rank on Irish Wolfhounds, resulting in a start being made on what I consider the right lines - viz., beginning with bitches, and so gradually, by breeding them rightly mated, build up a kennel on the right foundations. The two "corner-stones" with which this gentleman has commenced his structure are Mrs. A.B. Wild's Gypsalia, and the writer's Clodagh Caragh, now Clodagh of Ouborough. Gypsalia was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Wild, by Felixstowe Tipperary ex Ch. Felixstowe Alana, and a very good bitch she is. Clodagh came from that wonderful brood bitch, Caragh, the property of Mrs. Lockhart, of Rugby. Clodagh stands 34 in. at shoulder, and with all her great size she is soundness and quality personified. I sincerely hope this good sportsman will have the luck he deserves, and certainly he has begun well by Clodagh winning at Olympia (L.K.A.) last week right through - five 1sts, three cups, Cruft's special, bitch challenge certificate, and the Graham Irish Wolfhound challenge shield for best Irish Wolfhound in show, at 12 months and 10 days old. "

And later that year: "I have a very bad piece of news to hand. Mr. J.V. Rank, of South Nutfield, Surrey, writes me that Ch. Clodagh of Ouborough has recently died of septic pneumonia, and after a few days illness Gypsalia died of the same illness. What a terrible blow to a fancier to lose his first two Hounds so soon after buying them! Clodagh was by Felixstowe Kilshane ex Caragh, and bred by Mrs. Bruce Lockhart of Rugby. Right up to the last she had a most brilliant show career, for at the time of her death she was only nineteenth months old and had won for Mr. Rank some eight or nine challenge certificates, besides a host of specials, including many cups and other trophies, the chief of which was the Graham Irish Wolfhound Challenge Shield for best dog or bitch at the L.K.A. Show this year. She was a 34 in. bitch of wonderful type, quality, and substance. Gypsalia was by Felixstowe Tipperary ex Ch. Felixstowe Alana, and bred by Mrs. Wild, of Patcham, and was a very sound beautiful bitch of lovely outline. She has had an uncheckered career during Mr. Rank's ownership. Fortunately she has left a very beautiful daughter behind her. I felt that these two bitches were capable of laying a foundation on which to rear as good a kennel of Irish Wolfhounds as it is possible to own. I am, I believe, voicing the feelings of the entire Irish Wolfhound fancy in offering to Mr. Rank our sincerest sympathies in the great loss he has sustained."

A piece on the kennels in Our Dogs Supplement of December 10th, 1926 reads "Situated in one of the beauty spots of Surrey, the "Ouborough" kennel is fortunate in its position. Away from the main road, it is possible to exercise in the numerous lanes, and I saw about thirty youngsters go out for their afternoon exercise with but one person in charge, and he on a bicycle; wonderful training, by the way. The kennel comprises two breeds — Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds; and although numerically very strong, the high quality and evenness of type speaks volumes for the keen perception of Mr. J.V. Rank. This gentleman, who has vested interests in many big commercial firms, finds his hobby a great relaxation from business ties, and in addition to the dogs he has a pedigree herd of Guernsey cattle and several horses, so finds his spare time fairly well occupied with his livestock. The arrangement of the kennel is as near ideal as the most fastidious could desire, all in the open, the dogs on the whole running straight out into extensive wired-in runs, covering a 17-acre meadow. The matured animals are on one side of the road and puppies on the other. The estate extends to about 70 acres, so the inmates have fresh air and exercise in sufficiency. One thing attracting my attention was a motor-van, in which six large dogs can easily be carried about the country, in the form of kennels, each partition of which can be taken down and when necessary thoroughly scrubbed out — a great idea, which will mean the saving of time, money, labour, and certainly rail worries.
"One of the greatest desires of Mr. Rank is to have nothing but home-bred in the establishment, and it is a gooseberry to Lombard Street ere very long his wish will be fulfilled, for he has a grand lot of youngsters produced on the premises coming along — numbering well over twenty — each waiting their turn to come out. Another thing this gentleman is keen on is soundness; an unsound one to him is impossible, an abomination, and not to be tolerated. The writer can safely say on the day of this most interesting visit not a suspicion of a 'crock' was to be seen, and I saw the whole lot, for Mr. Rank most kindly gave me the 'open sesame'.
"Harking back for a moment, the arrangements for the feeding of the dogs is second to none; all cooking is done alongside these most attractive kennels. There is a top-hole store for the foods, whilst all refuse is put into an incinerator and burnt up, thereby reducing the chance of infection to a minimum. Three other items it is advisable to mention before proceeding with the inmates. In the first place, it seems ten thousand pities that Mr. Rank has so far not judged; what an entry would be obtained, whilst his placings, it is sure, would prove an object lesson, he having very keen ideas in some directions, the expounding of which, I am confident, would prove very interesting. Secondly, praise is richly deserved by his kennel manager, Mr. W.G. Siggers. I have never seen a man more devoted to his charges, and as a handler he is second to none, the same remark applying to his judicial capabilities. The form in which he puts down the dogs is known throughout the fancy. Thirdly, Mr. Rank is so keen on the welfare of the breeds in which he is such a luminary, that he is always pleased to allow anyone to go over the kennel, and by this we mean there is no need at all for visitors to purchase, but just have a look at the inmates. I can assure them it will be an object lesson, apart from any advice needed, which will be given by either Mr. Rank or his manager. Few are so generous as this; still, it goes positively to prove the owner is out solely for the breeds, and not for gain, would there were many more like him."

Group of hounds 
 A group of Ouborough hounds

Other early Ouborough hounds were Felixstowe Kilbrin (by Felixstowe Kilbarry ex Felixstowe Kilbirnie, wh. September 14, 1924 - his name was changed to Houndsworth of Ouborough); Diarmud and Fergus, littersister and brother by Ch. Felixstowe Kilshane ex Felixstowe Roscrea, wh. October 25, 1925; Thor of Ifold (s Garrick, d Lady Clodagh; wh. March 18, 1924); Iduna of Hindhead (born February 18th 1925 by Cragwood Darragh ex Lady Clodagh); Acushla of Ouborough (born January 27th, 1925, by Felixstowe Kilbarry ex Caragh); Chulainn Connacht (born February 24th,1927 by Sulhamstead Conncara ex Deborah) and Lindley Saint (born October 15, 1927, by Sulhamstead Conncara ex Macon of Stourton).

   Fergus of Ouborough
   Fergus of Ouborough
 Iduna of Hindhead  Chulainn Connacht
Ch. Iduna of Hindhead   Ch. Chulainn Connacht
  Acushla of Ouborough 
   Ch. Acushla of Ouborough

Erin of Ouborough was a full sister to Chulainn Connacht, but almost a year younger, having been born January 18th, 1928 (by Ch. Sulhamstead Conncara ex Deborah). She was first registered as Chulainn Ransom. Her litterbrother, Chulainn Ryno, also went to Ouborough but not until 1929, when his name was changed to Galleon of Ouborough. He was to do a great deal of winning and to become the first Ouborough International Champion.

Erin of Ouborough   Ch. Erin of Ouborough

The Kennel Gazette of October, 1929 carried a picture of Galleon Ouborough after he had become a champion but before he gained his Irish championship. The accompanying article read "Winner of three Challenge Certificates, Green Star, fifty-five Firsts. In Best Sporting Brace at the Kennel Club Show, 1929. Six Gold and Silver Medals. Also holder of the following important Cups: the Type, Ch. Clodagh, Coval, Strohmenger, Knockfierna, Kennel Club ChampionCup, etc.

Ch. Galleon of Ouborough 
(K.C.S.B. 549KK)
The Property of Mr. James V. Rank,
Ouborough, Godstone, Surrey

Ch./Ir.Ch. Galleon of Ouborough was three times BoB at the Club Show, twice BoB at the Irish Kennel Club Show, and won Best in Show at the Ladies Kennel Club show in 1930.

 Galleon of Ouborough Galleon of Ouborough 
Ch. & Irish Ch. Galleon of Ouborough   

Patsy Rank with group of hounds 
 Patsy Rank with Lindley Saint, Ch. Iduna of Hindhead, Ch. Erin of Ouborough and
Ch. Galleon of Ouborough

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Updated September 21st, 2005