Article first appeared on Baraka Book n°10 - Spring Summer 1999
Roberto Forsoni interview Ken and Diana
Ken and Diana Allen have both been actively involved in the breed for 24 years. They are not prolific breeders; breeding only four litters under the Jazirat affix. They have made up four English Champions (including the Hound Group winner at Crufts), a multi Intemational Champion and the top Saluki since records began in Germany. Their non-titled stock have amassed a commendable number of Challenge Certificate's between them. Their stock has also achieved seven Junior Warrant awards - the Junior Warrant being similar to a Junior Champion Title, awarded for a prescribed number of wins between the age of six to eighteen months of age.
Ken is a member of the English Kennel Club, a Committee member of the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club, Committee member of the Huntingdonshire Canine Society and the event organiser for the East Anglian Supermatch. Diana was the secretary of the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club for seven years (retiring this year), being previously a Committee member for seven years and is currently a Committee member of the Huntingdonshire Canine Society.
Ken was approved to award CC's in Salukis
in 1990 and Diana in 1991. Since then they have judged 444 classes of Salukis and some 3000 entries. Ken has judged the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club Championship Show, the Northern Saluki Club's Open and Championship Shows, the Saluki Club of Canada's 30th anniversary Show, the Saluki Club of Greater San Francisco's Specialty. Diana has judged the prestigious Santa Barbara Specialty, the Hound Association in the UK and is the judge elect for the Saluki or Gazelle Hound
Club Championship Show in 2001. In addition they have both judged at the highest level in: Norway, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Germany.
They are the co-authors of "The Complete Saluki" published by Ringpress. This book has received excellent reviews from the World's Canine Press, sold out and has recently been reprinted. It was the first British book to receive a major award with the American Dog Writers Association. Ken was the joint publisher of "Saluki Heritage" (ceased publication) and currently publishes "Saluki International." Both magazines have received international acclaim and achieved numerous awards for design, photography and content.
Ken is a freelance designer and a lecturer in
Graphic Design and Visual Communication. Diana is an Upper School teacher in Mathematics and Art History. Both -have
been actively involved in the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club's judging assessment programme and Saluki seminars.
Please can you give me a brief introduction to your breeding?
KEN I will answer this question in a roundabout way. Diana and I have always been interested in dogs and both of our parents owned dogs. After our marriage we purchased a toy poodle as a companion and a pet. Our interest in the Saluki followed much later-we were living in Somerset and one day whilst out walking we saw a person with a group of Salukis; a breed we had not encountered before. They looked so elegant and ethereal that we both decided we would like to own one of these beautiful hounds. Although it was love at first sight, we delved into the history of the breed, visited dog shows and talked to breeders before becoming the proud owners of Jazirat Bey Sadi (Abi), whom we purchased from Janet Syms. Abi was a lovely cream bitch who completely stole our hearts. We had no intention of entering the show ring, she was purchased as a pet and we were just so proud to own such a beautiful Saluki.
DIANA Incidentally, this is a criteria we adhere to when selecting prospective owners for our own puppies; they must love the breed first and foremost and our puppies must be loved as pets. If they are only interested in obtaining show winners, then we are not interested.
KEN We were convinced that Abi was an outstanding specimen and to confirm our belief we sought an experts opinion. Her
opinion was encouraging, so we decided to enter her into the show ring. We were moderately successful, winning one
Challenge Certificate-no mean achievement in the highly competitive British show ring where entries are always in the region
of 100 Salukis. Our proudest moment was when Hope Waters wrote in a critique: "a beautiful bitch that looks like a piece of dresden china."
By now we were becoming avidly involved in the show scene and developing an eye for the type of Saluki that we preferred. We were completely under the spell of the Burydown's, bred by Hope Waters who subsequently became our mentor. So our
second Saluki was Ch Burydown Nazreen jw (Burydown Ghazi ex Ch Burydown Hephzibah). Nazreen was a beautiful black and tan, who captured our hearts and was devoted to me. She was the most obedient Saluki we have ever owned and would walk to heel, unleashed, through a field of sheep. Her crowning achievement was winning Best in Show at the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club Championship Show.
Our first litter was from Abi to Ch Timotheus of Chandav, bred by Viv Davies and Betty Chanter of the Chandavs. Regretfully and to our tremendous grief Abi died giving birth to her litter. We hand reared the litter, keeping a bitch (Marni) and a dog (Blaze). Blaze was eventually mated to Nazreen and produced Ch Jazirat Bahiyya jw who won fourteen challenge certificates and thirteen reserve challenge certificates, a Best in Show Winner, emulating her mother by going Best in Show at the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club Championship Show and became only the fourth Saluki ever to win the Hound Group at Crufts.
After Bronte's win at Crufts, she was mated to Ch Saklawi Birak Asra and retired from the ring. Her resultant litter produced two British Champions: Ch Jazirat Ilya at Tasia jw (Angel, owned by Liz Metcalfe); Ch Jazirat Iskandraya (Shannon, owned by Paul and Joanne Mahon), who amongst his other wins won a Challenge Certificate al Crufts and BIS International Multi Champion Jazirat Ibna Bahiyya (owned by Peter and Val Seitlinger, Germany). Ibna has won eleven Best in Show awards, 29 BOB's and I believe is the top winning Saluki in Germany since records began. Bronte has made infrequent returns to the show ring since her retirement and recently at a Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club Show, at the age of thirteen years, won Best Veteran in Show.
We kept Jazirat Ibriiz jw from Bronte's litter, although not as successful as Angel and Shannon she has a record of wins to be proud of: winning one Challenge Certificate and four Reserve Challenge Certificates. She was mated to Ch Cottonore Dameris and has produced a litter who are currently making their mark in the show ring.
DIANA We are not prolific breeders, on average we breed once every five years. Our aim is quality not quantity.
How did you choose your affix and what does it mean?
DIANA We didn't go through the usual procedure of looking up Arabic names, as Kennel Club regulations at that time, stated that you couldn't obtain an affix if you hadn't previously bred a litter of which one of the puppies had achieved a stud book entry. Therefore, as this was our first litter, we could not apply for our own affix. Abi died, we believe from an overdose of anaesthetic, during a caesarean section, so her puppies were very special to us and we were determined to get around this KC restriction. So we phoned up Janet Syms (Abi's breeder) and asked if we could share her affix - and to our delight she agreed. Janet only bred two Saluki litters and has subsequently lapsed her use of the Jazirat affiix.
KEN Coincidentally, the name Jazirat was most appropriate. Both Diana and I were raised on the Isle of Wight, a small island off the southern coast of England and Jazirat means Island. Janet had chosen the affix as she lived on the island of Thanet, which is a part of the County of Kent.
Paul and Joanne Mahon have recently become involved in the Jazirat affix. Is it easy for four people to work together towards the same goals?
DIANA We first met Joanne and Paul some ten years ago when they were looking for a Saluki. After a lot of research they approached us far a puppy from Bronte. Their first Saluki was Ch. Jazirat Iskandraya (Shannon). However, Shannon met a tragic death from clostridium perfringens Type D a toxic poison which attacks the gut. Although rare, when contracted it is nearly always fatal. In all probability Shannon contacted this toxic poison from seaweed on the beach. Only a week before his death Joanne and I, Chris Ormsby and Viv Davies had spent a weekend in a cottage in a large country estate on the coast in Devon. We have a video of Shannon playing and tossing seaweed into the air. It breaks my heart to think that this playful fun could possibly have been the cause of his death.
KEN Shortly after Shannons death, Diana and I invited Joanne and Paul to share our affix. We do not breed frequently, so we were concerned that relying on one brood bitch to continue our line could-if fate deal us a bad card-wipe out our breeding programme. The introduction of another partner into the Jaziart kennel, would decrease the likelihood of this happening. We were delighted when they accepted the liaison and we certainly cannot see any foreseeable problem working with Joanne and Paul. They are both very committed to the well being of the Saluki, and we share the same beliefs and most importantly we get on very well together.
What is the physical structure of your ideal Saluki?
KEN The flippant answer is one that conforms to the Breed Standard. However, as the Standard allows far a great variety of different Salukis within the overall umbrella of Saluki type, it leaves breeders to self interpretation.
I am a designer and college lecturer in the field of visual communication, which calls for visual literacy, aesthetic taste, balance, proportion, scale, contrast and so on. Design is all about balance and things looking just right; the difference between balance and out of balance is extremely subtle. The same attributes apply to the Saluki. I look for a Saluki showing harmony and balance, grace, elegance, beauty and that undescribable ethereal quality that sets our breed apart from other canines dignity and independence. The overall appearance of the outline should be a slightly elongated rectangle; all of our Salukis look slightly longer than tall but, when measured the height at the withers is the same as their body length. The recent height to
body ratio espoused by the fci's proposed Saluki Standard was of great concern to me; if applied to our dogs it would have added almost a further three inches to their body length, this would make them far more than an elongated rectangle and completely out of balance.
Moderation is important although many people interpret that word differently; I look for a Saluki with nothing too extreme. Moderate angulation, front and rear, a topline that gently flows down the neck, over the withers and gently rising over the loins and croup into the tail set. I like a front of adequate width and with a good fill-in of forechest - no inverted "V,' a deep brisket, a moderate spring of rib and a underline having a reasonable length of keel before rising to display a neat tuck-up. I like strong rear quarters, having a good first and second thigh and a moderate bend of stifle - I hate over-angulation at the rear, correct angulation is if you drop a vertical line from the croup to the ground the toes of the rear feet touch that line. The head should be balanced with a slight stop, but not too narrow and not too wide, the muzzle should be strong with a good underjaw, I prefer dark eyes, good pigmentation on the nose and eye rims, the ears should be set on high and the head should be in proportion to the body eg a more substantial Saluki will have a heavier head and vice versa. I do like to see feet with long toes with the middle two slightly longer and arched - too many have small cat feet. Movement should be graceful, floating, light and effortless with no overreaching or high stepping; it should be economic and energy conserving and when seen from the front and rear the footfall should move towards a central line. I know that dogs running around the show ring at great speed with excessive reach and drive look flashy and attract some judges eye but, that is to ignore the purpose of the Saluki. We must remember that the Saluki is a hunting dog designed for galloping and any excessive waste of energy at the trot would be detrimental to its function.
I always get very concerned when judges criticise convergence as close behind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Convergence or single tracking is perfectly natural, all long legged animals start off moving parallel and as the speed at the trot increases so does the tendency of the footfalls to converge towards a central plane in order to maintain its balance and to enable it to move easily and efficently; the greater the speed of gait the nearer the footfall to a single straight line beneath the centre of the body. In a correctly constructed animal, there still remains width (or daylight) between the point of hocks. Close behind is when the point of hocks meet together or touch.
Who do you consider the best Saluki you have seen, in the past or the present?
DIANA I think we will pass on that one. We have seen quite a few Salukis over the years who we would wish to own. However, once one starts to name names the question becomes very political and we may offend those who we may have inadvertently overlooked.
KEN Perhaps the easiest way to answer this question is to select the legendary Ch Sarona Kelb (1919-30), the first dog Champion in the breed and sire of ten Champions. From surviving photographs and articles written about him, he appears to fit the Breed Standard perfectly and would still be one of the greats in the show ring today. Two others immediately spring to mind: Ch Burydown Freyha, bred and owned by Hope Waters and Ch Burydown Iphigenia, bred by Hope Waters and owned by Jeanna Jaques. Of course there are many others but, like Diana I would hate to select one over another.
What are the traits that distinguish your kennel?
DIANA Most people tend to think of the Jazirats as being black masked reds, but to me that is cosmetic I would much prefer to be cknowledged for having correct conformation, elegance and true movement. After all if you haven't achieved these attributes in your breeding programme, you should be questioning your logistics.
KEN The biggest compliment anyone can pay is to say we have old style Salukis.
When you have a litter do you grade your puppies befare placing them?
DIANA Over the past 23 years we have only bred four litters and apart from gender it has been extremely difficult to differentiate between the puppies as our litters have been so even - so much so that we usually have to put different colour nail polish on one of their toes and make a note of what colour goes with which puppy. As a general rule we do not grade them, letting everybody choose their puppy and we keep the left-over. In the last litter we had two red boys, a red and three fali left our house we still had difficulty in knowing which fawn was which, and the litter was so even Ken and I couldn't make a decision on which one we should keep, I only knew that I did not want another red, so we just let everyone choose what they wanted and we were quite happy to have what was left. That is how even our litters are.
KEN Diana is absolutely right. We have great difficulty in grading our puppies. For example from Bronte's litter; all but one in the litter were undistinguishable from each other. One of the bitches was finer and we figured her too slight for the English show ring, so we did what we never do and graded her #3. Val and Peter Seitlinger in Germany, who loved Bronte said they would love to see this puppy and Peter came over to look at the litter. Peter walked into the puppy enclosure, our #3 straight away walked up and immediately staked a claim on Peter's heart. That puppy became BIS Int Multi Ch Jazirat Ibna Bahiyya, which just proves how wrong you can be.
How do you rear a litter?
DIANA Every litter seems to create different complications, so there is no easy answer to this question. Our first litter we hand reared, which was a tremendous problem. We had to bottle feed every four hours 24 hours-a-day, stimulate motions after feeding by gently rubbing their backsides and be very careful about maintaining almost sterile conditions as the babies had not received any natural immunity from their mothers milk. It was a very exhausting eight weeks. Nazreen's litter provided another problem, because after about two weeks she decided that the mother game was not for her and decided she had done her bit. She even didn't like whelping, after the first born she decided that all this was too much, so we had the vet in for the birth of the rest of the litter. Between the delivery of each of the whelps, he recited poetry to her. Bronte's litter was an absolute text book whelping. Everything went by the book and she was a tremendous mother. Ibriiz's litter had several complications, she decided to start producing late at night, she started to haemorrhage during one birth, another whelp got stuck, the sac broke and popped back inside her, luckily Ken managed to get her out and we had to administer resuscitation to revive her. Then Ibriiz developed mastitis after about one week, so we were back to hand rearing.
For the first two weeks we like the mother to do as much as possible for her litter, as we feel this is a very important part of the puppies learning regime. After about two weeks, we start to introduce solid foods to the puppies. Usually our puppies are completely weaned by between four and six weeks - to a large extent, it all depends on whether the mother wants to continue to feed them or not. Once the litter are up on their feet we gradually introduce them to the delights of the garden. Puppies are such time wasters, you can spend hours just watching and enjoying them.
We also encourage as many visitors as possible, to socialise the puppies and to get them used to us humans. We never over exercise our puppies, we let them exercise themselves - even up to at least six months. The puppies usually go to their new homes at around eight to nine weeks. For those interested in more details regarding raising a litter, our feeding regime and so on, can I recommend our book: “The Complete Saluki.”
The only other point I would like to mention is regarding feeding. We have tried all of the new complete foods and although I am sure they are very good we were beginning te get a weight problem. Now our dogs are fed a natural diet of stewing steak, two vegetables, a touch of garlic, gravy and kibble with a spoonful of a vitamin supplement Restore added.
What do you look for in a stud dog?
DIANA Something which will compliment our stock, first we look for genotype, if this falls short of our requirements we then look at phenotype. We are not kennel blind, we realise that there are some very correct Salukis that do not carry the same genes as the Jazirats, but their conformation is so very similar that we would consider using this stock in our breeding programme. I feel it is very important that as breeders you must be honest with yourself, and be prepared to rectify any hereditary faults you feel may be appearing in your stock, do not try to paper over the cracks, this is only a temporary solution - treat the problem.
What about Hereditary Diseases?
DIANA Joanne and Paul have put a lot of work and research into this area which has been such a positive part of our partnership.
The English Kennel Club states that the Saluki has no hereditary health problems which is a very satisfying statemenl However, as breeders we feel it is important to make sure that our stock is as healthy as possible and it is our responsibility to carry out all the necessary health checks whenever necessary. All our stock have had regular heart checks (doplar tests), and have passed with flying colours, they also have been tested for and show no evidence of vwd. We are concerned about vaccination and now have started to test titre levels every year before we vaccinate, and over the past few years the only “top up” vaccination they have needed is Leptospirosis. Our older dogs have not been vaccinated since they were eight years of age. We are waiting until our latest litter are two-and-half years old before carrying out tyroid tests.
KEN In our household, we still have Marni (from Abi's litter) now entering her seventeenth year. Bronte is thirteen. Ibriiz is eight and Shazaara has just turned two years of age. Blaze died (from Abi's litter) at ten years of age from prostrate cancer and Nazreen died at sixteen years of age.
Hunting with the Saluki was its original function, how do you try to preserve this?
KEN Coursing in the UK is still legal, although the present government is continually trying to abolish hunting with dogs. Official or organised coursing is conducted under special guidelines drawn up by a governing body. The Coursing Section of the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club has a restricted membership and one cannot become a member untit another member resigns. To begin with we attended meetings and walked the field but, could only run our dogs in byes. Abi was very keen but, never ran in serious competition. Nazreen was the first to be able to compete in competition, unfortunately she was so devoted to me that after about a hundred yards or so wanted to return to my side. Marni was excellent and won on several occasions. However, she received a serious shoulder injury during one run and lost her unsolicitated desire. Bronte had the odd run and performed well. However, due to pressure of work and so on, we drifted away. Now-a-days the coursing field is dominated by professional coursers. Coursing has become more serious and the top winning dogs are generally those that are seriously trained. To compete and challenge for top honours you need to devote an awful lot of time to get your Saluki into tip-top condition. Although all of our Salukis are very fit and in good muscle condition, regretfully we no longer have the time to fine tune our Salukis to the demands now required on the coursing field. However, we still run our hounds, as we have a friendly farmer who allows us to run over his land. So our Salukis still get their chance to chase after the hare.
You (Ken and Diana) are also famous judges and you have judged in many countries around the world. What is the situation in the countries you have judged?
DIANA We have both been most fortunate to judge all over the world: Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. We have both been most impressed with the quality of our entries. Recently we filled in a judging questionnaire and discovered that between us we have judged almost 3000 Salukis. I think that generally there are Salukis in every country that I would be delighted to own.
What are the main difference between English and American and European Salukis? What are the specimens have impressed you?
KEN I have been particularly impressed with all of my major winners and have no qualms about any decision I have made when judging. The overall quality of Salukis around the world is very good. Some ten to twenty percent are excellent in all of the countries that I have been invited to judge in. Then we get the average Saluki, conforming to Saluki type but, just lacking that little bit extra. All of my Best of Breed Winners have greatly impressed me.
I am not too sure what the definition of an English, American or European Saluki is. I do know what people perceive and generalise about when they use these terms. Most that do have only seen photographs and have never visited the countries, so their perception is based upon show win photos in magazines. I have been fortunate to visit and see Salukis in almost all of the countries involved in dog showing and although these generalisations could apply to some of the stock exhibited there are also many beautiful Salukis who would win in any show ring and in any country. For example, if you go to Kentucky, USA where there is always an entry of some 500 Salukis, you will find every type and all three perceived categories. So how can one isolate and pigeon hole one style as the American style. The major problem facing our breed is the quality of judging and the tendency, in some countries, for judges who overlook the function of our breed and look for a flashy, nontypical but a generic show hound.
You have recently imported an American dog. Why this decision and why this line?
KEN We had been considering introducing some fresh blood into our breeding programme and had for some time been impressed with the Timaru Salukis (a type based on old Jen Araby and Burydown bloodlines), bred by Lesley Brabyn in the USA. We were looking for a male whose phenotype would complement our own breeding and high on our list of priorities was: conformation, temperament, movement and elegance. So we spoke with Lesley to enquire about her breeding programme. We were particularly interested to learn that Lesley intended to mate Ch Timaru Zephyrus and Ch Lorrequer Escapade at Timaru - Diana had judged Zephyrus at Santa Barbara and I believe gave him Winners Dog. So we decided to import a puppy from this litter. Both Joanne and I went over to California on separate occasions and were very impressed by the litter - so we imported Timaru Valkyrie of Jazirat. Kyrie lives with Joanne and Paul and we hope that he will fulfil all of our expectations - I am sure he will but, only time will tell.