"Ruritania" Afghan Hounds UK
And Borzoi, Deerhounds, Salukis, Bull Terriers
(By Steve Tillotson, November 2014)
Aline Doxford was the grandaughter of Wiliam Doxford who founded the ship-building firm of Doxfords in 1840 and he was a brother of Sir Wailliam Theodore Doxford, who for many years was head of the Doxford ship-building company and represented Sunderland (N.E. England) iin Parliament. Aline Doxford was the daughter of Mr C.D. Doxford (1856-1935) (affectionally referred to as "Mr Charles" by the Shipward workers where he also worked alongside his father Sir William). Aline had a brother Charles Doxford Jnr who lived in Windermere (Lake district, England).
The following additional information in this introduction section was written by Douglas Smith, president of Sunderland Antiquarian Society and published in the Sunderland Echo Newspaper -" Aline, the only daughter of wealthy shipyard director Charles Doxford, was born in 1884 and spent her early childhood at Grange House, Stockton Road. In 1902, however, her father took a 99-year lease on Silksworth House. Aline was to remain on the secluded 24-acre estate, surrounded by animals, until her death in 1968. Aline Doxford won fame around the world for her award-winning deerhounds, salukis and terriers. Indeed, in just one day her dogs won 14 competitions. “She bred champion after champion,” “They loved her, and she loved them. The dogs were her world.” “Miss Doxford never married and lived a reclusive life. She rarely left home other than to show her dogs at Crufts, where she had great success,” “It is interesting that Miss Doxford was often referred to by people in the area as Lady Doxford, yet she was never awarded this title. Perhaps it was her great wealth.”
Local legend has it that Aline’s interest in dogs was sparked following her move to Silksworth, when she discovered an old deerhound had been left by a previous tenant. The Doxfords were told they could put the dog down, if they wished, but Aline refused – saying the house was the dog’s home, and she should stay for the rest of her life. “This was how she first became attracted to the deerhound breed and, as the dog’s name was Zenda, she adopted the name Ruritania for her kennels,” said Douglas. “The dogs in the yard – Deerhounds, Salukis and Bull terriers – were all show dogs, and there was a room in the courtyard which was used as a kitchen for them. “She also had a room in the big house for her little dogs – the Pekingese and King Charles spaniels. Again, there were many of them. “The room had beautiful carpets and furniture; the little dogs would be draped all over the chairs, chaise-longue and floor. On the walls were dog photos, cups and prizes.”
The fame of the Ruritania Kennels spread far and wide from 1908, as Aline won prize after prize. No expense was spared, with each dog brushed and groomed almost daily. “Ownership of a stud dog was expensive, with all the care needed, and to own two was very rare because of the cost of food – especially during the war,” said Douglas.. “Breeding was suspended around the First World War, due to these exorbitant costs, but it was not a problem for Miss Doxford and she had four – an unheard of number. “She had little trouble in winning, because she ran a big string of animals, and could enter several at one show. However, she appears to have been a judge only twice. “It is thought that Miss Doxford was not a member of the ladies section of the Kennel Club as, being somewhat a loner, she was uninterested in the social side of activities.” The needs of each and every dog appear to have been much more important to Aline, who spared no expense in buying quality food and seeking advice from vet Mr McDowell.
The above press cuttings show Miss Doxford exhibiting Borzois and Deerhounds in 1906 and Saluki's in 1929 and 1937. The keen eyed amongst you will have noticed in the 1929 snippet that Miss Doxford was competing against Mrs Couper (Garrymhor). Miss Doxford owned Saluki's bred by Mrs Couper
2. THE EARLY YEARS AND DOGS
We have traced Ms Doxford''s involvement with dogs to 1906 when she exhibited Borzois and Deerhounds at Crufts and won several prizes at that show. Miss A N Hartley, one of the most famous and endearing names in Scottish Deerhounds mentions Ms Doxford in her book "The Deerhound" - Miss Hartley went with her father to the Kennel Club Show at the Alexander Palace in 1925, saw the Deerhound and decided that was the breed she wanted. Miss Hartley saw an advertisment for Ruritania Deerhounds in "Our Dogs" newspaper. Miss Hartley went to a show with the purpose of meeting Miss Doxford, and asked Miss Doxford if she had a bitch puppy for sale. Miss Doxford did not and refered Miss Hartley to another breeder (Miss Richmond) who had a bitch of her breeding. Miss Hartley writes that Miss Doxford explained that "she had given up Deerhounds and was moving into Saluki's" (and Afghan hounds, as we shall see below).
Miss Hartley tells us that she met Miss Doxford in 1925 who told her "she had given up Deerhound and was moving into Saluki's". Well, in fact Miss Doxford had already moved into Salukis by 1925, earlier in fact. Miss Doxford owned the Salukis Sarawan of Ruritania a desert bred born in 1919 and Tazi of Ruritania a desert bred female born in 1920. Miss Doxford bred from her Saluki bitch in 1923 and from her Saluki dog in 1924. In fact Miss Doxford bred around 10 Saluki litters between 1923 and 1934. Miss Doxfords breeding was built upon a foundation from the famous Sarona Saluki kennels
Our research indicates that Miss Doxford was an owner/exhibitor of Deerhounds since 1906 and that she bred a few litters herself in the decade 1913-1923,. Her activity in Deerhounds seems to diminish around 1923 (which is consistent with Miss Doxford having got into Salukis in 1923 and declared she was moving from Deerhounds to Salukis). Miss Doxford was hugely successful in Deerhounds. Below is a photograph of her with seven (yes 7) Champion Ruritania Deerhounds.
2.3 AFGHAN HOUNDS
Miss Doxford was not as busy/active in Afghan Hounds as she was in Salukis and Deerhounds. Miss Doxford owned two Afghan hounds -
I guess Miss Doxfords success with Saluki's and Deerhounds would be a hard act to follow? Well, she owned two Afghans and both became Champions, pretty good record in the breed methinks
Miss Doxford was exhibiting Saluki's and Afghans at the same time in the early 1930's. And there is another connection with Miss Doxford to Afghan hound people. In 1933 Miss Doxford owned and exhibited the Saluki Garrymhor Zaro at Crufts, the Saluki was bred by Mrs Olive Couper, the famous Afghan hound breeder.
Miss Doxford was indeed busy, she exhibited a total of 4 Saluki's at that show.At Crufts 1934 she was exhibiting a puppy Saluki she had bred plus several other Salukis and her Afghan Hound Yakub Khan of Geufron, she got 3rd in open with Yakub. Miss Doxford did not exhibit any breed at Crufts 1935 ,but 1935 was the year her Father died, so perhaps that had a bearing on the situation? She was back at Crufts the next year, 1936 exhibiting Saluki's.The last year we find her name in the catalogue is 1938, exhibiting Salukis. Mis Doxford bred her last Saluki litter in 1936, Miss Doxfod was also exhibiting Borzois in the period 1903 - 1910 and she made up at least one Champion (the male - Ch Mythe Czar) in that breed as well. Pretty impressive record - active in multiple hound breeds from the beginning of the century through to the late 1930's, made up Champions in Afghan hounds, Salukis, Deerhounds, Borzoi (and probably Bull Terriers, I didn't research that breed).
AHT recently found a Croxton Smith article written in December 1928 which reads as follows -
"Considering tha the desire of every ambitious exhibitor is to possess champions preferably of one's own breeding, Miss Aline Doxford, of Silkworth House, Sunderland has every reason to be satisfied with the results of her efforts. There are not many who could produce a photograph containing eight living champions, though they may have kennels of far more pretentious dimensions. As long as I can remember, Miss Doxford has cared more for quality than numbers, and since she started exhibiting' deerhounds she has seldom been without several that were entitle to the complimentary prefix. Indeed, my note of a few weeks ago about Mrs Holmes's notable performance in winning both challenge certificates three years running with her schippeerkes at Bath, promptly brought me a letter from a deerhound enthusiast, who pointed out that at eight consecutive shows of Mr Cruft's, beginning in 1914, and ending in 1924, (omitting of course, the three war years, in which nothing was doing), Miss Doxford's dogs won fifteen out of the sixteen certificates offered. The odd one went to St Ronan;s Rover whoafterwards passed into the "Ruritania" kennels. I repeat the question I asked about Mrs Holmes - can anyone give me an authenticated instance of anyone having done better? Seven of the eleven dogs and bitches that received the fifteen certificates were home-bred, and thewhole lot became champions. Myra, Prince Rudolph, and Mervyn, all bearing he affix of Ruritania appear in to-day's picture, and Ch Patrick of Ruritania must have earned his qualifications elsewhere.
In 1924, Miss doxford turned her attention to Salukis, which were then coming into much prominence, and since she bagan showing the puppies from her first litter of this she has done remarkably well, having won seventeen challenge certificates with different dogs. She bred six of them, and showed her judgement by picking up the other two as puppies of three months old. Three of them are champions, viz, Hama, Tarzan and Hassan, which may also be seen in the photograph, and the eight celebrity is the French Bulldog, Ch Paul of the Barge, who must be there to relieve with his impudence the effect of so much dignity. Deerhounds and salukis have undoubtedly manners and bearing that are dignified to a degree. One admires them for their lack of fussiness or fawning. Devoted they are, but their fealty is offered in a way that displays no subservience Croxton Smith 1928
3. SILKWORTH HOUSE THE DOXFORD HOME
Aline Doxford on her death, in 1968, bequeathed the house and estate to Sunderland Corporation. Her will was declared at £292,231. The house was renamed by the Corporation to Doxford House in honour of the contribution made to the town by the Doxford Shipbuilding Company. The house was originally taller; a storey was removed after fire damage. The date 1847 is marked in the rafters, and a wing was pulled down by Aline Doxford at the time of the 2nd World War, as she thought the house too big for one person. Her brother had the semicircular wing as his quarters before his marriage; he later died in the Lake District where he and his wife had gone to live. The ghost of General Beckwith has been sighted many times since the 1930s at the foot of the stairs and in the master bedroom. (Source - Douglas Smith, president of Sunderland Antiquarian Society)
As is apparent from the above, the Doxford story on Afghan hounds is fairly small (but she made up both her Afghan hounds to champions) , however, her involvement and support of the breed would have been helpful to the cause of establishing the Afghan hound in those early years. It is said she was responsible for re-kindling interest in the Deerhound after it had faded in popularity. She was active in Saluki's in the early foundation years, and active in Borzois and Bull Terriers as well. Being involved in so many hound breeds she knew just about everybody. Her Deerhound lines are behind Ms Hartley's "Rothrwood" Deerhounds. So in many ways Miss Doxford was significant in the development of several hound breeds. A fascinating lady, probably an eccentric, reminds me somewhat of Clara Bowaing (Larkbeare), Afghan hounds, Shetland Sheepdogs and Poodles.
****Update 6th November 2017 - Found a lovely photo/article in the Tatler magazine from 1925, copy of scanned article is below -
History Of Doxford Park (Silkworth Estate) Sunderland Echo 2016
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