Al Baron (1909 - 1995)
"Royal Irish" Kennel UK and USA
(Afghan hounds and other breeds)
(By Steve Tillotson July 2017)
Albert Baron was a grandson of Bernhard Baron the millionaire owner of Barons Tobacco Co, located in London, England. The following is a summary of Bernhard Baron, in his own words (source Jewish Telegraphic Agency, JTD) - "I was born in Russia, at Brest-Litovsk. That was in 1850. I was taken as a child to Rostov-on-the-Don, and there I grew up among the Don Cossacks. I am really more of a Cossack than anything else. Then as a young man (he was 16 years old at the time) I went to America. I had nothing in my pocket when I got there. However I got to work without any waiting-$4 a week-and saved $2.50 of them. I worked, oh, how I worked and I went on saving; every week I saved. I saved because I wanted independence; because I wanted to have a business of my own. I did not think then how great a business. After I had been thirty years in America, I came to England. I had invented a machine for making cigarettes. I brought it to England, sold it for 100,000 pounds sterling and with the proceeds I purchased a small tobacco business that was for sale. It was small, but it was not unknown. It was Carreras. It manufactured a pipe tobacco that Sir James Barrie had written about in his 'Lady Nicotine.' In 1903, I bought that Carreras firm. For five years I made no profits. In the sixth year I made a profit and after that, well, every year more".
Under Bernhard's management Carreras went to extraordinary heights of prosperity and made Bernhard Baron a millionaire. In 1905 he became a British subject. Upon his death in Brighton, south England, he was cremated and buried beside his wife in the Willesden (London) Jewish cemetary. His factory was closed for the day of his funeral as per his wishes so that as many of the 3000 employees who wanted to, could attend his funeral. The Prime Minister sent a note of condolensce, such was the high regard and standing of Bernhard Baron. During his lifetime, one estimate is that he donated around 15 million pounds sterling to various charities, hospitals etc. His estate/will amounted to 5 million pounds with family, friends and charitable causes being the main benefactors. The final sentence of his speech in opening the convalescent home at Brighton he funded sums up the man:- "I have nearly three thousand employees and I consider them my children, and anything I can do for them I will do. I have very faithful people and they all work with all their zeal to do the best they can. There is only one happiness in life, and that is to protect others and to give to others."
Bernhard Baron 1928 (Left), Al Baron 1932 (Right)
Bernhard Baron had two daughters (Sadie and Frances) and one son (Sir Louis Bernhard Baron). His daughter Frances married Albert E. Guggenheim on November 1, 1899 and our Albert Baron
is the offsprting of Frances and Albert E Guggenheim. Albert Baron was born in New York in 1909 and was an American Citizen. He died in Santa Barbara California,( the area he lived in for most of his life) in 1995.
Al Baron married three times, first in 1928, and then after a divorce in Reno, Nevada he remarried again, later in 1935 to Marietta Malcolmson a naturalised American citizen, originally born in Canada. He had one daughter with his second wife - Rheta Lois Baron, born 15th December 1935. He was apparently estranged and separated from his second wife by the early 1940's and they eventually divorced in Mexico in 1944. Al Baron then married his third wife Clara Gertrude 'Diana" Davies (born in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, June 6 1917) in Marylebone, London, England in October 1944. Al and Clara remained married until his death in 1995.
Al Baron lived in both England and the USA in the period 1930's - 1960's, frequently crossing the Atlantic Ocean as he went back and forth between his homes and interests in both countries. His California base was largely Southern California, Los Angeles or surrounding area. At one time he appeared to be resident in Missouri and possibly further eastwards including Virginia and New York. In 1928, he eloped with and marred Mary Elizabeth Uzzell, a Norfolk VA high school student. News of the marriage prevented him from entering the Naval Academy at Annapolis because the entry requirements to the Academy stipulated that applicants must be si ngle. His Grandfather died in 1929 and left Al Baron a legacy of one million pounds sterling, payable once he reached the age of 30. In I932, Al Baron was residing in California, USA and he had taken a job as a waiter in a small cafe in Hollywood after the Trustees of his London Estate had cut off his allowance of approximately USD 1,000 a month because they decided he was wasting his money and spending it to quickly. Al Baron commented at the time that he was looking for work and was prepared to take on any job, except that of a gigolo because his wife would not approve. It appears he wasn't planning to enter the family tobacco business and had aspirations for a naval career. It seems then that in the early 1930's he was treading water waiting for his legacy to mature.
Al Baron as a waiter, Hollywood, California, USA, 1932
The early 1930's were a difficult time for the young 20 year old, especially when the Trustees stopped his allowance. He took the job as a waiter to show to the Trustees that he was prepared to take a regular job of work and demonstrate he could be responsible, then, hopefully they would reinstate his allowance. The allowance was basically the interest being earned on the 1 million pounds sterling held in trust until he reached age 30. In 1932, he borrowed small amounts of money (sometimes as little as 20 dollars) from a variety of friends and contacts. He repaid three small loans with checks, but unfortunately his checks bounced. Eventually, a couple of his debtors reported this to the police and he was charged with issuing checks when he had no bank account. His case went to the Municipal court in Reno, Nevada, in December 1932, where it was referred to the Superior Court, and the case was heard there on April 14, 1933. He he was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail and given one years probation.
Al Baron in court 1932
The following notes are typed on the reverse of the above press agency photograph - "Special to NY, Cleve, Chi and S.F. Held for trial by municipal judge Irvin Taplin on four counts of issuing checks when he had no bank account, Albert Baron Guggenheim, self professed heir to Guggenheim millions yesterday amused the court room audience by grimacing and sticking out his tongue at the spectators. Following the courts decision to hold him for trial in Superior Court, Baron was released on USD 2500 bail. Sally Arnold, a Cafe cigarette girl testified she gave the youth various sums of money and that he had given her a check for USD 290.00 which bounced. Photo shows Baron in court. Acme Los Angeles Bureau 12/29/32"
**UPDATE OCTOBER 2019 - All seemed set well for Al Baron from the late 1930's onwards- but we recently found a news item " People Who Cant Stop Gambling
authored by a reporter By Ken Gardiner for the "The People" newspaper, London, on 11 December 1966" that reveals his money troubles continued.
There are thousands of gamblers in Britains Gaols. Often they are sent there for embezzling from their firms to pay their gambling debts. (There is even a branch of Gamblers Anonymous in Wandsworth Gaol.) BUT it is in the mental hospitals that the effects of compulsive gambling are seen at their pathetic worst. It was In such an establishment, near Epsom, that I met Albert James Baron. aged 57. He was there because he is a compulsive gambler. Mr. Baron b an American. although he was educated in England and has lived here for many years. He is the grandson of the late Bernard Baron. the founder of the Carreras tobacco empire. and was born to riches. But when I met him at the hospital just over a week ago, he told me: " Fortunes have gone through my hands. Now, apart from a small Income. I have nothing. " I HAVE SPENT EVERYTHING ON GAMBLING." As I have already indicated, compulsive gambling knows no social cr intellectual barriers. Apart from being born Into the cream of American society. Mr. Baron speaks five languages, has a university degree—and an I.Q. of 174. He recalls that his ftrst bet was as a small boy at Tonbrldge School (England). He had saved up pounds sterling 25 pocket money and when an uncle took him to the 1925 Derby, he put the lot on the winner, Manna. " The thrill It gave me was indescribable," Mr. Baron told me. " When my friends found out. I was the most popular boy in the schooL" He banked his winnings but the rot was in. The gambling bug had got him. Within a week or so every penny had been lost with local bookmakers. That was Just the start. A few years later, Al Baron was an international playboy of renown. His allowance from his family was nearly pounds sterling 250 a week and he drew a further income from investments. And he gambled away every penny in Reno. Las Vegas, London, Paris, San Remo and the South of France. Once he caused a sensation at the Savoy Hotel by wagering pounds sterling 100 a time on the number of suitcases belonging to guests as they were carried through the main doorway. He started one of the most famous Afghan hound kennels in the world. He won trophies by the dozen—and in the end sold them all to obtain more cash for betting. When the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act became law. Al Baron was swiftly caught up in the casino mania which swept London. himself: "I loved to be the centre of attraction." On one occasion he did the round of the West End casinos and by the end of the night won pounds sterling 10,000. He stopped playing and the following day he paid off his debts. A new leaf? Not a bit. The same night he carried on playing with what was left. pounds sterling l,OOO. He quickly lost it, obtained credit of another pounds stgerling 3,000, and lost that, too. In the following weeks he borrowed and lost amounts for a total of pounds sterling totalling £25,000. Much of it was obtained on credit from various casinos. The rest was advanced by friends who thought he needed money for business ventures. "I wanted to die." Baron told me. Mr. Baron is frank about his weakness. " When I gamble. 1 experience a thrill that is every worthwhile human experience rolled into one". " But don't ask me WHY. It's something I can't explain, I just HAVE to do it". Recently, after a bad night in the casinons he went basck to the Bayswater hotel where was staying and locked the door of his room. He took a box of sleeping tables from his luggage and swallowed them with a glass of whisky. "I wanted to die" Baron told me. "There seemed nothing left. I was out of my mind with worry. I owed so much and I could not bear the thought of facing those who had trusted me." The next day he was found unconscious on his bed. An ambulance was called and after an examination at the Paddington General Hospital he was taken to the mental hospital. Al Baron told me about his last run of bad luck. He lost pounds sterling 9OO playing in a small gambling club at Stoke Newington, London, and a few nights later lost pounds sterling 22.000 playing dice at the Olympic and other casinos. End of update
AL BARON THE ALL ROUND DOG PERSON
Al Baron was an all round dog person. Although Afghan Hound people know him for his association with the Afghan Hound Rana Of Chaman of Royal Irish, his activities and involvement in dogdom extend into many other breeds in several countries, including the UK, Europe and the United States. As one of our contributing sources stated "He went to Europe, mainly England, at least twice a year, to purchase dogs. Most of these purchases were for specific breeds for his clients. His clients trusted his judgment, and rightly so. Many of these purchases became top winners and others essential breeding choices".
It appears that he became involved in dogs around 1929, which involved him importing various breeds from the UK for his own kennel and/or for other fanciers or customers. This wide variety of breeds included - Irish Setters, various Terrier breeds, Cockers, Greyhounds, Bloodhounds, Pointers, and several others. We don't know why he chose "Royal Irish" as his kennel name. He frequently traveled to both North and South Ireland , he was foremost a Terrier man and liked the Irish Blue Terrier (aka Kerry Blue Terrier) particularly, At one time he had as many as 45 Irish Setters in his kennel in California. Whatever the reason, his kennel name became well known throughout UK, Europe and the USA.
In January, 1935 he purchased a kennel in Altadena, near Pasadena, California, about 14 miles outside of Los Angeles from Frank Foster Davis, a famous all-breed Judge. He spent approximately USD 15,000 developing and improving the kennels which had both long and small runs, a modern kitchen and hospital, vermin-proof food bins, and heated sleeping quarters with bedding of cedar shavings. There were also grooming tables and a show-off platform on which he exhibited his dogs for visitors. This canine business activity represented a significant and positive change in his personal circumstances from just a few years earlier. The presumption is that he financed the purchase of the kennels by a loan which was secured against anticipated future funds from his legacy from his Grandfather's estate.
Judge Frank Foster Davis
awarding best Brace to the Baron's Afghan hounds
at the Long Beach show, California 1939
Handled by Harry Sangster (L) and Ben Brown (R)
In the late 1960's the Royal Irish Kennel relocated to Yorba Linda, Orange County, California, about 35 miles outside of Los Angeles. Yorba Linda today a is a city of 65,000. It has the distinction of being the richest city in that affluent county and one of the richest in the entire country based on median household income. Yorba Linda was also the hometown of President Nixon. His kennel moved a couple more times, but always staying in the LA region, - Long Beach, Van Nuys etc
Many of his imports became multiple BIS winners; his kennel name Royal Irish was familiar coast-to-coast in the USA. In November, 1939 Al Baron's Pointer Drumgannon Drake of Royal Irish, which he imported from England won the sporting group at the Los Angeles Kennel Club show. The Catawba kennels imported the English bred Afghan Hounds - Westmill Hamayun Of Catawba , Lakshmi Of Geufron-Catawba in 1937/1938. In addition to their Afghans, Catawba also owned Smooth Fox Terriers, Golden Retrievers and Poodles on their 52 acre property in Long Island, NJ.. They also owned the Pointer Drumgannon Drake of Royal Irish first owned by Mr. Msr. Baron. The Kuhsan kennels of Lt R W Samspon were located in California (San Mateo, then Los Angeles, then, finally, back north to San Francisco) from the early 1930's. They imported several Afghan Hounds from England. On 8 Sep 1941 their English Setter - Royal Irish Reproduction, imported from England by Al Baron went Best In Show at the Santa Cruz Dog Show. At the Catalina Kennel Club Show held in Tuscon, Arizona in March 1936, The Barons caused an upset when their Cocker Spaniel exhibit - Black Rock Of Siskiyou beat the well known Cocker Champion Sand Spring Stormalong, owned by the famous and successful C.B. Van Meter of Van Nuys California. The Barons' exhibit also gained its Championship at the Catalina show.
He was Vice-President of the Lakeland Terrier Club (USA) and his Ch Edgemoor Egg Flip won two Best In Shows, his Terriers were frequently in the top ten for the Terrier group in the USA. His English import Eng, Am Ch Bannisdale Lisduff Rebellion, also in the top ten, had a Best In Show under Louis Murr and was the only Lakeland to defeat the famous Garden BIS winner Stingray. Lakeland Terriers of Royal Irish have achieved big wins such as BIS at the Terrier Club shows in the UK. As well as importing dogs from England, he also imported dogs from Ireland, one such notable being the Smooth Fox Terrier Distillery Duke that went to Don Rosetti in the USA and had a very successful show career. In December 1939 he won BOB with his imported UK Afghan Hound Rana of Chaman at the Palm Springs, California, show. As a further measure of Al Baron's standing and reputation in the world of dogs we quote a report published in the Arizona Repubic Newspaper in 1935- "Mr, Mrs Baron own 11 of the pacific coast's best show dogs"..
Advert for Royal Irish Lakeland Terriers 1971
AL BARON'S "ROYAL IRISH" AFGHAN HOUND KENNEL
Al Baron was active as a breeder/exhibitor of Afghan Hounds for about 35 years from the 1930's through to the late 1960'S. We mentioned earlier that he appears to have started out in dogs around 1929 which is the earliest date thus far that we have found any news archives mentioning any dog involvement/activity.
The earliest record of his involvement in Afghan Hounds involved the brindle dog Asoka Of Prides Hill (Badshah Of Ainsdart x Sultana Of Prides Hill, born 8/24/34). Asoka was registered in the AKC stud book June 1936 with breeder/owner listed as Q.A. Shaw Mckean (Prides Hill). According to the AHI database as of October 1939 the owner was Miss Rheta Louise Baron (USA - Rheta's) Rheta was Al Baron's daughter, born on 25th December 1935, so she would have been 4 years old when she was registered as owner of Asoka. We have found multiple show reports for the year 1939 of Asoka being exhibited at Shows in California, Illinois, Pensylvania, and New York.
Al Baron acquired a second Afghan Hound from Q A Shaw Mckean, a fawn coloured bitch - Rheta's Roodles Of Royal Irish (Badshah Of Ainsdart x Kaccana Of Prides Hill, born 10/17/37), registered in the AKC stud book May 1938 showing the owner as Rheta Lois Baron. A curious thing about Roodles' registration is that she does not carry the Prides Hill kennel name, despite her being bred at Prides Hill by Q A Shaw Mckean, but instead she carries the Royal Irish kennel name.
Al Baron's third Afghan Hound was a bitch from Amelia White's Kandahar kennel in New Mexico in the South West - Azara Of Kandahar (Amanullah Of Kandahar x Lelah of Kandahar born 9/10/1938). Below is a news item from 1940 going winners bitch at Westmister, February, 1940.
Azara Of Kandahar WKC 1940
Marietta Baron with Rheta's Roodles Of Royal Irish
Asoka Of Prides Hill and Rana Of Chaman Of Royal Irish
Asoka of Prides Hill and Roodle of Royal Irish
Genesee Valley KC show at the Armory
in New York on 1st March 1939
Asoka of Prides Hill, Los Angeles, Dec 23 1939
Asoka was also shown at the International Kennel Club's show in Chicago on 2nd April 1939. The show entry for the Chicago show lists the owner details as Rheta Lois Baron, New Canaan, Connecticut - reasonably close to the area of Prides Hill kennel, which was located in Connecticut. We suspect that the New Canaan address was not actually his daughter's address (she was 4 years old at the time), but more likely that he maintained a residence/accommodation on the east coast - a) as a staging post for his frequent cross-atlantic visits to UK and Europe, b) As a base from which he could service his wealthy east coast dog clients, .such as Mrs Austin, of Catawba in NJ.
Asoka of Prides Hill
Owned by Rhetta Lois Baron, Chicago Show, April 1939
RANA OF CHAMAN OF ROYAL IRISH
Rana of Chaman Of Royal Irish had 6 owners (7 if you include the time Rana spent living with Mr Bamburger's professional handler John Hicky). Rana must have had a marvelous temperament to cope with the constant change of ownership and environment. Below is a summary of the ownership changes -
RANA OF CHAMAN OWNERS.
- 1938 -Rana was bred (3/14/38) by Molly Sharpe (Chaman), news archives show she owned
and showed Rana through 1938
- 1939 -Next we have Reg Floyd (Ravelly UK) owning and showing Rana from 1939
- 1939-1940 - At the end of 1939 Al Baron acquired Rana and he was renamed
Rana Of Chaman Of Royal Irish and he was exported to the USA registered in the
AKC stud book for January 1940. Al Baron exhibited Rana
for a brief period before passing him on to Marion Foster Florsheim.
- 1941 - 1945- Marion Foster Florsheim (Five Mile) had tremendous success with him
gave great prominence to the breed with this success. Rana was
also a very
big/important stud dog in the history of the breed in the USA.
We find multiple
show reports in the news archives from February 1941 through
off Marion Foster Florsheim exhibiting Rana,
- 1946- When Marion disanded her kennel in 1946 because (she said) she was now an
Interior Decorator, Rana passed to John Bamburger in Utah. Mr Bamburger employed John C
Hickey in Hollywood, California to handle Rana, So Rana must have lived with Hickey in CA
and not with Bamburger in Utah for a lot of the time
- 1949-According to Joan Brearley, Rana's last owner was Margaret Hawkins who we
have identified as owner of the Hecklebirnie Kennels in Los Angeles, breeder of Afghan hounds
and Bedlington Terriers 1940;s - 1950's.
CROSSING THE ATLANTIC WARTIME 1939
WWII started in September 1939 and the Germans had an extensive network of Submarines that in the early stages of the war were devastating. Around the time Al Baron crossed the Atlantic in 1939 the Germans had sunk 23 British Ships in as many days, so it was a scary expedition. Below is a news item mentioning one such wartrime crossing in those scary times - -
Wartime Crossing of the Atlantic, 1939
Al Baron with Rana wearing a gas mask 1939
AL BARON AND IRELAND
A news item published in the Northern Ireland newspaper the Belfast Northern Whig on 26 March 1940 states - "An interesting visitor to Ireland (Dublin, the Irish Kennel Club show actually) just now is Mr Albert Baron, a native of California, and a grandson of the late Bernhard Baron, well known in the tobacco world. A well known aviator he was to have led an international brigade of airmen, who were to have helped Finland. He devotes much of his time in America to flying. Mr Baron flew to Dublin for the Irish Kennel Club Dog Show and carried off several awards. Yesterday, he secured the championship award at the Fox Terriers Show in Belfast. In 1940 he obtained the Fox Terrier Twinkle Star of Glenbarvie in Scotland and exhibited and won with the dog at the Fox Terrier championship in Belfast, The dog was eventually exported to his kennels in the USA.
ROYAL IRISH AND HORNINGSEA (UK)
During his visits to the UK to purchase dogs for his USA clients, Al Baron frequently stayed as a guest of Marna Dods at her Horningsea Kennel. They became close friends and collaborated on some breeding activity which resulted in Horningsea exports to the USA and offspring of those exports being exported to the UK. The following is a summary of the Royal Irish/Horningsea activity -.
1. Ch Horningsea Mustagh Ata (Horningsea Sagittarius x Horningsea Marue, born 11/30/63) bred by Marna Dods
Mustagh Ata was exported to Al Baron's USA kennel early in 1968 where he was used at stud in a variety of American kennels. One of his most influential offspring in the USA was AM and UK Ch Huzzah Excelsis Of Horningsea (Horningsea Mustagh Ata x Red Rock Duhst) bred by Pat Ide (Huzzah. USA), who was exported to Marna Dods. Excelsis was used by several US kennels prior to his eventual exportation to the UK where he was used in the breeding programs of several UK kennels including Balkasha, Koolaba, Zendushkas, and Horningsea etc..
2. Horningsea Aramis (Horningsea Khanabad Suvaraj x Afa Of Westfield Lodge)
This is a particularly interesting story, and we quote from Margaret Niblock's book, page 196 - "Aramis had led a troubled life, changing hands many times and even went to Spain and back, undergoing all the trauma of quarantine. His true love was for his one-time owner, the famous American breeder, Mr Al Baron, for Aramis was a hater of the human race and resented the limelight, and Mr Baron hated dog handling in Britain!.
3. Horningsea Onyx (Horningsea Tigers Eye x Horningsea Kashka, born 10/25/67), a dog bred by Mr L G Ames of Kashka was exported by Al Baron to his USA kennel in July 1969
4. Royal Irish Riffari, and Royal Irish Rajena (Horningsea Tigers Eye x Horningsea Kashka born 1/4/69), two bitches bred by Marna Dods
These two bitches were exported to Al Baron's USA kennel. It appears that Marna had became the owner of Kashka, (or maybe she had a loan of bitch agreement with Mr Ames) and Marna bred several litters out of Kashka between 1967 - 1971
5. Royal Irish Rupee, Royal Irish Ranee (Horningsea Silver Fox x Horningsea Bletchingley Shelagh. born 3/29/69),
These two bitches were bred by Marna Dods and exported to Al Baron's USA kennel.
A feature of the above is that the pedigrees for all of the Horningsea exports to the USA mentioned above (Except Aramis) contained the American lines that arrived via the US exports of Ajman Branwen Kandahar, or Wazir Of Desertaire. We will explain shortly out thoughts on this feature.
AL BARON BY DAVID GREEN, MRCVS, UK NOVEMBER 2019
In contemplative moment recovering on a hospital bed and bored beyond imagination I used Google to search for some of the clients I had served and was amazed to find the long article by Steve Tillotson on Al Baron. I thought you might pass my recollection on to the author.
As a young enthusiastic veterinary surgeon in 1965 I had the privilege of caring for Marna Dodds afghan hounds at Glendee Kennells and of course came across her occasional friend Al Baron. He was a man to test your patience with his enormous self confidence, his apparent knowledge of veterinary medicine and surgery, his experience of crashing aeroplanes, his claim to be miserly treated by his rich family, and a history of his female conquests but I spite of this tedium he still had my RESPECT.
He was a superb dog handler outside the show ring. Marna also ran a boarding kennels and worried, frightened dogs in strange surroundings can often be viscous. I was always relieved when he was around to assist me when boarders needed treatment and the most memorable moment came when a boxer dog needed injecting for a skin infection; this dog was in attack mode as soon as I approached the kennel door. “leave it to me boy” was his cry and he pushed inside and after a scuffle came out holding this dog in the air by its scruff and its rump. Muzzles did not fit on boxers at that time. After duly injecting it the dog was replaced in its kennel; it knew it had met its match.
And then there were the breaks when he disappeared to Ireland to purchase show dogs for American clients. I was involved as I had to examine these dogs and provide necessary health certificates for export and transport. I tend to remember a fair number were spaniels but 54 years on I still recall a most handsome wire haired fox terrier and above all a show greyhound that was so stunning it would compare to a Greek marble statue.
He had a great eye for a wide variety of breeds.
Al Baron was hard work; you had to do a lot of listening but I repeat he had my respect.
I hope that these memories have interest
David Green MRCVS
AL BARON THE CONTROVERSIAL CHARACTER
Normally AHT avoids expressing an opinion or offering a hypothesis about aspects of breed history. We avoid so doing because we may have no personal knowledge of the dogs or people involved and therefore prefer to present the information as recorded in breed history archives, and let our readers form their own opinions. Occasionally, it is helpful (after undertaking extensive research and examination of the facts) for us to offer an analytical summary (or hypothesis) to a given situation. Clearly, in the case of Al Baron, and as evidenced by some of his life's experiences/activities (young marriage/elopement, court appearances etc) which we have documented above, his life was not without controversy. We have reason to believe that his involvement in Afghan Hounds also involved some controversy. We reached out to several people of very long standing in the breed, in the UK and USA, and who would have known Al Baron personally, and/or themselves been active in the breed in that era and would have had knowledge of him and his hounds. We are grateful that two of these people were able to provide some recollections and details about their knowledge and encounters with Al Baron. Below we detail our contributors summaries on Al Baron -
Our first contributor writes - "Al was a Terrier - he didn't start a fight but once in it he would fight to the bitter end. It was difficult to separate truth from fiction in his stories. I must admit that when I checked on some of his stories - mainly Terrier - they turned out to be plausible stories. Al had loyal friends and fierce enemies - there was no middle ground as far as Al was concerned. I remained a loyal friend. I felt he had an excellent eye for a proper Afghan Hound. Al was a real all round dog person. Al dealt in dogs. He went to Europe, mainly England at least twice a year, to purchase dogs. Most of these purchases were for specific breeds for his clients. His clients trusted his judgment, and rightly so. Many of these purchases became top winners and others essential breeding choices. His name appeared on many dogs, but he was almost always overlooked due to the prominence of the co-owners. He didn't seem to care that he was being ignored. He was a strong influence in many breeding programs. He was quite opinionated, but willing to listen and change his mind. Many did not understand that part of his character. He chose his friends deliberately. We do not have any characters like Al in the dog world today.".
Our second contributor writes - "Back in the 60s there was a significant anti-American segment within the UK breed community. One trigger for this was the misconception that "American" Afghans and brindles in particular, were responsible for hip dysplasia. Rumor had it that it took three attempts to get Horningsea Tiger's Eye cleared, and that Horningsea Tiger Doll was dysplastic. It was wrongly believed that Tiger Doll was one that Al Baron had taken back to the USA with him, along with Horningsea Mustagh Ata.. When in fact Marna Dods retained Tiger Doll and bred from her. Al Baron also stayed at Marna Dods' Horningsea kennel during his visits and exported several Horningsea hounds to the USA. This involvement may have caused some jealousy and negativity. I don't think about Al so much as a breeder, I think about him much more as a fancier that could afford to buy, keep and show dogs with paid help - like a lot of wealthy people".
I think as we progress, that readers will appreciate the fairness, and accuracy of our contributors' summaries. Let's now hear from Al Baron himself. The following extracts are taken from an Interview that Al Baron gave in September 1969.
In response to the question - "How do you compare the Afghans of England and those of America?" Albert replied - "As always, this becomes an odious and tiresome task. The dogs are completely different. The English dog is a heavier-set animal. He has great shoulders, great reach of neck, and he has no ring manners as compared to the American dog, but still he moves infinitely better when and if he feels like it. The American dog is a manufactured one taken to matches at age 2, 4, and 6 months so that when he walks into his first class, he is a well mannered dog completely blase with what is taking place. He is not interested in the guy next to him... he knows what it is all about. He is a craftsman, however, as to his being as good, I sincerely doubt it. If I felt him and knew he was as good, I assure you that I would not have imported the four dogs that we now have. [snip]".
Another question asked was - "Do you feel that Afghans have vastly changed over the years?", After a lengthy response detailing his view on how changes such as fronts, lack of stride, lack of refinement etc he continues thus - "I have seen Afghans in India, certainly not in Afghanistan, but in Egypt and throughout the world and I have never seen Afghans comparable to the American Afghan as far as ring manners are concerned, but truthfully, and I am a person who has dedicated at least 35 years to the breed, I would not want an American Afghan. I don't like the eyes, the expression, and I certainly don't like the temperament in any way. There are more sneaky biters here (USA) today than one can imagine . [snip] ".
Al Baron did not have a monopoly on being controversial with his views on the breed. Our second senior contributor informed us about Hip Dysplaysia rumors contributing to an anti-American sentiment in the fancy in the 1960's. The American import to the UK - Ajman Branwen Kandahar was diagnosed at 8 years of age as having Hip Dysplaysia. HD was subsequently also found to exist in British Afghan Hounds too, and this was unfairly attributed to American imports. Another dimension to this anti-American sentiment - Margaret Niblock in her book informs us that the American import Ajman Branwen Kandahar was deeply suspicious of strangers, and that a few of his siblings were shy. So further controversy may have been stirred up within a section of the British fancy that all American Afghan Hounds had spooky temperaments as well as carrying HD. I mention the above anecdotes just to exemplify how easy it can be for one incident, or rumor, to trigger a wide section of the fancy to become anti-something or anti-somebody.
Dennis Mccarthy (Pooghan, UK) 1970 Advert shown below stating "There is no American blood in any of the above", a sentiment perhaps reflective of some UK fanciers attitude towards American breeding in that era?
The sometime volatile British relationship with Americans goes back a long way - in 1932 the English Champion Badshah Of Ainsdart was exported to Prides Hill Kennel USA, and Margaret Niblock in her book (page 129) wrote - "It was felt at the time that Britain had been robbed of one of her finest stud dogs". Pretty strong word "robbed" huh! Nine years later, along comes Al Baron, he purchases Rana of Chaman, takes the dog back to the USA, exhibits Rana successfully then sells him on to Marion Florsheim. Marion flies Rana to shows all over the USA and Canada. They both become celebrities, and Rana becomes one of the most influential and important Afghan Hounds in the history of the breed in the USA. A few decades later in 1968 Al Baron does it again, he takes English Champion Horningsea Mustagh Ata back to the USA where he proved to be a valuable stud dog. Additionally, as detailed earlier, Al Baron takes several other Horningsea hounds back to the USA. Was this another case of "robbery" and would this have caused an anti-Al Baron sentiment? To compound his "sins" Al Baron would stay as a guest at Marna Dods' Horningsea kennels. What! now we have this brash yank stealing our best dogs and a guest of one of our top breeders! You can be sure there was a section of Brits who disliked Al Baron. Whether they had good cause so to do or whether it was just a bad case of jealousy, is another question.
I wanted to end this lively section on a positive and will end with the words mentioned earlier by one of our contributors - " I felt he had an excellent eye for a proper Afghan Hound. We do not have any characters like Al in the dog world today."
AL BARON FOUNDER MEMBER - TAIL WAGGERS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA
In 1935 Al Baron was one of a group of people who established the "Tail Waggers Foundation Of America", a non profit, to promote dog welfare all over America. Celebrity founders included - Bette Davis, Dolores Del Rio, Leslie Howard, Walt Disney.
AL BARON BREED CREDENTIALS AND INFLUENCE ON THE BREED
Al Baron was involved in Afghan Hounds for 35 years. He had hands on knowledge of the hounds at the founding USA kennel (Prides Hill). He would also have known and interacted with some of the pre-war breeders in both the UK and USA. For example, he mentions Molly Sharpe in his writings. His early involvement in the breed in the USA particularly earns him credit as one of the pioneers who helped establish the breed there, especially on the western side of the USA alongside kennels such as Dellire, Oakvardon, Fatima, Kingway, Kandahar, Kuhsan etc. His swansong was to collaborate with a leading UK kennel (Horningsea) in the late 1960's. Thus he was one of those rare people with roots back to breed origins and an activity timeline which extended into modern (1970) times. There are few such people in the history of the breed that can lay claim to such an impressive set of credentials. Having said all that, Al Baron's influence and significance in the breed is perhaps less than some other famous Afghan Hound people such Eta Pauptit (vDOM Holland), Sunny Shay (Grandeur, USA) etc. The "crown" of top Afghan Hound person in the history of the breed in our opinion belongs with Molly Sharpe (Chaman UK) who had a longer period of involvement in the breed (1931 - 1976), having started out several years before Al Baron did, plus Molly was active for several years after Al Baron had left the scene. And, in my view, no other breeder can match the importance and influence of Molly's Chaman bloodlines on the breed worldwide (excepting the original importers and founding breeders of course).
In assessing Al Baron's place in our breed history, we should remember, that unlike the majority of the famous kennels and breeders, Al Baron was not involved full-time in the breed. His day job involved regular traveling out of country to select and procure dogs of all breeds for other people dotted all around the USA. That by the way does perhaps make him unique amongst our famous names in the breed. Many of our famous breeders had second or third breeds which they bred and exhibited alongside their Afghan Hounds. Molly Sharpe, for example, bred and showed Daschunds. Al Baron was involved in breeding several breeds at his kennel, but involved in dozens of breeds in his business as an international dog-dealer. As one of our contributors stated, Al Baron was an" all-round dog person" perhaps more so than any other Afghan Hound person we can think of.
LIFE magazine, November 26, 1945
Maion Florsheim, Rudiki and the Five Mile Afghan hounds
Rana of Chaman of Royal Irish (in Molly Sharpe Section)
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