As we all know, many breeds have evolved considerably over time, though certainly not all. The Japanese Chin, for example, has changed very little over a period of centuries. Yet it is a close cousin to the Pekingese and both were classified as the same breed in England in 1898. It’s noteworthy to compare how the two breeds that were once so similar ended up looking so different because the Peke changed so radically. If you want to have a clearer picture, there is a beautiful Chin from 1903 preserved in the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring i that could win in the show ring today.
Improvements in Pekingese conformation came gradually of course, and you can track the progression and note which kennels were responsible for the most progress. Breed history points to the celebrated kennels of Alderbourne, Toydom and Caversham among those which stand out for the leading sires and winners they produced. But it was the Caversham dynasty that would rise to the greatest heights by the 1950s and 60s because the kennel produced not only the breed’s biggest winners and record holders of the 20th century, but sires that literally became pillars of the breed. With the use of Alderbourne and Caversham sires, we began to see major improvements with better heads and much more coat than ever before. A glamour factor was emerging. Those combined characteristics flourished when breeders began to linebreed to the Caversham dogs.
By the time the Caversham kennel was hitting a high, it had captured the interest and imagination of Pekingese
breeders worldwide. But the name ‘Caversham’ went even further and became emblazoned overseas into the
psyche of the entire American dog show world when Ch. Chik T'Sun of Caversham (pronounced "Chick Sun" see photograph below) came onto the scene. Chik T’Sun made a huge mark as Top Dog All Breeds in America back in the late 1950s and early 60s, having won 169 group firsts and 126 Best in Shows. Many American judges today remember the dog and comment on his showmanship and accomplishments in his day. His show record was a phenomenon at the time since there weren’t nearly as many shows in America then as there are today, and few dogs traveled by air or out of their geographic area as they do now.
Consequently, Chik T’Sun’s record remained unchallenged for twenty-two years. This gave our breed a unique distinction throughout the world, since no breed has held an all breed Best in Show record that long. Chik T'Sun topped off his remarkable winning record and sealed his reputation by becoming the first Peke to win Best inShow at Westminster in 1960. But there’s much more to the Caversham story that had a sweeping impact on the breed. So let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of the Caversham period and identify some of the important links to the dogs in today’s pedigrees.
The Caversham kennel was in existence in England from 1921 until 1967 when Caversham breeder, Miss Mary de Pledge, passed away. Early on in her career as breeder, she relocated her kennel to Shinfield Court in Reading in 1927, where she established what she called “perfect kennels for the Pekingese” with more space than her previous residence at “Caversham Court .” At that time her dogs were still the old type, very short coated and leggy, yet cobby with good faces. The more abundant, longer coat factor began to slowly emerge in the breed sometime in the 1930s and 1940s when the Cavershams and Alderbournes appeared on the forefront of that evolution.
For a few years, from 1948-1955 Miss de Pledge was joined in partnership by Herminie Lunham, later Mrs. Frank Warner Hill, who wrote a book and published a number of photos of some famous Caversham dogs. It’s titled Pekingese - Herminie Warner Hill, published by Foyles. Mrs. Warner Hill continued in the breed after Mary de Pledge died and her kennel was managed by Ruth Sheldrake of the Newabri affix. Unquestionably, one of the most famous Caversham dogs was of course CH Caversham Ku Ku of Yam who became the benchmark for modernism in the breed. Until recently he was represented in the yearbook of The Pekingese Club as the model of the breed standard.
Ch. Bettina's Kow Kow There were a number of other Cavershams and Caversham-sired dogs exported to America that did extremely well for leading breeders, such as Dorothy Quigley of Orchard Hill kennels in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, whose winning record in the breed spanned nearly forty years. Jack Royce (Dah-Lyn) was another with Ch. Kai Jin of Caversham who won fifteen Best in Shows. Then too, Edna Voyles traveled to England and took back to America a dog from Jean Eisenman called “Muffie,” Ch. Jamestown Kan Jin of Caversham (photograph below). Muffie was barely 8 pounds and made a significant contribution to Edna’s Cho-Sen breeding program in Louisville, Kentucky.
CH Caversham Ku Ku of Yam long time CC record holder in the Breed with 40 CCs and seven all breed Best in Shows. Grandsire of Chik T’Sun Ku Ku also held the record of all breed Bests in Show for the breed in the UK until the Crufts 2003 BIS winner, Ch. Yakee Dangerous Liaison, broke that record. Ku Ku’s CC record held for 48 years and was broken in 2006 by CH. Delwin’s Paddy O’Reilly who won 41 CC’s under 41 different judges.
In 1956 a big winning son of Ku Ku’s was born in the USA named Ch. Bettina’s Kow Kow (photograph below) who ranked #4 in All Breed ratings in 1961. Kow Kow was out of a black bitch imported from Britain in whelp to Ku Ku named Caversham Black Queen of Orchard House. Kow Kow won 23 Best in Shows, Best at Progressive Dog Club all Toy show in New York three times, Best of Breed at Pekingese Club of America summer specialty at Westchester and 71 Group Firsts.
Mrs. James Austin, who imported "The Duck" from England, had a large Peke kennel on Long Island, New York, in the 1930s and 40s known as Catawba. She had already introduced the Caversham name to America with Ch. Tang Hao of Caversham Catawba who won the group at Westminster in 1937. Both Mrs. Austin and her husband were prominent fanciers with separate kennels and the finest of many breeds of dogs, including some big winning hounds and terriers. Her husband’s Smooth Fox Terrier, Ch. Nornay Saddler, for example, was the winner of 56 Best in Shows including Morris and Essex in 1941 over 3,874 dogs. But Mrs. Austin was devoted to Pekingese and believed they should be raised to have "terrier temperaments," the idea being that coddling them could make them soft in temperament and keep them from having a showy attitude in the ring.
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