News From Argentina
Rossmore Kennels from Argentina
The Rossmore Kennels are situated in Canuelas, 80km south of Buenos Aires, in the middle of the Pampas. The kennel, the only one for R&W Setters in LatinAmerica, was started in 1998 after a visit to Ireland, where we came across the IRWS and fell for their intelligence, their hunting instinct and their beauty.
The first dogs arrived at the end of 1998, and they were:
Fergus (Sheebhinn Easpaig) and
Shannon (Ardbraccan Shannon).
And in the year 2000 we also imported
Clover (Caispern Snowhite at Ardbraccan) and
Sugar (Dairerose Crystal Clear)
These dogs have been the base for our breeding programme. We wanted hunting lines that could be dual, and up to now we have been very successful in achieving both our objectives. We would very much like to add a new male at some stage which we hope to concentrate on next year.
As we had anticipated, the arrival of the IRWS to Argentina was met with a mixture of admiration and apprehension. Here was a dog that not only could hunt but which also looked well in the ring. The breeding program was looking very hopeful and there was keen interest from other setter breeders. However, at the end of 2001, a major financial crisis occurred in Argentina and we had to review our whole strategy. We had managed, up to 2002, to get our dogs to many shows (where they were very much admired) and to hunting trials, even though the distances were enormous (one must not forget that the province of Buenos Aires is the same size as France; and many of these trials were held outside the Province ).
The wins were very consistent in both beauty and trials and Fergus also turned out to be a great hunter, he excelled at the trials and was the first dual champion in the breed, ending third overall in the ranking of hunting dogs in Argentina in the year 2001. This was of course a credit to Canon P. Doherty and Ms Maureen Cuddy, their breeders. Fergus is a very special dog, very intelligent and a great companion, he is at the taller end of the IRWS and heavy boned, extremely fast and tireless, moves very well, has a good nose, a biddable disposition and a steady character. It has given us a strong start to our lines and we can see in their offspring that the nose, the drive and the character are absolutely first class. Some of our dogs have been very successful at shows and, even though there is no competition from other IRWS, they've managed to win and get placements in the gun dog group on a number of occasions and even BIS. We bring our dogs mostly to International shows, we are reluctant to show them at National show as judges, not familiar with the IRWS standard, have penalized our dogs for their coat (poor in comparison with over groomed and over haired North American style Irish Setters). In fact a month before the World Dog Show in 2005, when Rossmore Oisin not only won BOB but was selected amongst the 6 final hunting dogs in group 7, a local judge refused him a CAC because of his poor coat!!!. By the way, he is absolutely speckless, but he certainly does not have a flowing coat.
We live in the middle of the Pampas and the kennels are next to our house. Because there are only two of us managing the kennels and enjoy having the dogs around us, we are very strict with their upbringing and their obedience. In that way, we manage to set them free twice a day even though there are no fences to stop them from running away. I cannot say our dogs are saints, and we certainly have had our scares, but we have not lost a dog as yet and they enjoy their freedom. The 15 dogs (plus a stray) eat outside the kennel together (most breeders that visit our kennels cannot get over this) and there’s never been a problem with aggression. Our dogs are accustomed to cattle, horses and cows and have learned to respect them, although we do keep them under closer control when calving season arrives.
We also have hens and even though the puppies must learn from an early age, they eventually recognize them and respect them. Occasionally, there can be minor accidents, but the dogs either learn fast or the hens reproduce faster. Every morning all the dogs are brought for a long run with Juan Jose accompanying them on horseback across the fields to keep them in good physical condition, and twice a week they are brought hunting in groups of two or three at a time. Our dogs are trained to hunt partridges, although we hear that some of the dogs we've sold are also used on ducks and pheasants (not indigenous, planted from farms on hunting reserves).
We have 15 IRWS at the moment, seven demented hunters, three keen ones and five which pretend not to hunt but who are as good as the rest. The point is (no pun intended!), the instinct is there, no matter what. We've had dogs returned to us that were kept in small gardens for most of their early months and, two weeks after they arrive, are as good and as keen as the rest. Our dogs love hunting, and we love to see them hunt.
Our aim is to establish the breed in Argentina, or at least to get it started. We've had four litters so far, most of the puppies have gone to hunting homes in Argentina and abroad, and some as pets. Our last litter was particularly successful; we sold one of our puppies to the Editor of the most important hunting magazine in Argentina. He's been a very good Ambassador for the breed; he attends field trials all over Argentina and reports have arrived to us from different sources with glowing comments on the excellence of this particular dog. That sort of exposure, we think, works much better than dog shows which, sometimes, are more beauty shows and attract the wrong sort of owners. At the same time, not all our dogs will turn out to be keen hunters, and some can adapt very well to live as pets. We always go to great pains to try to place them with the right owners; this, to us, is one of the most difficult parts of breeding dogs. A good dog can be destroyed by a bad owner and the wrong dog going to a good owner can damage one's reputation. I'm sure it's the same problem all over the world, especially with conscientious breeders.
Our breeding plans were seriously curtailed after the financial collapse of 2001, as it became very difficult for dog breeders to make ends meet. People did not have the money to keep a dog, let alone buy one and, on top of that, the price of dog food skyrocketed. [A word of warning here: we tried to change their diet and started giving them raw chicken but it affected their immune and hormonal systems due to the enormous amounts of antibiotics and hormones they give to poultry over here. They are on a special diet now, half raw bones, half dog food; they do not eat raw vegetables; this seems to be working).
Fortunately, things are improving on the economic side in Argentina and we are planning a litter at the end of this year between Rossmore Orlagh and Rossmore Oisin, both World Champions in 2005. We are very careful to whom we sell our dogs.. We've had problems with some owners in the past who did not realize that the naturally ebullient character of these dogs is one of its greatest assets (but can, and we do admit it, be occasionally trying). It's usually the case that these people end up not being able to manage them and bring them back to us. There is no Setter rescue association in Argentina, only dog pounds which are kept in appalling condition. Therefore, if we do take a dog back, we try to re-house them, and when that's not possible we keep them, hence our care when breeding.
Overall, the IRWS has adapted very well to Argentina. The summers can be sweltering (up to 42 degrees) but they don't seem to mind the heat that much. One drawback could be that their coats are not as exuberant as their brothers/sisters abroad, who live in much colder climates (Russia, the US, even Alaska) and seem to have (with the same parents, same litters) a much thicker coat. So, perhaps, a poor coat is not genetic but perhaps a way of dealing with different temperatures?
As for illnesses and health problems in general, there were very few. We've had one bitch with pyometra and one bad case of skin allergy (caused perhaps by a combination of heat and the aggressive bushes in the summer that stick to their coat and skin ) but, apart from the problems we had when we changed their diet, and the usual doggy ailments, no major complaints. Because of technical and financial problems, it is almost impossible to test our dogs for all the related health issues IRWS seem to suffer from. We do test their hips, and perhaps in the near future Argentine vets might get the expertise to do these tests in an affordable way. We trust our dogs come from clear lines and have had no problems up to now; but if the tests become available, of course we'll go through with them.
It's very important for us to feel connected to a sort of fraternity that strives for the betterment of the IRWS. Because of the distance and lack of communications (we live in the middle of the country, without a computer, sometimes not even a phone, and if it rains we can be land-locked for days) it's very rewarding to hear about the goings-on of these wonderful dogs everywhere else in the world.
With best wishes!
Ruth M. Casey and Juan Jose Iniguez