When Jean Lyle first became involved in showing purebred dogs, beginning with a Boxer bitch in 1948, she could never have imagined the impact her kennel would eventually have on the poodle world. She was a suburban housewife in the Vancouver B.C. area, and even at its peak, her kennel was small in comparison with some of the great English and American kennels.
Perhaps in part because her Boxer was not a great success in conformation, Jean's interest turned to obedience training. At that point it was almost inevitable that she would become involved with Poodles, as the rules for obedience trials were based on work with Poodles (see Obedience Dogs).
"There were no obedience classes here at the time (so) I had to do it from a book, and Blanche Saunders' book was the one I used. When I found out that she was judging a series of shows in Eastern Washington in May, 1952, I wrote to her and asked if she would like to come on to Vancouver and show us how to run an obedience class. She agreed and when she came, my husband started thinking that maybe we should get a Standard Poodle. Blanche said that she could supply us with one."
(Jean Lyle's comments from a Poodle Variety interview ca. 1977)
That puppy was Carillon Michelle.
"I got a U.D.T. on this bitch, and since (I) had decided to show the conformation people, simultaneously I finished this bitch's American and Canadian championship.
The Early Litters
Jean Lyle decided that she wanted to breed a good black Standard with a refined look and dignity. She sought advice from those she admired, and read the best books on breeding dogs. I have no doubt that she started out with good intentions. Unfortunately, in the fifties, the "best" reference with respect to breeding dogs were based on overly simplistic genetic models and an inadequate understanding of the consequences of inbreeding.
"I had read enough books to know that the only sensible way to breed was to line breed or inbreed and we were fortunate enough to have a closely related dog (Petitcote Domino) in the area. He was a very stylish dog and that breeding was hung with horse shoes, as from that very first litter we got what I feel was one of the very finest Standard Poodles ever, Int. Ch. Wycliffe Jacqueline, U.D.T. "
This was in 1954, and produced Wycliffe Michelle as well as Jacqueline. Jean repeated the mating the next two years. The 1955 litter included Eliza Jane and two other champions.
Altogether, Jean created one primary male line and 5 female lines. For a short time there was another line, created when Jean bred Wycliffe Michelle to her half-brother (out of Domino) Wencair's Frere Jacques, in Sept. 1955. Jacques' mother was an English black, High Meadow Babette - with a lot of other colors in her background. One of this litter was Coco, a cream male. In 1956 she bred the year-old Coco to Eliza Jane (see below) to produce Kirk (and others).
The female lines were:
- Eliza Jane's (Carillon Michelle x Petitcote Domino; May 1955)
- Gillian's, near the end of 1955 (Jacqueline's first litter. The male was the later 'never-named' Bel Tor dog - Hugues Capet - a full brother to the better-known Morceau Choisi, though from a later litter.)
"I ended up (breeding Jacqueline) to a dog... that was much lauded as a puppy. When I look back at pictures of him now, I wonder why I was advised to breed to him. They did have a litter of ten and I think three of them were champions." The November '55 litter included Glamorous Gillian. (Gillian was then mated to Frere Jacques, in 1957, to produce Melissa, and in late 1958, Melissa was mated to Kirk to get the first "S" (S1) litter, born on New Year's day, 1959.)
- Lulu's, from the 1957 cross of Carillon Michelle to Carillon Dilemma
- Nicola's, from Jacqueline and Dilemma in early 1958.
"Blanche had come up with a young male (Dilemma), so for her second litter I sent Jacqueline back to Blanche in New York. I got a litter of about nine puppies (b. Feb. 1958) and of these five became champions. I was delighted, but Blanche said, "No, I don't think so. Jacqueline is nicer than those puppies. You can do better than that." (Jean does not mention that she had previously mated Michelle to Dilemma, producing the litter that included Little Lulu, listed above.)
- Mitzi's - Sedbergh Mitzi was an Annsown Sir Gay granddaughter Jean acquired around 1957.
The "T" Litter of 1959
In 1959, Blanche Saunders suggested that instead of using Dilemma again, she "should use another young dog in the East (Annsown Gay Knight of Arhill) because she had just bred to the dog, and was delighted with her puppies." So she bred Jacqueline to Gay Knight and got a litter of 8 that included 6 champions (Thomas, Timothy, Theodore, Talk of the Town, Theresa and Twinkling Tiara). This litter changed the course of the breed.
"We had several problems to deal with in those days. Number one, our dogs were too small and I wanted a big dog. Thomas was the biggest in the litter. Number two were light and round eyes. Although Timothy had a prettier head than Thomas, he still had the lighter, rounder eye while Thomas had a better shaped, darker eye. So it was on the strength of the size and the eye color and shape that I decided to keep Thomas. Fortunately, Timmy was sold to people in Bellingham which is only 60 miles away, so I was able to use him also."
From 1960-63 she alternated between Thomas and Timothy, using a variety of females, in what appears to have been an attempt to decide which was better. After that, she stuck with Tommy up till his death.
"(Tommy's) puppies usually had sweet personalities, size, heavy coats, beautiful eyes, always good feet and they were impressive. They were eye catching, balanced, and very dignified. You couldn't ignore them. Through his sire Gay Knight, Tommy got size and color, and he got his beautiful conformation from his mother, Jacqueline. He was a very good mover, but he sometimes produced dogs that shuffled their back feet, they didn't pick their feet up and you could hear them when they moved around the ring."
Onstott, and many breeders of the day, said that inbreeding was the way to go - so that was the way Jean Lyle went - and she did not do it half-heartedly. Father-daughter crosses followed father-daughter or mother-son in an almost unbroken succession.
"Thomas had this one fault, and that was his belief that you simply didn't do 'those things' with your mother! Timothy didn't seem to have nearly as much respect! So we got Virgil, Veni Vidi Vici, and a bitch called Veronica who was acquired by Dr. Kingsley in New York state. Veronica was later bred to Ch. Carillon Dilemma and that's where Bud Dickey's (Dassin) first bitch came from, Ch. Annveron Bacardi Peach. Thomas Iived with us until 1967 when (he) died as a result of the Leptospirosis that he had contracted while in New York seven years earlier."
"There were some beautiful bitches in the litter also, but these went to the usual, run-of-the mill fanciers who bred the bitches well but never really developed a line around them. It could have been done, but it wasn't."
I suppose that's technically true, but Theresa and Twinkling Tiara did make a significant contribution to Haus Brau, and thus to Executive and Country Gentleman and their many descendants.
Starting in early 1960, when he was not yet a year old, she began systematically breeding Thomas to all the female lines:
- to Nicola in 1960 (see below)
- to Sidse in early 1961, producing Winsome Ways
- to Mitzi, producing Yolanda (May '61)
- to Lulu, producing Zara (Sept '61)
Now to this point, I can't really fault her strategy. Judging from her successes, she chose her founders well. Though they are not unrelated, the inbreeding was not exceptionally high. She tried out Tommy with each of the female lines, eventually settling on the last two as the most promising. (Though she gave Nicola to Joy Tongue (Acadia) as a puppy, as usual she kept her options open, and kept Victoria from the subsequent mating to Tommy.)
See pedigree 1
The real fun began in 1962 and continued until 1966. Tommy didn't have any reservations about mating with his daughters, and was mated to each. He was mated to both Yolanda and Zara three times. The most significant, in terms of continuation of the lines, were:
- to Yolanda, producing Calypso (1962) and Ian (1963)
- to Zara, producing Kenneth (1963) and Rowena (1965)
Rowena went to the Campbells (Blacknight; now Dhubhne).
Thomas sired 67 champions, ranking him high on the list of top-producing males. His mother, Jacqueline ended as the all-time top producing Standard bitch with 21 champions from 41 pups in 5 litters.
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