The Saxonsprings Legend – The Early Years by Glenys Dolphin

published in MLAA 1999 Year Book

“I was fortunate, together with my mother the late Thelma Morgan, to know Jean Blyth well, especially in the very early years when she was developing her kennel and her blood line.  Visits to Jean were always fun, the welcome genuinely warm, and always stock to see and discuss.  I hope in the coming years that through a series of articles some of you can gain an insight and a knowledge of this remarkable woman and her breeding achievements, from her friends and those she helped start in the breed….”

When Jean Blyth acquired her first trio of Lhasa Apsos in the late 1960’s she had no inkling of the success or the impact that the “Saxonsprings” dogs would have on the breed.  The first Saxonsprings champion in 1974, a black and tan bitch bred by Mrs Evans.   Her name was Ch Annakappelli of Saxonsprings, not at all “flashy”, she was sound and well coated with plenty of substance.  Interestingly, she was a grand-daughter of Hamilton Dewatas imported from America by the Hon. Mrs Bailey, perhaps a hint of things to come?

The first homebred champion followed in the same year and obviously gave Jean great pleasure.  Ch Saxonsprings Lobsang was bred from the foundation stock of Mrs Anne Matthews (Hardacre) and was an attractively marked gold and white with a lovely size.  A willing showman, with a masculine head, he was slow to gain his mature white coat.  With this success Jean decided to increase her Lhasa bloodlines and, after keeping a few young bitches from her foundation stock, decided to buy a young dog from my mother, a son of Ch Wyrley Hermes ex Ch Hera of Torrens, called Morgan of Saxonsprings.

She successfully used him on Saxonsprings Dze-Tu to produce her next homebred Ch Saxonsprings Zako.  This solid grey dog, with a delightful head and expression, also being only about 10 inches high, was very typey and had a heavy coat, took a lot of campaigning to gain his title.  In fact I believe he easily won a double figure of reserve CCs, but perseverance paid off and he proved to be quite an influential stud dog.

Jean had a far easier time gaining Ch Hardacre Not So Dusty at Saxonspring’s title.  This very glamourous and elegant solid grey bitch was bred by Anne Matthews and was admired and coveted by us all.  She was so sound, stylish with a wonderful coat that was straight and heavy.  She could be slightly temperamental when showing, but actually gained her title before Zako in 1977.  In fact 1977 proved to be a memorable year for Jean because of the crowning of a third home bred champion, Saxonsprings Chussekuan, a daughter of her first champion (Annakapelli), and a half sister to Dusty (they were both daughters of Hardacre Pied Piper).  Again Chussekuan was a solid grey bitch with a lovely coat, sweet head and expression, and was a very sound mover.

Jean was now in a very enviable position, three champions who were alike in type and size, both bitches being only two years old and young to win their titles.  However, they were all very closely related because Zako’s grandsire, Namista Norbu, was a litter brother to Hardacre Namista Khan, the grandsire of both bitches through Pied Piper.  Jean realised she needed fresh blood.  English purchases had not been successful in quality and she felt she needed to inject fresh blood.

When the chance to accompany Mrs Anne Matthews to America came, Jean grabbed it and, after long discussions with my mother and other breeders, she was even more determined and set forth with a list of potential assets needed by any male import into the breed.  I know that top of the list was style, then shape, mouth etc, but when Jean saw the dogs in America she also added colour.. Gold!

Typically, Jean didn’t just look at the winning kennels on that day, she followed her own instinct and so met Joan Kendall of the famous Orlane’s kennel.  The result was of course Ch Orlane’s Intrepid and a lifelong friendship with Joan.  “Danny” had not been shown in the States and his bloodline was equally important to his breeder/owner.  She did not want to lose it completely and would only allow him to come to England for two years, but so that Jean could make full use of the bloodline, Joan suggested that she should have two bitches as well.

I well remember Jean’s excitement as this young trio did their six months quarantine.  She desperately wanted my mother to see them, so she drove down to the Midlands, collected Mum, drove back up to the Oakenshaw Quarantine Kennels in Yorkshire, drove back down to bring Mum home, stayed overnight with me and drove home first thing the next morning.   She was exhausted, they had talked solidly the whole time!

The beggining of 1978 saw the Orlane’s trio released from quarantine.  Sadly, one bitch died a few days later, but happily on the good side Saxonsprings Choula was in season and “Danny” had his first mating to an English bitch.  The first litter was awaited with eager anticipation.

Danny made his debut in the English ring at Southern Counties and a nervous Jean told me she hoped he would get a placing. He actually gained a third that day, but it was not long before he won BIS at Blackpool Ch Show under the eminent allrounder Mr Owen Grindey.

Meanwhile in Yorkshire he was kept busy with stud work and there were another two litters by him. Jean had decided that, to keep a record of his litters, she would register them in alphabetical order and that if possible she would give them names with an American theme. That summer Mum and I made the trip to Saxon springs to see the progeny. The first litter to Choula were amazing, we had never seen anything like them. They were rather angular puppies, very lively, much more gregarious in nature and their coat texture was different. This was the ‘A’ litter and definitely a young male stood out for conformation and boldness. He was to become Ch Saxonsprings Alamo who would win BIS in both this country, Europe and America. It seems strange to me now that neither Jean nor my mother, or for that matter myself, did not at this time realise his potential, we just knew he was different. In fact, he was not campaigned until puppies from the ‘B’ and ‘C’ litters had been shown. In the ‘B’ litter from Annakapelli there were seven, again all solid gold and this from a black and tan mother. In this litter the two that stood out went on to become Ch Saxonsprings Beverley and Aust Ch Saxonsprings Beaver. They were slightly fluffy in appearance and indeed had very profuse coats. Beverley herself became a champion at about 18 months old. The ‘C’ litter was perhaps to us the most interesting at that time, as their MLAA 1999 Year Book mother was the American import Orlane’s Lightline 0′ Lamplite (a daughter of Am Ch Orlane’s Inimitable). The two puppies, a dog and a bitch, were very pretty and the bitch obviously feminine. The dog was to become Ch Saxonsprings Cascade and the bitch, Saxonsprings Clovis, never really shown. They were bright gold and fluffy with the promise of the most beautiful coats. At this visit I left Saxonsprings Tai-Ki, a grey and white Morgan of Saxonsprings daughter, to be mated to Intrepid. Meanwhile, that summer Intrepid took the showring by storm and the breed awaited the debut of his progeny with interest. At home in Yorkshire, Jean had her hands full, so many heavy coated young dogs to be kept in show coat and a busy boarding kennel to run. She learned by trial and error and soon mastered the new method of presentation, the bathing and the weekly oiling in the revolutionary new product Wu-pi. In fact when I collected Tai-Ki puppies that autumn (Ch Yankee Doodle Dandy and Dynamic Dinah), I also left with Jean’s old power drier and a bottle of Wu-pi with full instructions about weekly bathing. Life would never be the same again! In October 1978 the ‘F’ litter was born, arguably one of the most famous, for it contained Ch Saxonsprings Florence and Ch Saxonsprings Fresno. Jean always said that it was the strength of her bitch line that enabled Intrepid to sire such oustanding stock and in my opinion it was never more true than in this litter. You only have to look at the picture of their mother Ch Hardacre Not So Dusty at Saxonsprings and then at her two daughters to see the style and type, and then look and Intrepid to see how he emphasised this. Florence, in Ann Matthews hands, was the first to gain her title. So feminine, balanced and a lovely mover, she was a great favourite with breed specialists, but Jean always favoured Fresno who was slightly slower maturing and who had a typical Apso temperament – sometimes she would show, sometimes not – and as Fresno was nearly impossible to fault, fitting the standard in every aspect, their just had to be a problem and it was her stubbornness. Jean showed her to her title but could never build up the necessary rapport with her to get the showing reliability needed in a top winner. Jean approached Geoff Corish to handle her and “history was made”. Fresno adored Geoff, and Geoff adored Fresno. Together they made a winning team. She became a breed CC record holder 20 and a Top Dog all breeds. Admired by all she reigned supreme in the showring for several years and, when mated to Ch Saxonsprings Hackensack, became a superb brood. Ch Saxonsprings Hackensack was most definitely Jean’s all time favourite. Not only did he bring her the success of a Crufts BIS win, but he was also a character in his own right. ‘Hank’ was the son of her other famous grey champion bitch, Ch Saxonsprings Chussekuan and again if you study the photographs of mother and son, you can see the importance of a strong bitch line. Larger than his father, he had the bone and substance needed in a prepotent sire, and he was used by most of the important kennels of the time. A tremendous showman, he proved a great ambassador for the breed and his Crufts BIS win brought in another generation of Lhasa enthusiasts. Because Jean had an imported bitch in ‘Belle’, she was able to reverse the bloodlines by using Zako with Belle and one of the most successful early champions produced by this combination was Ch Saxonsprings Bright Rod who became a champion for his owners Rob Posthuma and Terry Young at the tender age of 18 months. , With all this success it was inevitable that from early on other kennels would wish to use either Intrepid, or his sons Cascade and Hackensack. Hopefully, in the issues to follow, some of these kennels will continue this story, for the Saxonsprings legend involves more than one kennel.


Glenys Dolphin