Thursday, 02 August 2012 14:39

The Importance of Lines

From this candid shot of the late Bea Knight sitting quietly with one of her dogs at some long past National, you might not appreciate that she was one of the giants of Saint breeder history. Her Sanctuary Woods line of dogs ranks in the top five of National Breed winners and the genes she assembled during the 50's, 60's, and 70's still influence some breeders down to the present day. In fact, our own Benbaron dogs are based on Bea's foundation.

However, this isn't a story about Bea. Rather we want to talk here about the importance of lines in general. When we started in the breed in the early 70's, it was the beginning of the end of the big kennels. We travelled down from Canada to visit a number of the larger kennels in the North East. Many of these breeders still kept 50 or more dogs. What struck us about a number of them was that most of the dogs in a given kennel tended to look alike and, on the other hand, they were distinct from other kennels' dogs. We started to play a game at the big dog shows where we would watch a class of dogs and see if we could pick out the kennels the dogs came from before checking the catalog. That one (Buddy) must be from Shagg-Bark; the next one (Honor) from Beau Cheval; the third (Titan) from Mallen, we'd guess. After a year or two, we got pretty good at it.

At first we didn't really understand why certain dogs looked a certain way and distinct from other dogs, but as we learned to study pedigrees we came to also understand about certain breeding practices. The concept of "lines" started to dawn on us. These breeders were selecting the dogs that had the look they liked and breeding them to similar dogs. But they were doing this generation after generation and mostly with related animals. 

Since the kennels were big in those days, they often bred dogs that were already in their own yard. In the case of Bea Knight, she lived on a mountaintop in a remote area of Oregon and kept over 100 Saints. In effect, this became an isolated breeding colony. As she worked over the years with her own dogs, the pedigrees became more closely related (resulting in a high Co-efficient Of Inbreeding or COI) and the Sanctuary Woods "type" or "look" was strongly set. We also noticed that many of these old-time breeders were very careful about adding dogs from outside their line. Was this a case of "kennel blindness" or was it because they wanted to guard against introducing wildcard genes to their program?

We came to understand (not without some stumbling around first) that the value of these lines lay in their ability to reproduce themselves. If you needed to improve the bodies of your dogs and add muscle, you could breed to a Shagg-Bark stud. If you wanted the rich color and better heads, you could go to Mallen. If you needed better shorthairs one could do well with Sanctuary Woods. More often than not, you would get the improvements you sought by using such lines. 

In far too many cases, however, new breeders would breed to one of these linebred dogs then immediately go off in another direction for the next generation. Such random breedings almost always resulted in "Chop Suey" pedigrees. Such dogs rarely could reproduce themselves. Is it any surprise then that these breeders always seem to have different looking dogs every two years or so?

When we look back over our own time in the breed, we see that there have been relatively few true lines established by modern breeders. It takes decades to build a line where the litters are consistent generation after generation. It takes great attention to detail and discipline to build a true line. One cannot simply go chasing off after the latest "Best In Show" sensation. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes you have to keep and use dogs that are not show quality because they have certain essential breeding characteristics. When you encounter problems - and you will - you have to be able to work your way through them without abandoning all that has been carefully built before. This all requires great personal conviction and realistic self-assessment.

We dog show fanciers are a competitive lot. We all like to win. And there are no bigger wins than at the Nationals. To win once in a lifetime is such a trill. Yet some few breeders do well consistently. Among them are our worthy contemporaries Opdyke, Van Rijn, High Chateau, and Cache Retreat.

Driver, Castor, Gero, and Host are all gorgeous dogs and a credit to their breeders who worked so hard to build their lines. The point is: such dogs do not happen by accident. None of these dogs were from a "lucky" breeding. None of them are "sports". Their pedigrees were carefully built over many generations, not thrown together willy-nilly. They come from true lines.

We can only hope that the next generation of breeders will learn from the successful breeders of the past. We are concerned that most will find this approach of building unique lines too daunting. It is becoming increasingly more difficult and costly to keep the necessary number of dogs to effect such a program. As well, far too many people now seem more interested in winning than breeding. Why not just buy what you want and win right away?

However, if you are willing and able to do what is necessary, we say you will find no greater satisfaction than breeding your own quality line. Good luck and God bless you if you try!


Published in Articles
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 18:04

1991 SBCA National - San Diego CA

At the 1991 National, Am Can Ch Benbaron's Dippy Von Vippy won both the Sweepstakes and Best Puppy In Show. Here handler Don Osborne is showing Dippy under Judge Marcia Carter, while owner-breeder Toni Beninger looks proudly on. Dippy won the Sweepstakes under Carrol Terrio and his litter sister, Daffy, went BOS in Sweeps.

Dippy was sired by the Yondo son, Snowsage VIP, and his mother was the Yondo daughter, Ch Benbaron's Cuddles Von Yondo. 

The National Sweepstakes are always a lot of fun. It gives breeders the chance to show off their youngsters and sneak a peek at who the likely competition is going to be in the quest for future titles and honors. Brian had the honor of judging the 1993 Sweeps in Utah and Toni did it in 2007 in Ohio. We greatly appreciate being voted on by the membership to undertake this most pleasant task.

Published in Nationals
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 17:47

1995 SBCA National - Tennessee

This is Ch Slaton's Juno Von Majewski winning BOS from the Veteran's Class under Judge Ken Nelson, handled by Myra Wallis. Juno was a star member of the famous Slaton "J" litter bred by Shirley Slaton Wolf, sired by Am Can Ch Benbaron's Yondo Von Gizer out of Am Ch Slaton's Harlow Jean.

We had seen Juno as a lanky teenager and thought that she was not quite as impressive as some of her littermates, like Jalna, Jacks, and Justin. So when we caught up with her years later to see her coming out of the Veterans Class, we were blown away. She was fantastic. She had that amazing body and moved around the ring like a youngster. What a wonderful win!

We never saw another power bitch quite like Juno until her half-sister Taboo arrived in the 2000's, thanks to frozen semen. Taboo went Best of Breed at the 2010 National under Judge Horst Vogel. 

Published in Nationals
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 20:44

Ustinov Becomes Hall of Fame Stud

Benbaron's Ustinov Of Eddie has become a SBCA Hall of Fame stud thanks to his daughter, Ch Carmen It's Predestined To Be. "Phoebe" finished her title in quick order in July 2012 by winning at six of seven shows on a New England circuit. In the picture below Phoebe is shown winning the New England SBC Sweeps, so it is not surprising that she did so well with a little more maturing.

Phoebe's owner-breeder is Janice Holmes of the famous Carmen Kennel of MA, USA. Carmen is the oldest kennel to be owned and operated by the same family in the history of the American Kennel Club (or else Janice is the oldest person in the world!). You can read the fascinating history of Carmen at her website:

Any breeder is proud to see one of their dogs join the Hall of Fame. However, it is almost always the good work of others that gets you there. So many thanks to Janice and the owners of these other Ustinov champions for showing their fine dogs so successfully:

Ch Szajdas True Blood Over Easy

Ch Redoaks Little Dude

Ch Redoaks Sir Henry Hooligan

Ch Carmen's Roll the Dice

And well done Ustinov for joining your dad, Eddie, and your two granddads, Yondo and Iceman, in the Hall of Fame!

Published in Articles
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:00

Am Ch Kings Row Icon

This handsome chap, handled here by Marty Glover, is Am Ch Kings Row Icon, bred and owned by Shirley and Skee Tsagris of the Kings Row kennel outside of Sacramento, CA. The Tsagris's go back in the breed as long as we do and over the decades have produced dozens of champions and specialty winners. We have a special affection for Icon because he is a son of the very successful Ch Benbaron's Outlaw of Iceman. We sent Outlaw to King Row as a pup and not only did he go on to be a Top Ten Saint nationally, but he sired some outstanding dogs. In addition to Icon, Outlaw produced Ch Skydancer Anne Bonney (Top Bitch) , Ch Skydrancer Great Pirate Robert, and Ch Skydancer Mary Read. (see more)

Published in Admired Saints
Monday, 23 July 2012 18:33

Things Have Changed

It is the prerogative of "old timers" to lament that things were better in the "good old days".

Well, they were. At least when it comes to most dog shows. 

This past weekend was a case in point. Toni and I returned to our home turf of Ottawa, Ontario to attend the Kars Dog Shows. We first attended these shows, held at a country fairgrounds, in 1976. I remember it well because I was handling Benbaron's Lord Belvedere, a big smooth son of Am Ch Echo's Citation Von Bonus and was surprised to find myself going toe-to-toe with a dog from Florida. Indeed, Tom and Charlotte Miller had come North for a show holiday with their big smooth dog, Winterset's Cullunda John. It was a summer circuit about eight days long and they were making a holiday of it. It was normal in those days to have an entry of 15 to 20 Saints. By the end of the week a friendship had formed and we both finished our dogs by beating up each other in good fun. Flash forward by decades and both couples are now 30-plus-year members of the SBCA.

So why was that better than this past weekend? Well for starters, there were NO St Bernards entered this past weekend. Total show entries have declined from nearly a thousand in the past to a few hundred now. Toni showed Clancy, our cousin's Norfork Terrier, to Best of Breed; but of course, he was the only one entered. That is becoming the norm for many breeds. The CKC and the AKC keep approving more and more breeds but there is little in the way of breed competition. It's a race to the bottom, folks! Rinky dink shows and rinky dink competition leading to rinky dink championships.

On a related note, for 50 years there had also been a horse show attached to the dog shows at this venue, making it a true "dog and pony" weekend. Guess what? The horses are now gone. How long before the dogs disappear too?

This situation is sad but not entirely surprising. Our parents or grandparents were raised on a farm. Animals were an integral part of life. Most younger citizens now are many generations removed from the land. What they know of animals they learned from the Nature Channel and computer games. The anti-pet lobby is gaining strength everywhere. Most municipalities do not want any animal breeding going on within their borders. Soon pets will be banned from more and more cities.

So do I pine for the "good old days"? Ubetcha!



Published in Articles
Friday, 13 July 2012 16:15

Starting Out Blind

I think we can all agree that Lasquite's Lorenzo here has gorgeous head type. Happily, we see heads like this quite frequently at most specialty shows and many all-breed shows today. Notice the deep furrow, the broad top skull, the square muzzle, the pleasing, intelligent expression. 

But it wasn't always like this. The next dog you see is Can Ch Benbaron's Count Boris, our first ever home-bred champion. 

Oh Lordy! About the only good thing we can say now about poor Boris is that he had excellent leg bone. But the brown ticking, freckles, sloppy mask, hairy coat and the eyes with deep red haws were all too typical of the dogs at that time, 1971. Comparing the two pictures now, it's hard to believe that these two dogs both go back to our foundation bitch, Can Ch Bedette Sugar Brandy 3rd. Like all first-time breeders, we made the mistake of keeping a male and taking him to every dog show within three hundred miles. Of course, he won enough points to earn his Canadian title (which speaks volumes about the expertise of the judges in those days) before we had to get his eyes "fixed" for severe entropion. The fact that he became a champion only confirmed our own humble opinion that we were now breed experts and could pontificate freely on the merits of all St Bernards (despite the fact that we had not yet actually read the Standard).

Ignorance was bliss....until we took Boris with us down to the United States to visit several major kennels in New England. We were shocked to discover that all those American dogs were all wrong. They didn't look like him at all! And when we told the breeders that we wanted to buy a good female to breed to him, the only dogs they offered us had three legs and blue eyes. We returned to Canada in the dark of the night.

It took a few months to accept that maybe we had to start over and develop a new plan based on breed study and a new genetic game plan. We bought and read every breed book we could find. We learned, slowly, how to analyze a pedigree. We travelled to the American shows to study various lines in the flesh. When it came time to breed our next litter, we were very lucky to discover the smooth stud, Am Ch Echo's Citation Von Bonus, down at the Mardonof kennels, who had a lot of Sanctuary Woods in his pedigree. We were rewarded with 16 puppies! 

We kept the clean, smooth dogs that looked most like Citation. Munster and Taffy went on to become our first specialty winners. Lorenzo, in fact, can find Citation way, way back in his pedigree.

And poor Boris? The last time we saw him, he was in the back seat of a big Cadillac with a bunch of happy kids, heading for Alberta!

Published in Articles
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 16:04

Yondo's AKC Champions

Here's a list of Yondo's AKC champion offspring... to date.

Yondo now stands one champion away from joining the top five studs in the history of the St Bernard Club of America. With his son Xavier only seven minor points away from getting his title, it hopefully won't be long before he joins the exclusive "25 Club". The Fancy owes a big debt of thanks to John Cox of the Seattle area for putting together the SBCA Hall of Fame where the accomplishments of all the wonderful dogs in club history have carefully been recorded and made available via the Internet. John has devoted countless hours to research and build this database, at his own expense, over decades. It is a monumental accomplishment.

A trivia question... which dog was the biggest Yondo kid?

That distinction went to Ch Snowsage Virgil Von Yondo who matured out at over 220 pounds. Virgil was our stud pick from the breeding to Snowsage Lisa (twice a National BOS) and we rasied him to a year old at our place near Ottawa. But then we got a very special request. A gentleman from Kingman, Arizona, Joe Bibich, had tragically lost his son in an accident and his friends wanted to get him a nice dog to help him ease the pain. We packed Virgil into a crate (barely) and off he went to Joe. It worked out beautifully and Joe and Virgil went on to many fine wins thereafter.

Yondo produced at least one champion in every litter he sired. We couldn't ask for much more than that.

Published in Articles
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 15:49

Am Ch Stoan's Yvonne Von Yondo

Yvonne was the litter sister of Younice and as you can see, she had more length of leg. Yvonne had her moment of glory winning a 5 point major at a trailer show at the San Diego National back in 1991. She was owned and shown by Stan and Joan Zielinski. We were her co-breeders and in fact, she was born at our kennel near Ottawa, Ontario. The Stoan kennel had it roots in Bea Knight's Sanctuary Woods so the Stoan and Benbaron pedigrees matched up nicely. 

Published in Admired Saints
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 19:55

Am Ch Echo's Kory Von Yondo-B

Here Kory was winning another specialty, this time under Judge Dwayne Peterson. Kory was owned by the Brophy's and bred by Carrol and Wally Thom. In fact, she and her brother Keets, were from Yondo's very first litter. Carrol added the "B" to their names to indicate "Benbaron" as opposed to the litters she had produced using Sanctuary Woods Yondo U Ole. Kory was the top female in the nation at that time (end of the 80's). Little did we know then that she would be followed by over twenty more Yondo champions.

Published in Admired Saints