- Rob Oliver
In his great book, Snakefoot The Making of a Champion, Robert G. Whehle, the founder and owner of Elhew Kennels and a remarkably successful breeder of English Pointers uses the term Blue Hen to describe brood matrons who produce quality pups in every litter. These blue hens are a treasure and the goal of every breeder.
Here at Revilo Kennels we have been blessed with a number of these blue hens and they have been a priceless asset to our breeding program. Our first one was Westwind's Sweet Sally (Sally). My friend the late Albert Uhalde, owner of Westwind Kennels of Castorville, CA. had a litter advertised in The Retriever Field Trial News. While the breeding advertised did not catch my fancy, I was attracted to the pedigree of the female who was the dam of the litter. I phoned Albert to see if he was interested in selling that female. He was not, but I ended the conversation by telling Albert if he ever did decide to sell her, I would buy her, sight unseen. About a month later he called me to see if I wanted to buy her as he was being pressured by the municipality in which he lived to reduce the number of dogs on site. I told him I was and we made the deal.
As soon as I bought her I knew where I would take her for her first breeding. I made arrangements with my friend Gunther Rahnefeld of Brandon, Manitoba to breed to his great male, NFTCH FTCH AFTCH Call Me Mister Independence (Spook). In the interim between making the arrangements to do the breeding and it actually taking place, Spook won the Canadian National and was top Open Dog in Canada that year.
From that first breeding and every successive breeding Sally produced exceptional offspring. Not only that but several of her daughters and granddaughters have continued the tradition of being blue hens. Some of the more notable being Revilo's Boot Scootin' Boogie (Boo), Revilo's Miss Persnickety (Percy), Revilo's Li'l Bit Of Ginger (Ginger), Revilo's Suncatcher (Sunny), FTCH Revilo's At Full Tilt CD (Darbi), FTCH AFTCH Revilo's Red Hot Rumors (Mikka). Darbi and Mikka were owned by my good friend Marcy Wright who along with her husband, Kenny Trott own and operate Horsetooth Retrievers.
I have reflected at length on what stars must align to create a blue hen. Obviously, there are a number of things that combine to create a female worthy of that characterization. Genetics is a term used in breeding circles sometimes very loosely, but there is no doubt that the proper genetic package is required. A combination of the genes necessary to produce dogs capable of performing the tasks required in the field and the absence of deleterious defects that hamper a dog's future.
When two dogs are mated we are not just breeding individuals but are pairing families. There are some families which match very well to other families and there are some that are incompatible. There are some families that seem to match well with just about all other families. Knowing what's compatible and what's not is the breeder's responsibility and is achieved only through endless, difficult effort. There are no easy ways about it. Having a female from a family that will match with most others is a key to successful breeding.
Most breeders will agree that while from a genetic perspective each parent donates 50% of the genetic make up of the resulting offspring, since the pups spend the first five or six weeks of their lives with their dam the actual contribution of the mother appears to be greater that 50% when it comes to some behaviors. Thus a true blue hen needs to be an exceptional mother. If the dam is excitable, the pups will likely be excitable. If the dam is inattentive, the pups will not understand limits very well and so on.
The two current females that have litters at our Kennel right now seem to be carrying on that blue hen tradition here at Revilo Kennels. Both are exceptionally talented girls but more than that they are exceptional mothers who have both raised some of the best pups we have ever produced and there is no reason to expect that will not be the case into the future.
Here's to blue hens.