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How It All Began - History of the British Chihuahua Club
by Marjorie Fearfield
(Founder of the British Chihuahua Club)

The date was 1947. What fun, I thought, to be the pioneer of a Breed! How little I knew and what a lot there was to learn.

The first discovery was that there had already been a pioneer of the breed! Then I found out when the Chi­huahua was first exhibited in this country, and for the details of these early exhibits I have to thank Mr Featherston (Tunbridge Wells) of Pug fame, who, searching for details of the early Pugs, always sent to me any news he found about Chihuahuas.

In the "Daily Mail" of 1897 the L.K.A. held a show at Regent's Park and there a Chihuahua was exhibited. In "Modern Dogs" by Rawdon B. Lee, published by Horace Cox in 1899, the author gives a write up in which he says, "...but I do not think they will ever be popular in England. Most of the few I have seen when at Dog shows sit shivering in their pens looking extremely unhappy".

In 1910 Cassell's "New Book of the Dog" was published (by The Waverley book Co.) Robert Leigh­ton, the author, gives this interesting detail of the breed: "In the British Museum some years ago there was the stuffed skin of a bitch, very little if anything larger than a rat, and as if to prove her of mature growth, beside here were her two pups, about as big as mice". Mentioned in this book is the colour of the Chihuahua given in a bouquet to Madam Adelina Patti (a story that has been told so many times). He was a black and tan call Bonito, and her later dog was a fawn called Rigi!

The next mention of the breed is in "Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopaedia" of 1935, where it gives the American Club Standard, very clearly and very comprehensive, with, to our eyes, a few strange requirements such as rose or tulip ears!

The real pioneer of the breed was the late Mrs Powell of London, SW4 who exhibited as early as 1930 and had built up a strong team. When the late Mr Croxton-Smith wrote his last book he briefly mentioned the Chihuahuas and Mrs Powell, and said there were none in the country now.

However, we were really achieving something. The club had been formed and the breed was catching on. I therefore wrote to Mr. Croxton-Smith telling him of our efforts and in his reply he said: "I respected her (Mrs Powell) very much because if she bred any that did not satisfy her critical eye, she gave them away on the understanding that they should neither be bred from or exhibited". Mr Croxton-Smith very kindly wrote an article on the breed for "Sport and Country" which helped to bring them into the public eye.

In 1937 Mrs Powell had in her kennels six imported dogs. One was Idasconeja, a fawn, another was Bettsy, a most attractive white with a black head. They were not only first prize winners at The Kennel Club, Crufts and Richmond, but also at America's premiere shows - Westminster and the Morris and Essex. At this time Mrs Powell had in quarantine Hechicero Meron, a reddish fawn dog, unshown, but noted as a sire of tip-top stock. Also in quarantine were Hechicero's son, Duke of Wolf, a big winner in the States, and also his half sister, which was a year older, and an exceptionally handsome bitch.

The end of Mrs Powell's dogs was most tragic. She was living in Town at the outbreak of war and took herself and dogs into the country to get away from the bombing. A short time after, her house received a direct hit. Every dog was killed and she so stricken, went into a nursing home where she died a few years later.

And now to more recent times. It was in 1949, feeling I was not progressing very well, that I put an advertisement in the Dog Papers asking if anyone was interested in the breed. This brought dozens of letters, among which was one from Mrs "Belamie" Wells, and she and I, unknown to each other, had been running on parallel lines, she with far more success than I, for not only was she in touch with a few Chihuahua owners, but she had obtained a dog and a bitch which had been bred in America. These two dogs, so familiar in our pedigrees of today, were the backbone of our start. They were Dona Sol of Belamie and Am. Ch. Mi Pedro of Belamie

The other dogs which formed the spine were those of the late Mrs Gott, whose Mexican and Californian stock helped us to build up the breed. Her dogs included the 1948 imports, Sunstock Systie, from California, and Sunstock Jollo. Later came the well known stud Tolteca, from Mexico. Mrs Cross had the Canadian dog, Palace Bambi, and after this came the imports of Mrs Horner of which the best known is the tiny stud, Pepito IX.

Mrs Wells was the first post-war exhibitor, showing in 1949, and gained tremendous publicity for the breed.

Mrs Gott bred the first puppy, Una of Phoenix, which went to Mrs Watkinson of York. Then came Mrs Wells' well known stud, Tizocof Belamie, his brother (which I was lucky enough to obtain), Chico of Belamie and then Mrs Cross' Chicata.

At this time there were under 20 dogs registered at the Kennel Club, so to get the breed restarted meant organisation and publicity, and to that end I suggested to the few enthusiasts that the best way to get the breed "on the map" or rather "in the ring" was to form a Club.

On 22nd May 1949, nine of us met at Marshall and Snellgroves Tea-room in London, and then and there the Club was formed. Those present were: the late Miss Macalister, who became Hon. Secretary and Treasurer, the late Mrs Gott, one of our first Vice Presidents, Mrs Secker (Mrs Gott's daughter) who was Vice chairman, Mrs Duckworth (Miss Macalister's sister), Mrs Jackson, Mrs Cross, Mrs Wells, Miss Wells and myself, who became the first Chairman.

It was agreed that to get a standing it would be a good thing to ask notable personages in the dog fancy to take office and to that end I asked Mrs Phyllis Robson, who at our second committee meeting was voted our President. What help she gave us, giving us hospitality in her own home on the occasion of the well-attended second meeting and giving us great publicity in Dog World. We have much to thank her for.

I asked Miss Cousens (who gave us our first breed classes at a Championship Show (W.E.L.K.S.), Mr John Beynon (who also wrote us up) and Mr Leo Wilson (who has always been so helpful), to be our Vice Presidents.

Judges gradually became interested. The public either said "horrible" or "lovely" - but at Crufts 1950 they all said the latter!

In 1954 we had the great pleasure and interest of a visit from the States of Mrs. Anna B. Vinyard. I need not elaborate on Mrs Vinyard, for everyone interested in the breed knows of her wonderful kennel of La Ora. Mrs Vinyard was most helpful and kind, and gave us many many tips and interesting stories.

1955 saw the arrival in this country of the first long-haired Chihuahua, and Mrs Erskine, of the Nellistar prefix, is to be congratulated on her enterprise. Since the early days there have been many, many importations and more recently importations of the long-coats, so there is no fear at all of too much in-breeding.

There is no doubt now that the Chihuahua has a firm footing in the dog life of our country. His smallness, intelligence, neatness, toughness and gaiety endears him to anyone who really gets to know him - be they lovers of dogs big or small.

Taken from The British Chihuahua Club publication "Digging Up The Past" -
compiled and edited by Diana Fitt-Savage (copyright)

Click on an image for a larger view

Kennel Club Calendar & Stud Book 1903 Vol. XXX
Mrs Powell's Chihuahuas
Copy of the very first minutes of the British Chihuahua Club
Mrs Fearfield at Crufts
Mrs Fearfield with Mrs Wells at Richmond 1952

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