THE RECORD for best in show wins at UK all-breeds championship shows was broken at Driffield last weekend when the Wire Fox Terrier Ch Travella Striking Steel won his 19th such award.

Previously, the record was held by the Hungarian Vizsla Sh Ch/Aus Ch Hungargunn Bear Itn Mind, who won his 18th BIS at Crufts 2010, and before that by the pre-war Scottish Terrier Ch Heather Realisation.

‘Oliver’ was bred by Bill Browne-Cole by Ch/Am/Int Travella Starlord, himself a dual BIS winner and Crufts group winner, ex Travella Scarlet Rose. He was originally shown in the name of Bill’s wife Sue, but is now owned by Victor Malzoni from Brazil. He is usually handled by Richard Allen, though his breeder has shown him to three of his BIS wins when Richard was otherwise engaged.

Remarkably, this has been achieved in a show career which started as recently as WELKS in April last year, where he won the group from the unclassified classes, going on to take his first BIS on his next appearance, the National under Kari Wilberg. His second BIS came at the next show, Scottish Kennel Club, under Pam Blay.

Six more BIS followed in 2013, thus equalling the record of eight in a calendar year set by the Chinese Crested Ch Vanitonia Unwrapped.

These came at Border Union (Ronnie Irving), Blackpool (Martin Freeman), Leeds (Albert Wight), Welsh KC (Valerie Foss), Scottish KC (Freda Marshall) and Midland Counties (Tom Mather).

He also won four RBIS awards and 15 groups and was a very close runner-up in the Top Dogs table.

This year he won BIS at the first two shows, Boston (Margaret Wildman) and Manchester (Stuart Plane), followed by WELKS (Luis Pinto Teixiera), the National (Geoff Corish), Southern Counties (Ron James), East of England (Hugh Gent), Paignton (Brenda Banbury), and now four consecutive wins at City of Birmingham (Derek Smith), Richmond (Clare Coxall, breaking the records for a single show season), Darlington (Jill Peak) and his nineteenth at Driffield (Steve Hall).

He has had two RBIS wins this year and 14 groups wins including National Terrier (John Bunting). He is far in the lead in this year’s Top Dog table. His CC total stands at 12.

The Travella kennel was founded by Bill’s father, also Bill, in the 1920s and came to fame immediately after the second world war with the great stud dog Ch Travella Strike. Many more champions followed including a BIS winner.

Although the strain has continued down the decades, it is in the last 20 years that Bill Jr, along with handler Richard, has taken the kennel back to the top in the group and BIS rings. Among many more champions, five individual BIS winners have been campaigned and Ch Travella Show Stopper was RBIS at Crufts 2007. Ch Travella Step Forward is the current Pup of the Year winner.

Richard Allen comes from a terrier-breeding family and himself began as a successful junior handler.

The pedigree is almost entirely Travella dogs for many generations, including 13 generations of homebred males back to Strike.

Mr Malzoni has supported the show careers of many top dogs in North and South America and Europe, especially in the terrier group. Among Wires he co-owns are Am Gr Ch Afterall Painting The Sky, who was Top Dog in the US last year and BIS at Westminster 2014, and Ch Kingarthur van Foliny Home, Oliver’s some time rival who won the group at Crufts and the World Show this year.

Mr Browne-Cole, who was unable to be at Driffield as he was attending a specialty in France, told DOG WORLD this week: “I’m so proud it can’t be true. As a breeder, for me this is the ultimate – something I’ll never do again. The breeding is what it’s all about – you have got to try to improve every generation. My only regret is that it’s a pity my old guvnor isn’t here to see it.

“I’m especially proud that Oliver has achieved this over such a short time. It may seem to people that he’s been around for a long time, but it’s only 17 months since he started his show career.”

He paid tribute to Oliver’s ‘brilliant’ handler and mentioned the effort that goes into preparing and maintaing a Wire for the show ring, trimming entirely by hand and never using scissors.

Mr Allen said: “I would just like to say it’s an unbelievable achievement and one that will always be cherished.To do this winning in 17 months is just incredible.
“It would not have been possible without the judges who have given him the awards and to them we are truly grateful.”

What is especially remarkable is how quickly Oliver has achieved all of this, in just 17 months since his show debut, a phenomenal success rate. He also became the first dog to win nine BIS in one year – and now has 11 this season – and four of these have been won at the last four shows.

Credit must go to his breeder Bill Browne-Cole who has followed his father in maintaining a distinctive strain which now covers at least 75 years, to his usual handler Richard Allen, who made an effortless transition from the junior handling ranks and is a credit to his background, and to his owner Victor Malzoni who has enabled so many great show dogs to have the opportunities their merits deserve.

The Wire Fox Terrier breed has been an ornament to the dog world for the past century or more and has surely accounted for more top wins than any other breed.

It has had its ups and downs in terms of registrations and show entries but there has never been a period in which it has not been a major contender for top awards, a tribute to the talents of the breeders who converted it from the ‘rough diamond’ of a working terrier into the most glamorous of show breeds, and to the handlers and presenters who have maintained the tradition of producing the breed in top order, no mean achievement in itself as short cuts in presentation methods would be all too obvious.

Oliver’s success story raises some more general issues. One of them is that he was won 19 BIS awards in his short show career, and even more group wins, but only 12 CCs. If anyone can explain how this is supposed to make sense, please let us know!

It really does make a nonsense of the way the CC allocation is calculated. This depends entirely on numbers, yet surely what matters is quality, not quantity. Other breeds have CCs at far more of the shows, but their best of breed winners are seldom of comparable quality in the eyes of the group judges.

Some would suggest that the answer is to have CCs for all eligible breeds at every show, as happens in virtually every other dog showing country. If this ever happened one would have to be able to trust the judges to have the courage not to award them if the quality wasn’t there.

There are arguments both for and against that idea, which we have written about on countless occasions, but we hope that this is something that Keith Young’s working party will look at seriously. It really cannot be logical that a dog may have twice as many group wins as he has CCs.

Another issue concerns the topic of line-breeding. A glance at Oliver’s pedigree will show that he comes from a strain which has been strongly linebred, and the further back you go the more obvious this becomes.

The scientists argue that continued close breeding is best avoided, and breeders are urged by the Kennel Club and others to keep pedigrees open and inbreeding coefficients below the breed average. In spite of this strains like Travella, and others in a variety of breeds, continue to produce sturdy, healthy puppies in decent-sized litters without any of the ‘nasties’ which one is led to believe might occur.

No doubt this is down to the skill of the breeders, especially in their early days, in selecting only the most robust stock to breed on from, and their experience in knowing which dogs are likely to go together well. They will also be strong-minded enough to go in a different direction if at any time they do encounter problems.

That is not to say that every up and coming breeder should aim immediately to follow similar programmes, at least until they are throroughly established and are fully familiar with the good and less good aspects their foundation stock produces. But we have said it before and will do so again – why do those who decry line-breeding not talk to those breeders who have practised it successfully over many decades?

Watch Oliver’s progress from big-ring debut to record-breaker here: