As noted in the last installment of Best In Show Daily’s ongoing series highlighting the AKC Museum of the Dog, artwork from as early as the 17th century to the modern day is housed in St. Louis, telling not only the history of the dog itself, but in many ways of AKC dog shows as well.
A perfect example of this is the painting of Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest, created in 1957 by T. Tashira and a gift to the museum from the Boxer’s breeder-owners, Dr. and Mrs. Raphael C. Harris, and the American Boxer Club.
When Bang Away topped the show in New York in 1951 he was the third of his breed to do so in five years, but the first dog ever from the West Coast to take that final prize. His handler, Nate Levine, had also handled the first Boxer ever to go BIS at the Garden, when he piloted Ch. Warlord of Mazelaine to the win in 1947. Levine had shown Warlord to Best American-bred in Show there in 1944, won the Working Group with him in 1946, but had to bring him back one more time to take home the big prize. Bang Away wrapped it all up in one year, taking home Best in Show and Best American-bred in Show in one year.
The fawn and white dog’s show career had a fortuitous beginning. That story begins when a respected German breeder, Friederun Stockmann of the Von Dom kennel in Germany, came to the U.S. The American Boxer Club notes in its history of the breed that “The names Stockmann and von Dom are the most important ones in the history of American Boxers.” Frau Stockmann and her husband, Philip, had very successfully bred Boxers in their home country, and several of their dogs were imported to the U.S. as this country’s foundation for the breed, including the already well established sire Sigurd von Dom and three of his grandsons. Again, from ABC’s history of the breed: “With the importation of the three grandsons of Sigurd, Utz von Dom, Dorian von Marienhof and Lustig von Dom, the United States had the three greatest Boxers that German breeding had been able to produce.”
One can only imagine how excited American Boxer breeders were that the “mother of the breed” was coming to their shores. The reason for her visit was two-fold: she began by traveling to different kennels to see how American breeders were faring, and the other appointment on her agenda was to judge a match. There she awarded Best in Match to a young fawn dog. Afterward, when she placed the puppy up on a crate to evaluate him for the eager crowd, she proclaimed him “the best Boxer in America today.” Bang Away certainly lived up to that promise.
He was Winners Dog at the National Specialty from the Puppy class and finished his championship with a Best of Breed win and a Group Second. It was his second BOB and Group placement. His first time in the ring as a champion, he went all the way to Best in Show. When he won Westminster he was just barely 2 years old. In the days when even the winningest dogs might only attain a dozen top wins, Bang Away retired in 1956 with 112 Best in Show awards as the top-winning Boxer of all time.
Numerous Boxer authorities have credited Bang Away with changing the look of the Boxer in America. He sired 81 champions and is said to have spawned the higher stationed dogs and flashy white markings with which we’re familiar today. Described by Boxer people who were fortunate to see him as a great show dog, he no doubt contributed his temperament to future generations as well. After his win at Westminster, as noted in Bill Stifel’s book “The Dog Show: 125 Years of Westminster,” Bill Kendrick, reporting for Popular Dogs, said that “Bang Away seemed playful, always ready for a game with a ball that Levine carried.” Kendrick described him as “a handful.”
But the dog got serious in his performance for judge W. Ross Proctor that night in New York. Proctor was quoted as saying that he was “extremely stylish, magnificent when moving,” and “one of the best specimens of his breed I have ever been privileged to judge.”
Other legendary Westminster Best in Show winners were captured on canvas and now reside at the AKC Museum alongside Bang Away, including Sealyham Terrier Ch. Barberryhill Bootlegger, BIS in 1924, Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Flornell Spicy Bit of Halleston, winner in 1934, Standard Poodle Ch. Nunsoe Du de la Terrace of Blakeen, BIS in 1935 and Scottie Ch. Carmichaels Fanfare, the 1965 winner.
The AKC Museum of the Dog is located at 1721 S. Mason Road in Queeny Park, West St. Louis County, Mo. The 14,000-square-foot museum displays more than 700 original paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, bronzes, porcelains and other objets d’art depicting dogs throughout the past several centuries. The museum grounds also house the Hope A. Levy Memorial Library, with more than 3,000 dog-related books and publications, and a gift shop.