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Remembering Elisabeth Matell

Elisabeth Matell, 67, breeder and exhibitor of Cracknor Norfolk Terriers, passed away suddenly over the weekend at her home, Standhall Cottage, in Worcestershire, England.

Elisabeth’s contribution to the welfare of the Norfolk Terrier began in Sweden in 1966. Just two years after the Kennel Club (England) separated the breed into Norwich and Norfolk Terriers, she saw a kennel advertisement in the Dog World Annual that piqued her interest. A black-and-white photograph of Joy Taylor’s Ch. Nanfan Heckle made quite an impression on the young Swede. In the Norfolk Terrier Club of America’s 2009 Annual, Elisabeth wrote, “I fell in love immediately and thought, ‘There’s the breed I’ve been looking for all my life.’”

Elisabeth Matell and Cracknor Norfolk Terriers have had an influence on the breed worldwide. Photo courtesy of Frank Rogers.

In 1967 Elisabeth traveled to Crufts, where she met Joy and Heckle’s half-brother, Ch. Nanfan Spikeman. Later that year, she spent several months working as a kennel maid at Standhall before returning to Sweden. The two women stayed in touch for the next 10 years and, during this time, a couple of influential Nanfan stud dogs were sent to Sweden.

Elisabeth eventually moved to Britain to take on a position at Dog World. In the NTCA’s 2009 Annual, Elisabeth wrote, “When I moved to England in 1977, Joy and I became closer and I came to look on Standhall Cottage as my second home, never dreaming that one day I’d be living there with my dogs.” The two women shared a passion for the delightfully precocious drop-eared Terriers, and Joy freely offered her experience to her student. Elisabeth wrote, “I spent many hours watching Joy trim her dogs and teaching me how to read a pedigree. Not that I was a good pupil, but I was proud of the fact that my record holder ‘Betty,’ Ch. Cracknor Call My Bluff, was three-quarter Nanfan bred, and the well-known ‘Coco,’ Ch./Am. Ch. Cracknor Cause Celebre, [was] half Nanfan-bred.”

Senior Editor Christi McDonald wrote about Coco’s remarkable legacy to the breed and the dog show world earlier this year. In “Legends Lost: Two Extraordinary Brits Laid To Rest, Christi wrote, “Peter Green and Beth Sweigart had seen Coco on trips to Great Britain, and Peter tried to persuade Elisabeth that she could have a terrific career in the U.S. Although she really wanted Coco to have a terrific career in her own country, after the little dog whelped her first litter – two puppies, both girls – Elisabeth was convinced to send the Norfolk to America to see if Peter was right.”

Coco’s unprecedented career wins include Best in Show at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and Top Dog of All Breeds in 2003, Westminster Kennel Club Group Firsts in 2004 and 2005, and a 2005 Best in Show at Crufts Dog Show. Beth Sweigart handled Coco throughout her career for owners Pam Beale, Stephanie Ingram and Elisabeth. Peter had the honor of taking her into the ring at Crufts.

The legacy of Elisabeth, Coco and Cracknor has continued through several exceptional Norfolks, including ‘Dickie,’ Eng./Am. Ch. Cracknor Cause for Celebration, a Coco son, and two granddaughters, ‘Plum,’ GCh. Cracknor Cross The Ts, and ‘Roxy,’ Eng. Ch. Cracknor Custom Made.

Christi’s memorial to Coco may well have been written of her master breeder: “The American and British dog show scenes – indeed the dog show community worldwide – are so fortunate to have had these shining stars grace their stages.”

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