Jean Lanning, Judge and Breeder

Interview : Thorsteinn Thorsteinson (2011)

Jean Lanning, Judge and Breeder with Clausentum Kennel England

 Jean Lanning is well known around the world and by members of the Icelandic Kennel Club, HRFÍ. This English breeder and judge has judged in Iceland several times over the years , she was invited to judge at the kennel club’s 40th anniversary show in 2009 and judged here last in 2010. What is less known is that she also judged in the very first dog show held here in Iceland in 1973. For a short while Jean Lanning bred Icelandic Sheepdogs in England, during the very first years of organized breeding of the Icelandic Sheepdog in Iceland.

Jean Lanning got her interest in dogs and dog breeding at a young age, her mother founded Clausentum kennel in 1944 breeding Great Danes, she eventually took over the kennel and continued breeding Great Danes. Clausentum became an influential kennel in the breed both in the U.K. and other countries, importing from America and breeding many Champions. Jean Lanning has published three books on the Great Dane.

The nearest city to Jean Lanning’s home is Southampton, and that is where she went to school. The kennel name also has it’s origin there, Clausentum is the old Roman name for the port of Southampton. Clausentum kennel specialized in the Great Dane but they also bred other breeds of dogs. “We also bred some very fine Dalmatians. Several which became Champions. Also, my mother had some very good Toy Poodles, and over the years, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels were added. None of these breeds were ever over produced, and only the best blood lines used at the time.”

When asked about her main emphasis in breeding Jean Lanning said that all breeders, whatever the breed they have must keep as near to the recognized breed standard as possible because otherwise dog breeding and showing would be pointless. “However, it is imperative to only breed from good temper combined with good health. Dogs of nervous or bad temperament or health problems should not be used in building up a blood line.” Jean Lanning feels it should be the goal of every breeder that the next Champion will be even better than the last. “When you start having success in producing lovely show animals, you can then start line-breeding and building up a ‘strain’ (a family likeness) which can be recognized Internationally by other breeders who have your breed. However, that may take years to achieve.”

In her breeding Jean Lanning puts emphasis on type, temperament and health, she says it is paramount and encourages breeders not to be blinded by science. “The art of stockbreeding has been with mankind for thousands of years. Since man lived in caves. The people of Iceland are great stockbreeders. Look at your horses, cattle, sheep etc. I understand you have not imported new blood for a thousand years. Stockbreeding is in your blood, like the British. You will always breed good animals.”

I asked Jean Lanning if she would mention any dogs that have had a special influence on her breeding program and she mentioned the most important Great Dane Eng. Ch. Fergus of Clausentum that was born in the late sixties. “He was sired by a son of the top winning American Champion of that time. We then bred fairly closely into that line, and a number of Champions came from that. Most importantly Champion Fergus became very influential, and even today can be found behind most fawn and brindle Great Danes in the U.K. and many other parts of the World”.

Jean Lanning’s advice to all dog breeders and new people in this game is to encourage everyone to see the best dogs of the breed they are going to keep. “Come to CRUFTS the greatest Dog Show in the World, held every March in Birmingham. Read every book you are able to put your hands on. Talk to everyone who breeds and loves dogs (what ever the breed). With the Internet, there has never been a better time to talk to the great breeders across the world, and have photographs of their dogs.”

When asked about the development in her breeds in recent years she said that breeders in the U.K. are dedicated people who only want the very best for their dogs. “They spend great time and money showing their dogs across the Country, and for all to see. The problem we have in this country is the puppy farmer. They produce puppies in large quantities. So often poorly reared and not socialised. They will never be amongst the well-known breeders. They do a great disservice to all dogs. For many years, we have tried to legislate against puppy farmers, but as yet it has not been completely successful.”

Jean Lanning closed her kennel about 15 years ago and now lives in a little cottage in a village near Southampton and occasionally breeds Chihuahuas. “I have a famous little Chihuahua called INT.Ch.Clausentum Alfred Bramerita. He lives in the Czech Republic, is a Grand Champion and had just about every foreign title on him.” She mentioned that most people nowadays give their dogs complete dog food but it was not always like that. “Our dogs were reared on fresh meat and good quality dog biscuit. Our dogs used to live long healthy lives. Now days, many dogs die quite young. The reason as yet, to be discovered why?” Lanning is modest about her carrier in the dog world and when asked about how she would like people to remember her as a dog breeder she says that we will just have to wait and see! “I am just one of many who had a bit of luck as well.”

Since Jean Lanning is a well respected all-rounder judge that has judged all over the world, it is appropriate to ask her for advice for the student judges in Iceland. “You can never learn too much. The best judges over the years have always come from the successful breeders. If you are able to breed, rear and show top quality show dogs, it follows (given time) you may make a good judge. Some people have an eye for a dog. Others never will. We shall always have incompetent judges, it has always been so. However, I do not think many judges are dishonest. Some people try and become judges too quickly. There is nothing like experience. Some people think they know it all in 18 months!?  My advice to all young people, is to travel the World. Try and work in a famous British or American kennel for a year. There is no better training. Then bring back to Iceland some of the craft you have been taught about preparing show dogs, and presenting them in the ring.” Jean Lanning has been a judge for a long time but what has changed the most in the years of her international judging career is how much the F.C.I. has grown in stature.

The very first dog show in Iceland was held in the town of Hveragerði in August 1973. This was an open show and no points towards the championship title where given. Jean Lanning was the judge at this show and she feels that the progress here in Iceland since then to be amazing. “It was held in some large glass building from what I remember. I was sent there by the generosity of the late Hon. Mark Watson. An eccentric, wealthy Englishman who adored Iceland and the Iceland Sheepdog. I believe your countrymen bestowed the Order of the Falcon on him.”

Jean Lanning had a busy boarding kennel as well and there she got to know the Icelandic Sheepdog for the first time. “Sometime, I think in the 50’s or 60’s, a sweet little dog a family pet called Kim, used to stay with us. Posh name Hrefna of Wensum. The family had to part with her, and we took her on. A delightful dog and we loved her. She did big winning at Championship Shows in variety Y not classified classes.”

“Mark Watson came to see us one day. He had just returned from Iceland, and was concerned that the breed might become extinct in your country. At that time Sigríður Pétursdóttir bred them on her farm, but needed new blood. Mark asked us to breed from Kim and another bitch he had bred living in Southampton. The breeding was very close, but Mark finally was able present two to Sigríður. He purchased also from her a brace, which he gave to me as a present. We did breed them on for a while, but I was not too pleased with the soft coats the new ones from Iceland brought. Mark Watsons had the harsh weather resisting coats I prefer. However, I know the Standard of the Iceland Dog permits two types of coats. When I have judged them in Iceland I have been very pleased with the standard. The breed has much to thank Mark Watson and Sigríður Pétursdóttir for.”

She continues to talk about Mark Watson and the Icelandic sheepdog. “I understand he took his first dogs to California. Then returning to England his stock was somewhat reduced, as he lost several to a virus called Hard Pad at that time. He finally gave up the interest of dog breeding, and went to London, where he had an upmarket antique shop in the Old Brompton Road. I told you he was an eccentric English aristocrat. I believe the son of some Noble Lord.”

Jean Lanning tells me that no one else bred the Icelandic Sheepdog in the U.K. and that sadly the breed died out there. The reasons she feels were lack of interest and a very small population. “We bred a beautiful bitch (she is seen today on many post cards). She lived with a lovely family in Guildford. They fully intended breeding from her. Sadly, she was killed in a road accident. Perhaps one day someone will bring them back to England. It would be nice if that could happen”

This article was first published in December 2011 in Sámur, the magazine of the Icelandic Kennel Club, HRFÍ

Interview : Thorsteinn Thorsteinson

Translation : Helga Andrésdóttir and Thorsteinn Thorsteinson

D2 Lanning skodar poodle D3 Mark Watson D4 ahorfendur D5 domari skodar islendinga D7 stoltir eigendur forsida sigurvegari