If Carlsberg did puppies - Meet the litter which produced four Crufts qualifiers and three rescue dogs
- Credit: Archant
Were Crufts to offer a category for the 'most talented litter', these clever canines would certainly be leading the pack.
David Jenkins and Antonio Skaboullos, from Rushmere, were the first in the UK to breed Black and Tan Coonhounds - a little-known variety of scent hound which takes its name from use as a racoon hunting dog in the USA.
The couple run Covehithe Coonhounds - named after their favourite dog-walking spot in Suffolk - and welcomed a litter of 10 puppies to the world last February.
In July the coonhound gained pedigree status from registry body, The Kennel Club, allowing them to be exhibited at dog shows across the country. Four of the litter have since gone to show homes and have qualified for this year's Crufts, starting on March 7.
Three of their siblings have meanwhile become search and rescue dogs in locations including Belfast and Berkshire, perhaps making this the nation's most talented litter of puppies.
'It's amazing to see where the dogs are now,' said Mr Jenkins, who began breeding coonhounds alongside Mr Skaboullos five years ago. 'We started out with a litter of puppies and thought 'how do we advertise a breed of dog that no one knows anything about?''
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'They're certainly growing in profile and we are now getting enquiries every couple of days. Crufts are even running some features on them this year to raise awareness about the breed.
'There's a nice little buzz about the coonhound at the moment and a lot of people are talking about them.'
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Best described as sporting the colour of a Doberman with the ears and head of a Basset Hound, the number of Black and Tan Coonhounds now stands at around 90 after another litter was born in recent weeks.
Covehithe Coonhounds is one of only two UK breeders, but for Mr Jenkins and Mr Skaboullos the process is focused on the wellbeing of the dogs themselves.
'The black and tan coonhounds are the most docile of creatures,' added Mr Jenkins, 50. 'They have a fantastic nature and they are good with children and other animals - they are not aggressive dogs in any way.
'For us this has never been about making a profit, but instead trying to grow the profile and prioritising the welfare of the dogs.'