news - 06/07/2003
Small Breed, Big Breeder -
by Yossi Guy
David Ephrat of Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh is perhaps the best-known Israeli breeder on the international scene. Dogs from his Beit Hama’ayan kennel have attained fantastic achievements in Europe, America and other parts of the world. At 80, after 40 years of breeding that produced some 3,000 dogs and bitches, David spends most of his time with his 20-odd dogs but still finds time to work on the Kibbutz, distributing newspapers to the members.
David and his second wife Eva live in a small but neat apartment in Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh in the center of Israel. Surprisingly enough, the Miniature Pinschers are relegated to their kennels beside the stables and two toy Poodles constitute the “welcoming party”, joyously greeting visitors and expressing their owners’ amicable nature and love of people.
Unlike most pre-war Eastern European Jews, David grew up with dogs in his native Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia).
“I was born with dogs,” he recalls. “It all began when we lived in a village. My grandfather lived on one side of the courtyard and my parents and I lived on the other side. My grandparents bred something they called a “Fox Terrier” but I suspect it was another breed. However, my grandfather and his brother took care to breed pure lines although their dogs did not have pedigrees.
This is not something very typical of Jews in those days?
“It is a family ‘flaw’. My father raised birds and the entire family kept animals. We later moved to an apartment and my father bought a pedigreed German Shepherd bitch. He contacted an established breeder and we had several dogs. One of them would go to shows with the breeder.”
And did you continue that when you immigrated to Israel (actually Palestine, before the State of Israel was established)?
I immigrated in 1939, at the age of 16, and wanted to bring one of the dogs with me, but had to leave them all behind. I came to a kibbutz and they had watchdogs, a German Shepherd without a pedigree as well as a Boxer bred by Professor Rudolphina Menzel (one of the first dog breeders and judges in Israel). I began to take care of the dogs that accompanied the watchmen who guarded the fields. I then went to Professor Menzel’s and worked there for a few months on behalf of the Jewish defense movement, the Hagana. She gave me a Canaan dog with cropped ears. She used them as messenger dogs used for communication between Hagana members.”
When did you begin to raise Miniature Pinschers?
“I got my first Pinscher in 1959, a bitch without pedigrees from Polish lines. I began to take an interest in the breed and imported a dog from Germany. He was large and people did not want to use him at stud. However, when I took him to a show, Prof. Menzel was impressed and made him Best of Breed. At the end of the show, when the time came to give out the prizes, the called the winners, including a puppy from my breeding owned by a young lady. She mistakenly received the BOB cup. Dr. Neuman, the president of the Kennel Club at the time – an old German-born gentleman – gave her a kiss and the cup. A month later I received the certificated attesting that my dog had won. Thus we all came out winners – I won a certificate, she won a cup and Dr. Neuman won a kiss…”
What characterizes your breeding?
“First of all the heads. They are quite typical of my kennel. Good proportions, long, strong muzzle, stop that’s not too pronounced. My dogs have a strong, straight back without a dip at the withers. I would like to improve the size – it is not uniform enough, although the phenomenon of “large” dogs (standard is 30 so large ones are over 32) doesn’t worry me too much. I try not to breed large dogs but they are not so terrible and I would never discount a larger dog if it is perfect from other aspects. I would not breed dogs that give the same mistake to their offspring – loose elbows, lack of front angulation, low croup.”
What about temperament?
“I have some problems with that. I am the only person that takes care of my dogs so some of them are shy. However, none of them are aggressive either towards human beings or other dogs. I do not use aggressive. Most of my puppies make good house pets and usually have steady temperaments.”
How did you begin?
My dream was to breed dogs, since I was a boy. When I arrived in Israel in 1939, at the age of 16, there was no studbook as far as I know. In 1950 I served in the military canine corps. In June 1951 I was discharged and received a German Shepherd bitch from France but found out I couldn’t give her the proper conditions for breeding. I dreamt of a pedigree dog but did not have the money. We had a small mixed breed bitch that I found on the grounds of the kibbutz.
“In 1959, I wanted a small breed, looked for a Dachshund but couldn’t find one. My wife returned from a trip to Tel Aviv and told me about small dogs she had seen in a pet shop window. I took the next bus to Tel Aviv and saw two Pinscher-like dogs, a black and tan bitch and a black and white dog. They wanted 100 pounds, a lot of money for a kibbutz member at the time. I bred parakeets, so I offered her to swap the bitch for some parakeets and she agreed. Mrs. Ichilov, the proprietor, was a fantastic person. She said the pedigrees were supposed to arrive from Poland. We went together to the breeder, and it turned out the sire did not have a proper pedigree. Some time later, I found a family in Haifa, who had immigrated from Rumania and had Pinschers. I bought a puppy who looked better than my bitch.
Do you remember your first litter?
“I had a litter from these two. I was looking for another male. I saw a bus driver with three dogs that now I know were not very good in quality. I used one of his dogs and received a jet-black dog with whom I bred for about two years.
“Then I met a well-to-do family who helped me bring a dog from Von Janelinhof, a famous German kennel. However, my wife was extremely ill and I decided to sell all my dogs. I tried to breed other breeds – Sheltie, Cocker – but that was not for me.”
So what happened to your breeding?
“The Pinscher Club was established in about 1973 and then I contacted the president Ora Tamary. She gave me addresses of good breeders. A German breeder sent me a dog and a bitch from the above kennel and the dog had some of their blood as well. These were my foundation dogs. After the first whelping the bitch was ill so I never had another litter from her, however one bitch was left, Asta Beit Ma’ayan, with whom I continued to breed.
“I took part in a show with a German judge, who was impressed with my dogs. One year later, Heinz Muller, the president of the German Pinscher Club was here with his wife who judged our dogs. He was impressed with me and about two weeks later Rita received a phone call from them that they have a special dog for me and whether I would like to buy it. I immediately said yes, without asking for the price.”
I understand this puppy was a bit unusual for his time.
“The puppy arrived and I took him with me to a meeting of the Kennel Club. He looked like a small Amstaff and everyone laughed at him. This was Bill von Cronsbach, the father of the Pinschers in Israel.
“He mated all the bitches I had, including some of his daughters. He sired some large dogs – 32 cm. – but gave correct heads and altogether wonderful dogs. Since I used him on all the bitches, this included small, short bitches with bad heads that had been registered in the studbook by ‘classification’ [An antiquated system whereby a judge could determine a dog’s breed and it would receive a pedigree – YG]. I got the ideal Pinschers – good size, short coupled, massive bodies and wonderful heads. One of them immediately became an Israeli champion. His owner was Amnon Bloch, the pilot who flew Menachem Begin to Egypt in 1978.”
How did you arrive at your well-known bloodlines?
“At a certain stage I bred one of my bitches to a dog from the classification. The puppies were horrible. I understood this was not the way for me because I wanted to establish a bloodline with its own distinction. I wanted dogs that I knew would help propagate the breed.
“After Bill arrived, Rita Trainin went to the USA. She corresponded with me and said she would have loved to buy me a dog but they were very expensive. At a CACIB show in Ashkelon, a German born America breeder, Mrs. Abramson, took part. I wanted to use one of her dogs at stud but she wanted $1,000, which was much too much for me. Rita saw some of her dogs with another breeder. She sent me a puppy that had cost very little. He was a deep yellow with long hair. However, he was very short and with a large head. Later, he changed color into a lovely red. His name was Harvard (Harvey) and he was also very influential.
“Rita told me about Mrs. Abramson’s dogs, brought photos from another breeder named Mrs. Levin and we bought Mary, a red puppy bitch, from her. She said she had another litter from the same combination. We thought this would be fine and paid 1,000 dollars. Several months later, an Israeli judge Rina Menashe, flew to the USA and was willing to bring the bitch but returned without her because the breeder had said the bitch was not ready yet. A few weeks later, the lady notified us the bitch was coming. When I took her out of the crate, I saw a wry bite. We notified the breeder, who gave us back 200 dollars.
“Rita advised me not to show her to anyone and use her at whelp. We mated her to Bill and received a small, short-coupled dog. I entered him for the 1985 World Show in Amsterdam after he had received a VG in a local show and I was apprehensive. I came back with a World Winner under a German breed specialist.
“I then bred Mary to Harvey to get an American litter. I left a black and tan dog, Shakked”.
Which are your most famous dogs?
“One dog sired a lot of champions, Vlack Beit Hama’ayan (Vlack = locomotive in Slovakian). He was disqualified by an Israeli judge because his bite was not perfect. I then had a black and tan bitch from Harvey – Dusha. She was a very famous bitch and I wanted to mate her to a black dog. I wrote to Cronsbach and he had a black puppy and needed him for the time being.
“I wanted to have Shakked approved for breeding but the club officials were uncooperative. I wrote a letter, based on Rita’s advice. I received a reply with all sorts of red tape. She decided the dog had a wrong bite but allowed a single litter.
“At the Tel Aviv World Show in 1987, a Dutch judge visited us and saw the dog. She said the dog was lovely. Myrna took him to several shows and returned with 3 CACIB’s. He was also a double World Winner. He gave very short-coupled offspring. He was a real show dog, full of himself, a real winner.
“In the meantime, the club denied having disqualified him, but I later found the letter proving it.”
Is all your breeding based on your own bloodlines?
“Every once in a while I bring dogs from abroad. About three years ago a friend said he would bring a nice puppy from South Africa. He was not happy with the color, but I was not concerned about that. He did have a lot of teeth missing.
“One of the first litters I had from Bill, a Swedish judge wanted him but I was reluctant. Again, he was disqualified by an Israeli judge. This ‘disqualified’ dog, Hod, was extremely famous and successful in Scandinavia and gave lots of good quality offspring. They wanted to sell me an American-bred dog for more than I could afford. I send a bitch and put her in quarantine with this dog and the bitch was in whelp. The lady asked me whether I was ‘willing’ to receive a puppy from that litter. I insisted on paying her for the dog – Rocky – he was a very short dog who had a wonderful career here until I later gave him to South Africa. The same person came here to mate a bitch and since I refused to take stud fees gave me a beautiful statue.”
I see you have some good friends among breeders in other countries.
“At the World Show in Hungary, I met a Russian lady with a bitch from my lines, who said she wanted to come to Israel to breed her here. She asked how much stud fees I want and I said nothing. Then she asked how much I took for a puppy, and I said I usually take $800 but I would give her a discount. She send money with someone but it took time to arrive and I sent her two puppies before I saw the money. We became good friends and they helped me when I needed their help. I also sent Vlack there after I had achieved all I needed from him.”
How does living on a kibbutz affect your breeding?
“Had I lived anywhere else, I would not have been able to keep so many dogs. However, the other members are not very appreciative of my undertaking. If I had been in athletics, they would have appreciated it more.”
What part does Dr. Rita Trainin have in your breeding?
“Without Rita there would be no Beit Hama’ayan. She gave lots of advice, help, found dogs for me. She taught me how to look at the dogs’ faults, and I learnt from that more than from good critiques.”
What would you say to a beginner?
“First of all, forget about money. Never let money dictate your moves. Try to set your aim at a particular type. I have never been satisfied with my breeding I always look for mistakes. There is no such thing as the ideal dog, any dog has its mistakes and one must look at the whole.”
Israelis are quite odd when it comes to buying purebred dogs.
“A person once asked for my advice. His wife had baked a cake and the dog ate it. I told him to ask his wife to bake another cake immediately…”
Dr. Rita Trainin is David Ephrat’s mate when it comes to breeding. As a veterinarian and all-round judge, Dr. Trainin has raised several generations of breeders and judges in Israel. She gladly told of her experiences with David Ephrat.
“I know David ever since I returned to Israel in 1966,” recalls Dr. Trainin. “I also knew several people who had dogs from him and others who bred Miniature Pinschers of the type acceptable in the 60’s. I had heard a lot about him. In those days, Miniature Pinschers were very different both in construction and in character. The dogs were very small and dainty, yappy, and had two severe medical problems – patella luxation and problems with whelpings, a large number of bitches need help or caesarian sections.
“We began to examine the problems and David’s major concern was with patellas since he was already aware of the genetic nature of this affliction and he had determined the bloodlines that were especially prone to it. In those years, the first dogs arrived from Germany – most of the previous dogs had come from Eastern Europe. Several German bitches that were a bit bigger, with stronger bone and no patella problems were imported. They gave whelp without any problems. These dogs helped change the image of the Miniature Pinschers in Israel.”
In what way?
“David made great efforts at the time to go in the modern direction and keep away from the tiny dogs that are on the smaller side of the standard and very delicate. The first German bitches were not superb, some of them were too long in body, so David quickly realized he must somehow shorten the back and add power to the limbs and muzzle.
“This is when he imported the German dog that left his everlasting impression on the breed, Bill von Cronbach. The president of the German Schnauzer-Pinscher Club judged in Israel and was impressed with David’s dogs. When he heard of the problems David was having, the German decided to look for an appropriate dog that would correct the mistakes and come from stable bloodlines, that would increase the chance those qualities would be inherited by his offspring.
“This was David’s biggest success that changed his breeding and channeled it to the best quality in Western Europe at the time. The dog, Bill, was extremely different from other local dogs. Instead of having a wide skull and narrow muzzle, he had a wide muzzle and a relatively shallow stop. He gave his offspring medium size, lots of mass and a strong muzzle with big, healthy teeth.”
How did he progress from here?
“The generation after Bill was extremely true to type but David had not managed to shorten the body. We then searched for a solution to this problem and reached the conclusion that we must turn to the USA, where Miniature Pinschers were very short-coupled with excellent toplines. We were willing to take the chance of getting lighter bones.
“We brought a dog, Harvard, and then a bitch. The dog managed to add the quality we required. He did hand down other, poorer, qualities but Bill’s line was so strong and David managed to use clever selection and his extensive experience to keep the bitches with better bone and correct conformation.”
What do you think of David as a breeder?
“I believe David has reached the ideal breed type in the last decade. He has retained size without overdoing it. This is quite difficult when one wants a strong dog. He has managed to keep Bill’s wonderful head despite the American Lines. The topline, well-developed chest and front angulation are the hallmark of David’s type. Most European champions lack the power that includes the front angulation and deep chest.
“The Scandinavians published a booklet with standards of the Schnauzer and Pinscher group with explanations, intended for judges and breeders. The cover photo of the Pinscher standard was of one of David’s bitches, Dusha Beit Hama’ayan, whom they decided was the perfect example of the breed.”
What makes him such a good breeder?
“David’s greatness lies in his strife for perfection. He views any fault as a severe fault. He looks for mistakes in his dogs and is far from ‘kennel blind’. He kept a large number of dogs so he could select the best. He never said he has reached his goal, but continues to look for improvements and enhancements.
What can other breeders learn from David?
“I believe one can learn from David how to persevere and listen. He does not go to dog shows just to win, but to understand what the judges write about his dogs, talk to other breeders and enlist different opinions. David never took mistakes lightly and always did his best to keep breeding until the mistake was corrected.”
David is a source of pride for Israeli breeders, as Rita Trainin realized again lately.
“Not long ago, I judged at a show in Antwerp, Belgium. I was not judging Miniature Pinschers and was quite surprised when several local breeders came up to me and asked to show me their dogs. They proudly announced that these dogs were second generation Beit Hama’ayan.”