Interview and story by Bas Bosch
Mother’s Day 1961. The childhood dream of Hemmechien Grevelt came true.
A long-cherished desire that would develop into an embroidery that has
been the leitmotiv of her life from more than three decades:
El Kharaman Afghan Hounds
And the close-knit family shares the obsession.
Hemmechien Kruize, too old for dolls, too young for boys, first came face to face with a pedigree dog as a girl of thirteen. This apparition left a deep impression, which surfaced again after many years when she reached 21. Not earlier because in her parental home father’s word was law, such that Hemmechien never even voiced her longing for a dog. Meanwhile she sought solace with the sheep-dogs which were allowed onto the property.
As a young woman, Hemmechien learned that the dogs that she cherished in her thoughts belonged to the Afghan Hound breed. She had bought a dog book and looked it up. Away from the parental home, married to Ernst (Ed) Grevelt, every opportunity to lend an ear to her suppressed and silent longings. No, not yet. Hemmechien waited.
Seven years. Meanwhile, the family became richer by two children. Hetty was born in 1956 and Edwin in 1960. In 1961, Hemmechien asked if the family could be extended by an Afghan Hound. She wanted him for Mother’s Day. The prayer was answered. "He" turned out to be a "she". Pamina was her name, no kennel name.
Eighteen months later, Mrs Grevelt attended her first dog show, the Winner. As if automatically, she was drawn to the Afghan ring. "All those beautiful dogs, they walked like Friesian horses, so stately" - that is what has stayed in her memory.
One particular exhibitor made an especially strong impression on her. "A woman presented one Afghan Hound after another. She was helped by a young man in a white jacket who stood ready at the side of the ring. Judged Afghan out, Afghan to be judged in. That made a great impression on me." The woman was Miss Eta Pauptit of "Van De Oranje Manège" kennel. Mrs Grevelt took her business card.
She could see that her dog was a long way below the quality of the Afghans at the Winner. And yet she still wanted to show Pamina at least once. The chance came in December 1963 at the club competition at KC Friesland. It was also the first time she met Martin van de Weijer, who was to become a good friend of the Grevelts. It was he who subjected Pamina to the judge’s eye.
Why, Mrs Grevelt still doesn’t know - she had never had any contact with on - but she really wanted to start breeding dogs. "Perhaps the farm where I grew up, with new young animals, being born every year, had awoken that longing in me". The business card that had been carefully stored away for two years was brought out.
"What a mop of a dog you’ve got there". That was the scarcely disguised opinion of the top expert of the breed, Eta Pauptit, of Pamina. Mrs Grevelt kept her silence. She was used to that sort of thing, it was the kind of judgement which she had been brought up. It was probably those very experiences with her father that had made Mrs Grevelt suitable for a long-term relationship with the highly fussy woman that was Miss Pauptit. "It was like a mother-daughter relationship", according to Mr Grevelt.
The first achievement of the good relationship between the women was the purchase of the Afghan bitch, named Peggy, born in 1966, from "Van De Oranje Manège". During her first year of life she was shown regularly to the breeder. This period was followed by a period of just being "very happy with our two Afghans". Miss Pauptit vanished from the Grevelt’s scene for two years until a postcard from the breeder fell on the doormat with the brief request "Please get in touch".
The renewal of the Pauptit-Grevelt relationship and the being "so happy" with the two dogs was the basis for a third Afghan. This bitch, Valmiki, from "Van De Oranje Manège" brought the couple in contact with the ‘real’ dog-breeding world : at her first show, the 1965 Winner she won the young-dog prize.
And then, after years of patient waiting, when the time was ripe for the first litter, Miss Pauptit granted her approval, but... no kennel name. "First let’s see what you can achieve" came the old-fashioned motto, like in the guilds. On 18 April 1966, 2-3 pups first saw the light of day from the combination Bhakkar's Dudel and Peggy Van De Oranje Manège. The father, a Dutch and European racing champion, was a full-blooded VDOM Afghan. The father of the mother was an import from Afghanistan. Two dogs from the litter became racing champions.
A good year later came the second litter, once again without kennel name. For that a dog from the first litter, Dutch racing champion Topper was paired with Valmiki from "Van De Oranje Manège". Topper was later exported to Australia.
After two litters, Miss Pauptit, teacher, was able to confide in pupil Grevelt: "You’ve made it; you have proved yourself with these two litters." The kennel name that Eta had chosen fitted this judgement perfectly. El Kharaman is the name of a game in which a victim has to be captured. And so Hemmechien was initiated. The kennel registration dates from 4 September 1970.
|The third litter that she bred, and thus the first El Kharaman litter, was born on 19 July 1970. Eight (3-5) pups were born. The parents were Kelim and Valmiki, both of "Van De Oranje Manège". Captain el Kharaman was one of the dogs. He would later win recognition as the father of the most successful Afghan Hound bitch in the Netherlands: Dutch, Belgian, German and International champion Glenda el Kharaman. Mrs Grevelt is eternally grateful for what she learned from Miss Pauptit and for the way she was moulded by her. "She gave me plenty of space to discover myself. Never gave me instructions in advance and never condemned anything. The only thing that she did was to give her opinion or explain a method after I had put mine into practice." Mr Grevelt adds: "That was how Eta Pauptit demonstrated her greatness as a teacher."||
Winning Bitch of all times in the Netherlands
Glenda el Kharaman
Dutch, Belgian & German Champion
Junior Winster Amsterdan (NL) 1972
Amsterdam (NL) Winster 1975 - 1976
European Winster 1977
Brabo Winster Antwerp (Belgium) 1975 - 1977
Saarland Siegerin 1974
Winster of the NVOW Specialty 1977
The period that followed was the happiest in Mrs Grevelt’s "dog life". Fanatically participating in racing competitions, a driven, daily and extensive preparation for the next test of strength, travelling together with Miss Pauptit, helping her get the dogs show-ready, "those were the high points of my life." Coming out onto the race track, particularly in the early years, was handled very much in imitation of Miss Pauptit. Nowadays, the Grevelts feel no longer at home in the starkly altered culture of the racing world.
Dutch & International Champion
Bryd el Kharaman born in 1976
Since 1971 the exhibition branch of
the Afghan fanciers club has been taken extremely seriously by the
Grevelt family. With results to show for it, to put it modestly. To take
a nice round figure, 25 years of El Kharaman Afghan Hounds on the
exhibition circuit has produced, hold your breath: 46 top champions
including 11 international, and 18 Dutch, 67 day titles including 21 at
the Winner, 62 BOBs and 5 BISs. The most recent, distinguished victory
was achieved at the 1996 Championship Clubmatch of the Dutch Association
of Eastern Hounds (NVOW). Nadir el Kharaman was both BOB and BIS.
Such a level of participation and results can only be achieved if the home situation allows such a costly hobby. The Grevelts do move in such fortunate circles. Mrs Grevelt: "I am grateful that our family is not burdened by worries. The dogs could have everything they needed. Money has fortunately never had to come into it. It was indeed hard work, but I had no objection to that. I could just be animal with my animals."
During more than fifteen years, and not counting Hemmechien, the menagerie has numbered about 35 Afghans. From many litters two pups were kept. Older dogs, in principle, don’t leave. The oldies - twelve, thirteen, fourteen years is normal, don’t need to fear that they will face a premature end because they are no longer of any ‘use’.
From left to right :
Lioni, Hapax, Hedon & Glenda el Kharaman
Together they have 12 Champions Titles
These grand numbers surely must mean there have been huge numbers of litters. Not at all. On average two litters per year, that’s all, no more, no less. Even when the Afghan was the trendy breed (with eighty, ninety dogs at a show and two judges), which was about 20 years ago now.
accept you for what you are,
to me they are almost on the same level
as humans in terms of their communication
In recent years, the scope of the hobby has shrunk significantly. Last year, the Grevelt couple - the children have left home - moved into a smaller, cosier accommodation with about 10 dogs (a stone’s throw from the coast of Petten in North Holland, five kilometres from where Mrs Grevelt was born). But going to the shows is still important and the urge to win has not lessened.
Joy and Chiron el Kharaman just behind the house in Overveen (NL)
Mrs Grevelt doesn’t really like to talk about results and that sort of thing. She would much rather broach a topic like what the dogs mean to her. She can praise the character of her dogs to the skies: "They accept you for what you are, to me they are almost on the same level as humans in terms of their communication. With a certain look in their eyes they can make it so clear that they want some water, for instance. Two days before they show any symptoms of sickness, you already notice that there is something not quite right with them. And yet despite all their wisdom there has never been any fighting in the pack. One word from me is enough to quell any burgeoning skirmish".
It is precisely because of that character that she has lost her heart to this breed, but only to those dogs of the so-called Mountain Afghan type. "Afghans of the other types are not always so docile and friendly to man and beast."
Apart from the special behaviour, Mrs Grevelt, and no less so her husband, swear by the classical appearance of the Mountain Afghan. Mr Grevelt says, "The Mountain type is distinguished by its strong build and the remarkable harmony of excellent angularities of the fore and hind quarters, large feet, a powerful head, dark eyes and an air of self-confidence and nobility, and the tail should have a ring or curl at the end. It is a noble working dog that should show no traces of refinement and an extreme coat is altogether wrong." Mrs Grevelt adds: "I like to see a head with a little cap over the eyes. Below the eyes it should fade away, and a bit of a roman noze is also rather beautiful. But that’s personal taste."
The Grevelts have got to know the Mountain Afghan type as few others have, the same type that Miss Pauptit found in her Afghans when she started "van de Oranje Manege" in 1930, the same type that was introduced into the Netherlands by that other famous Dutch dog breeder Mr. Han Jüngeling.
Miss Pauptit attended
the most recent NVOW Championship club competition. She was enchanted by
the dog and bitch that Mrs Grevelt brought. There is no higher
compliment for a breeder, a better example of dog-breeding is difficult
to imagine, keeping up a type that for more than sixty years has
determined the face of the Dutch Afghan Hound.
"Van De Oranje Manège" (VDOM) WAS and IS a phenomenon, which has resulted amongst other things in an international association of breeders that has kept the work of Eta Pauptit alive. Amongst other means, there is the yearly publication of a club newsletter, which is produced on a rota basis by a breeder in a given country.
How Mrs Grevelt has bridged the gap between the technical side of breeding and this story that appeals to the imagination, she does not find it is easy to put into words. "It was more a question of feeling, of intuition. I looked at pedigrees, yes, but always as an afterthought. The dogs themselves, what they did to me, determined the combination of parents. I have always thought of my breeding kennel as an embroidery, progressing stitch by stitch."
Her predecessor applied consistent breeding lineage. Mrs Grevelt employs this method of breeding too, but more gently. She has used in-breeding just the once, in the sense of grandfather-daughter. The number of "outcrosses" has been large, thirteen in all. Only one "outcross" did not satisfy the Mountain type, all the others did.
Donja el Kharaman,
a fine reslt of 70 years Dutch Afghan Hound Breeding of the Mountain type
Allowing a short pause :
SIXTY years of breeding one breed,
SIXTY years of inter-relational breeding,
SIXTY years of keeping one type, out of thousands of recognisable types with the remarkably balanced and friendly character,
SIXTY years long with an average life-span of around ten years,
SIXTY years long with no breed-related congenital abnormalities.
The Grevelts, at least, are anyway not under the impression that the geneticist’s and veterinarian’s clock is ticking away, at least not as far as their breed is concerned. There are other matters that concern them.
should not be forgotten that Mrs Grevelt has pulled another rabbit out
of the breeding kennel hat: the creation of a grey Mountain Afghan, not
an original colour for this type. In 1974, this separate El Kharaman
line started with the American import of
The ambition to produce a grey Mountain Afghan was only rewarded after a long struggle because the strange characteristics of the other Afghans proved to be so stubborn, in appearance but also surely in nature. Almost twenty years later and five generations on, Mrs Grevelt was finally satisfied with the emergence of El Kharaman Quoron, born in 1992. He is now the only grey among all his red kennel mates. The colour is the only thing that distinguishes him from a remarkably homogeneous group.
Vakaba & Fanyen
respectivly third and fourth generation of the "el Kharaman" gray color breed
Yuy el Kharaman - born on September 14, 1985
also from the American breed in the el Kharaman line
Dutch, German & International Champion
Brabo Winner 1991
Bundessieger Austria 1991
Two sides to the coin
So far a pretty impressive story of top level dog breeding. But the old adage applies here too: there are two sides to every coin. The American spectacle has already left the essential traces, first during the period of the Afghan Hound as a fashion dog and now again over the last five years. Spectacularly good-looking animals, particularly when they walk, but too chic, too refined, too much coat, and wrongly built (steep forequarters, over-angled hindquarters).
"The Mountain Afghan displays a unique manner of step, at least if he is not brought forward too fast. This feature is due to the tremendous power emanating from his hindlegs, essential for a working dog who has to operate in mountainous terrain," says Mr Grevelt. His wife demonstrates this enthusiastically with several of her dogs. "Do you see what I mean, unique isn’t it? Now don’t you think that’s beautiful?"
Twenty years ago, the Mountain type was threatened by a number of new breeders who came along with other Afghans. The damage was able to be limited by a Dutch judges corps that kept its school true, helped by the breed association that came to the protection of the most desirable, i.e. Mountain, Afghan with a genuine policy document. Not that they saw only one type as the right type - the standard covered more than one blue-print, but though.
have always thought of my breeding kennel as an embroidery,
progressing stitch by stitch
For the rest, Mr Grevelt experiences it all regularly as judge. He is still willing to give sometimes a higher rank to an Afghan Hound that is not of "his" type, something that is not always fully understood by the "orthodox of the creed". In other words: if an Afghan does not satisfy the Mountain type criteria, it is not by definition abnormal or bad.
The recent threat comes more from the influence of judges, who despite their background, are tempted by the beauty of other types of Afghans, to be seen in foreign shows. We see the effects of that coming through in the Dutch ring.
Another negative development of recent years, which particularly pains Mrs Grevelt, is the decline in uniformity in the Afghan ring. "You see more and more often one and the same breeder bringing forward this type and then that. What has happened to the inspiration for a specific sort of dog?" (How far that has to do with the loss of kennels that impress a stamp on the breed through their size and continuity is an interesting question.) Not that she lets herself be taken aback by that. "I just keep on going with what I think is right."
Fortunately, Mrs Grevelt is not alone. There are (still) enough breeders who remain faithful to the Dutch persuasion and allow themselves to be advised by Mrs Grevelt. She has taken over Miss Pauptit’s role in that respect.
So no prostration to the delusion of the day, no denial of the wonderful inheritance. Yet Mrs Grevelt too has had to adapt to the changing demands of the show-ring. "Regular brushing and an extra shake of the talc at the show used to be enough in viewer days. Now I have to wash my dogs the day beforehand with three different shampoos, otherwise they fall foul with the judge. I have to conform."
left : daughter Sahara el Kharaman ~ right : father Hapax el Kharaman
Hapax is Dutch, German and Interntional Champion
He became BOB at the Champions Clubmatch of the NVOW in 1981
He obtained 9 * Best of Breed (BOB) ~ 2 * Best in Group (BIG) and 2 * Best in Show (BIS)
The toileting requirements have meanwhile moved so far forward that the old-fashioned characteristic, gently waving coat that is becoming a real rarity, is even considered to be wrong by some judges. Luckily there are still some judges, like Mr Grevelt, who have been around long enough to prize what is unique.
New dictates or not, what Mrs Grevelt will continue to persevere in, is the refusal to degrade her dogs into fashion models for the greater glory of the coat. "You cannot and must not do that to these animals."
The three decades of breeding as a vocation, often running against the tide, is only possible if the home front is supportive, is prepared to devote itself to the all-prevailing passion. Mrs Grevelt has more than that. A daughter who keeps and shows Afghans and, what’s more, is active on the NVOW committee and treasurer of the Federation of Afghan Hound Associations. A son who has directed his love of animals into becoming a veterinarian. Mrs Grevelt does find it a pity that his recently started practice allows him little space for his Afghan hobby for the time being. Hopefully, there will come a time when he can devote himself to the Afghan; it would be shame if he were lost to the breed. "The children have been infected with my love of the breed. The whole family is Afghan crazy."
Joy el Kharaman - a
playfull Afghan Hound
And then we have father Grevelt. He has made sure that his beloved wife could pursue her Afghan hobby to the full, untroubled by outside cares. Meanwhile he has evolved into another type of dog-lover, one who distinguishes himself as a judge and a boardmember.
His cynological Curriculum Vitae is quite impressive: six years as secretary and four years as president of the NVOW, three years as president of the Amsterdam Sighthound Racing Association, a few years as delegate in the Afghan Hound group and Section II of the Dutch Kennel Club, since 1977 judge in the Afghan Hound group, since 1983 representative of the Dutch Kennel Club in the Board of Directors in the international FCI Commission des Lévriers and since 1993 chairman of this commission, since 1980 member of the Royal Dutch Kennel Club "Cynophilia" with six years as a boardmember, dog-lovers’ publicist and member of the editorial board of the Dog-breeders Manual. Current high-point: in April of this year he joined the Board of Directors of the Dutch Kennel Club at Cynophilia’s nomination.
Mr Grevelt is "very happy" with his appointment. "I think that I can put my experience to very good use as a board member. I also find the work pleasant, managing in a position where the real decisions are made."
He has only experienced a small number of Board meetings so far, but he is totally positive about "the great willingness of the Board to create a greater openness to the basics, an attitude that he himself wholly underwrites. More strongly: such an attitude is essential, dog-breeding has a right to it. In the past it has been wrong in its involvement with the basics. Now it has the right approach."
That is also the reason that he looks forward confidently to the impending decision process on the Democratising Commission’s proposal. "I expect the delegates to reject the proposal. Don’t forget that a three-quarter majority is needed for the proposal to be accepted by the Board. After that there is the opportunity to achieve a more far-reaching reorganisation. As far as I am concerned, that has to lead to more say for the breed groups and area, more than there is in the current proposal." Having said that, he feels deeply that the basics must not forget how important it is that calm rules in the rank and file of the dog-breeding fraternity. "We must put all our souls into becoming equal partners in the social domain that is having more and more influence on dog-breeding."
At high speed, more hot potatoes follow, controversial points that will determine the future of dog-breeding both internally and externally, such as healthy pedigree populations and the judge question. Mr Grevelt discusses with verve. He clearly loves to. In the near future, he will also have more time to convert his words into deeds. Given his status in society - he has worked as an interim manager - Mr Grevelt is a perfect example of the dog-lover who can make a significant contribution to running dog-breeding in the Netherlands.
Uncomplicated generosity of spirit
After - no, sorry - during my visit to El Kharaman I became more and more enchanted with the Mountain Afghan. I fell under the spell of its Dutch history, which has not affected it in any part of its being. And I was touched by the uncomplicated generosity of spirit of a fragile woman, who has given a significant part of her life to her chosen breed, sustained by a rare loyalty to her predecessor.
Dutch, German & Internationa Champion Dungan el Kharaman at the age of 9 ½ years
I know that these sorts of words don’t suit Mrs Grevelt. She would probably respond with "Oh well, we are just dog-crazy, aren’t we?"
With special thanks to Mrs. Hemmechien Grevelt-Kruize, Mr. Ernst Grevelt and Mr. Bas Bosch who gave us permission to publish this article on website and who provided us with the for the Grevelt family so precious pictures of their Afghan Hounds.