Purebred Bulldogs Breeder Anne Hier – Ampirion Bulldogs Interview by Allan Reznik.
Where did you grow up?
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: I was born in Flint, Michigan, and grew up in the country near Hadley, Michigan. We had some Morgan horses that I showed in 4-H.
Do you come from a doggy family? And if not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: No. We became a “doggie family” after I purchased my first Bulldog to show in conformation and obedience in 1975. My dad then became interested in the showing. He purchased a half-sister to my bitch, and we started from there, finishing both with specialty wins.
My real interest in purebred dogs began in junior high school. In the heyday of Howell Book House, there were dozens of breed books available at our library. I read them all.
At that time, I also purchased my first dog book, which I still own. It was a large-format book, Dogs of the World, by Sheila Balch, with additional information on showing dogs by Laurence Alden Horswell. I was so impressed with all the hand-drawn illustrations in this book, particularly of the Bulldog. When I saw it at the pharmacy, I just had to have it. However, it cost $3.00, and I only had a dollar in my pocket. I was so afraid someone else would buy it that I asked the pharmacist if I could put it on layaway. I realize now that he must have been amused that a child would go to so much effort to buy a book.
After high school, my boss had a Bulldog named Prudence. When he went on vacation, he asked me to apartment sit. The first night, Prudence jumped up on the bed, put her head on my chest, and began snoring loudly. I was petrified but then realized what a sweet, fun dog she was. No one will believe that I was ever shy, but when I walked Prudence down the streets of NYC, people would stop to pet her and talk to me. That is when I decided to someday get a Bulldog.
Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence.
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: In 1973, I started to work for Joan Lueck at her Oakwood Farms Samoyed kennel, mostly as a groomer. Although I had other jobs at the time, I worked on and off for her for about 10 years. I had the opportunity to work with and groom a magnificent collection of dogs. The kennel was immaculate and at the time there were upwards of 40 dogs. OFA started in 1964, and Joan Lueck was one of the pioneers in the 1970s in health testing and certifications. All the dogs she produced, not just the ones she kept, were screened for hips and PRA. She was a master breeder, and from her I learned that the fastest way to improve and preserve breed type and health is to linebreed. However, to do so successfully, it is imperative to screen all dogs, keep immaculate records, eliminate from the program those that do not pass muster, either conformationally, typewise, or health, and to continually raise one’s standards. For example, when I was there, she had a multiple Specialty and Group winner that she removed from public stud because he was only siring a 60% passage rate on hips. She felt that a 40% failure rate on pups sired was unacceptable, as she now had dogs that were producing better, among them her true star of the kennel, Ch. Oakwood Farms Kari J’Go Diko. This dog was handled to Group wins by Bill Trainor and ended his show career winning the National Specialty. Initially, OFA rated passing hips merely as “normal.” Diko had a 90% hip passage rate on pups he sired, which was extraordinary at the time.
Another big influence was the early 1970s AKC film, The Dog in Motion, created with Rachel Page Elliott. I purchased that video and watched it many times. It is a film that really needs to be remastered and rereleased, as there are plenty of exhibitors today needing a refresher course in correct movement.
After watching that video, I was determined to find a Bulldog that had sound movement. In the early ‘70s, there were dozens of Bulldogs that had magnificent heads, which is more of a rarity today. However, in a lot of those dogs, soundness was questionable, particularly in the rears.
In 1974, I went to my first Westminster as a spectator and saw Henry Helmar put on a real show, winning the Non-Sporting Group with the Bulldog, Ch. Dey Del, bred by Marge Deyorra and owned by Robert Kullman. Later that year, back in Michigan, Henry was now showing a new special, Ch. Showbiz Fairy Prince (Hal), bred and owned by Joan Fisher. I couldn’t believe the beautiful, fluid movement of this dog. Hal did a lot of big winning and though he could be criticized for being rather coarse, with heavy ears, he became a HOF sire and all of his get inherited his
It was my good fortune to obtain a puppy sired by Hal the following year from Joan Fisher. As a novice, I said that I wanted a bitch that I could show in conformation and obedience. I was able to finish her myself and eventually complete what I didn’t know was “impossible”—earning a Utility Dog title on her. Looking back to that initial purchase, I was fortunate to find an honest, knowledgeable breeder who sold a complete novice a show-quality bitch with no strings attached.
Joan Fisher has a reputation for owning or being associated with the highest-quality dogs. Over the years, she has bred and owned more than a few Specialty, Group, and BIS winners. In my opinion, she is an expert at picking the best puppy out of a litter. The prime example is her GCHP Kepley’s Showbiz Razzle Dazzle (Uli), the top-winning Bull bitch of all time, with over 40 BIS wins by the age of three, handled by Phoebe Booth.
Your Bulldogs are widely known, highly successful competing in multiple disciplines, and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: I have finished a significant number of champions over the years, but because I don’t actively special dogs, my reputation is better known in the obedience and rally rings where I have had multiple High in Trial awards as well as High Combined awards in rally and over 50 companion titles on my dogs.
The breeding philosophies I follow are pretty much what I learned from Joan Lueck, starting with linebreeding. The problem with linebreeding in Bulldogs, however, is you must have ice water in your veins to do so. A principal reason to linebreed is to bring deleterious traits to the surface so that they can be eradicated from your breeding program—or at least mitigated going forward. Most do not wish to linebreed, so the majority of Bulldog pedigrees today are generations of outcrosses. Additionally, it is difficult to properly linebreed anymore because of social pressures on owning a significant number of dogs. However, the use of frozen semen has helped to utilize some of the good dogs of the past, and from around the world. And, more and more, with all the anti-purebred dog propaganda, especially in brachycephalic breeds, it is essential to do health testing and screen for breed-specific problems. Positive results are legitimate proof of health in these breeds.
I love the breeding, training, and showing in the classes and companion events, but am not a big fan of campaigning specials with myself on the end of the lead. There are better handlers, and campaigning is too much “chicken one day, feathers the next” for me.
I prefer to be behind the scenes with the dogs. I love the breeding, training, and showing in the classes and companion events, but am not a big fan of campaigning specials with myself on the end of the lead. There are better handlers, and campaigning is too much “chicken one day, feathers the next” for me. However, I am very active in the Bulldog Club of America, Detroit Bulldog Club, Companion DTC of Flint, Michigan, of which I am also an AKC Delegate, and Michigan Association for Purebred Dogs.
How many Bulldogs do you typically house? Tell us about your current facilities and how the dogs are maintained.
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: When my husband was alive, we usually had about 20 dogs in the kennel. After his death, I went to work for AKC and did no breeding for seven years. Today, I generally have about four to six dogs at any one time. I do not place old dogs. If longevity is a selection factor, it is important for me to see how my dogs age as well as what health conditions they develop during their lives. This is essential for anyone who linebreeds. The problem with placing older dogs with others is that they usually let them get fat, do not give them sufficient exercise, or are not vigilant in complete veterinary care to help the dogs live as long as possible. I understand many people can only keep a limited number of dogs. So, to continue to breed and show, some of the older dogs need to be placed. Currently, all of my dogs are in the house. I live in a rural area, so they have several large fenced areas for plenty of exercise. Additionally, I am continually training and giving individual attention each day.
Who were/are some of your most significant dogs, both in the whelping box and in the show ring?
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: Well, anytime you have the good fortune to breed a National Specialty winner, that is a big deal. Uli’s granddaughter, the 2019 Bulldog Club of America National Specialty winner, GCHP Showbiz Graybulls New Girl in Town (Denali), was bred by Joan Fisher, Anne Hier, and Kay Gray. Denali was whelped here in Michigan and initially raised by me before going on to show ring success, co-owned by Joan and Kay. Additionally, Denali’s dam, GCHB Showbiz The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree BN RN CGC, was awarded Best Brood Bitch at BCA National 2019. We had early success with BIS and multi-Group winner Am. Can. Ch. Thumbull Jeddo, sired by Ch. Dey Del, bred to his niece, a daughter of Fairy Prince. One of my all-time favorites was Can. Ch. Can. OTCH Ampirion Good As Goldie UD. “Jackie” was a wonderful obedience performer with over 100 qualifying scores, the majority in Open B. I only showed him a few times in conformation, but he was RWD at the BCA National from Novice Dog, the only time exhibited there. A bitch I am currently very proud of is GCH Showbiz Ampirion Ring Them Bells CD PCD BN RE CGC, who is a BCA Diamond Level Health Ambassador, passing OFA certifications for BAER, eyes, trachea, autoimmune thyroid, advanced cardiac, patellas, elbows, hips, HUU, and Cystinuria Type 3.
Please comment positively on your breed’s present condition and what trends might bear watching.
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: Positively, the Bulldogs in the ring today are significantly sounder, healthier, and more uniform than in previous decades, although there is currently too much variation in heads. One of the reasons for more uniformity is the expansion worldwide of our gene pool via shipping semen. But, on the other hand, some of that so-called uniformity results in rather generic outcomes, particularly in the dogs. Fortunately, there are dozens of Bulldog specialty clubs throughout the country, so Bulldog breeders have plenty of chances to see other dogs they may consider using, even those not being campaigned. The overall quality of the bitches has always been better than the dogs, and that is true today.
Frankly, I think a lot of longtime breeders find the current show scene rather discouraging. AKC hasn’t helped much, particularly with that chart they came up with for so-called “correct” bite/mouth examinations. According to the chart, in Bulldogs, one is supposedly only to check the “bite.” We now have judges standing two feet away asking the exhibitor to show the bite and they basically see nothing. The standard mentions teeth, which is plural, and one must also examine width, upsweep, and strength of jaw, besides determining if the mouth is wry. These are all essential components of Bulldog type that must be checked. Too many have no idea what a breed-specific exam of the head is, barely touching it. I never thought I would see the day when Bulldogs that practically cross over in front would win a class, much less finish. On the other hand, that is what is being brought into the ring.
The sport has changed greatly since you first began as a breeder-exhibitor. What are your thoughts on the state of the fancy and the declining number of breeders? How do we encourage newcomers to join us and remain in the sport?
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: We have a lot of people breeding dogs who are not true breeders in the sense of having any idea where they are going several generations down the road. When I started in dogs, we could all openly and intelligently discuss dogs. We would critique each other’s dogs and it wasn’t personal to mention a fault that all the world could see. The goal was how to improve the next generation. Today, there is way too much emphasis on winning. Winning what? The opinion of someone who has limited knowledge of the breed and is just passing out ribbons? Plus, there really is a lot of oversensitivity in newcomers today. Objectively grade a dog at their request and you will be labeled a “hater” if you point out anything that needs to be improved.
A huge factor limiting new breed enthusiasts is that we have pretty much lost the battle with the public that wants to pat themselves on the back for “rescuing” or “adopting” a mutt. Additionally, AKC is not supporting breeders by continuing to register, particularly merles and other “rare colors,” in breeds in which those colors never existed. Indeed, in some breeds, the non-standard colors are now registering far more dogs than those produced by standard breeders.
As far as encouraging newcomers, it is certainly easier in Bulldogs. We have numerous specialty clubs that meet on a regular basis, holding regular educational and social events. The Internet and social media help to promote various specialty clubs. Nevertheless, we have always known that a great many people disappear after five years. You must be able to handle the disappointments to stay with it. Some people don’t choose to make that commitment. I happen to be a lifer.
Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: More of the same. Breeding sound, healthy, typey Bulldogs with correct temperaments and trainability. I’ll die with my boots on. I cannot imagine being without a Bulldog.
Finally, tell us a little about Anne outside of dogs… your profession, your hobbies.
Ampirion Bulldogs | Anne Hier: My hobbies and my profession are one and the same. Art, writing, dogs. I am a professional artist and in the studio every day. I have a couple of half-completed book manuscripts that I need to finish. And I spend a tremendous amount of time with my