Interview with Sporting Group Breeder Nancy Tuthill
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
My husband, Henri Tuthill, and I are originally from California and have lived in every corner of the country over the years, including Washington and Oregon, New Hampshire, and now, Maryland. Henri got his first Pointer in 1967 after competing in the Irish Setter ring for several years. His first Pointer champion was CH Shandown’s Prima Donna followed by CH Tomsueamy Sinbad. Henri founded the Pointer Club of California (then the Golden West Pointer Club) with Mrs. Floyd B. Evans (Tyler’s Showfield). The first meeting was at Mrs. Evans’ Pasadena estate where she showed a movie reel she had filmed at Crufts. On that reel was English Champion Cumbrian Crusader—that was the turning point for Henri. Contacting George Holliday (Cumbrian, in England), Henri imported seven Cumbrian Pointers over the next couple years, and was gifted the use of the Cumbrian Pointer prefix in America by Mr. Holliday who was in his 70s at the time.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
We have a licensed non-commercial kennel, probably the oldest active Pointer breeding kennel left, and in total, we have about 25 Pointers in number, with an indoor and outdoor facility with large exercise paddocks. We also have a couple Whippets from the kennel of Linda Larson’s Plumcreek and one German Shorthaired Pointer who just had a litter sired via frozen semen by Hall of Fame Lieblinghaus Chief Executive. As with many aging programs and breeders, we gave serious thought to ending our involvement in breeding several years ago. But with a stroke of wonderful luck, Darrell Crate and his wife, Amy, became involved in 2009 after Darrell had owned several hunting companions and family pets. Darrell and Amy infused our breeding and showing with new enthusiasm, and we became Team Cumbrian. Together we have had many successful co-breedings and a Top Breeder award.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Henri imported the first Black and White Pointers that were shown in conformation in the late 1960s, and he bred the first Orange and White (black nose) Pointer to ever win a National Specialty, CH Cumbrian Sea Breeze. Before these Pointers, only Liver and Lemon Pointers were present in the AKC rings. The next milestone for our kennel was CH Cumbrian Black Pearl. She broke the record for Best in Show wins for the breed, which stood for 48 years and was held by CH Nancolleth Beryl of Giralda. “Black Pearl” was #1 Sporting Dog in 1984 and #3 All-Breed. Our CH Cumbrian Midnight Lace was among the youngest Best in Show winners in the breed.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
We can boast successful linebreeding on two influential Pointer sires, a feat that some contend cannot be done. Fifty-four years is living proof that it can be. English Champion Cumbrian Stonethorpe Seashore is the sire or grandsire of all of Henri’s original UK Cumbrian imports. Those, crossed to the mightiest of American lines, the Bryant line through sons and daughters of CH Counterpoints Lord Ashley, gave us the true Pointer type and movement that our line retains today. Every one of our Pointers carries up to twenty crosses to each of those two sires.
Can I talk about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
We are huge advocates of the Puppy Culture program for socialization. The other factor is that we never have more than two litters per calendar year. This gives us time to enjoy the puppies and to train and socialize them properly. We have a 2,000 square foot indoor area with central heat and A/C as well as grooming, bathing, and kitchen areas. We have a private whelping room with separate entrances from the general area, and cameras. We also have “Puppytown,” an indoor playground for the babies, and “Babytown” for our Puppy Culture exercises with puppy gyms and balance exercises as well and a teeter and a ball pit.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decision?
We like to wait till they are dry to make that decision! But, really, yes, after over a hundred litters and watching our puppies develop, we can pretty accurately pick them at day one.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring?
We have a twenty-foot-long show ring mat indoors for training and also a jog-a-dog to teach them to gait. (We don’t overdo it, as young joints and bones are still developing.) Lots of walks at the nearby Antietam Battlefield trails and, before COVID, we had weekly classes at our local kennel club. The best way to season a young dog is a 4-day circuit! Just letting them learn with all the noise and commotion is the best way.
Are Performance and Companion titles important to me as a breeder?
Pointers are hunting dogs and should maintain the ability to do what they are bred to do. We have about twenty titled hunting dogs, from JH to MH (Junior Hunter, Senior Hunter, and Master Hunter) as well as several obedience and other performance-titled Pointers to our credit. Also, 143 AKC Pointer champions have been bred by us.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
I think that the temperaments have never been better. The era of “spooky” Pointers in the ring seems to have gone away for the most part, though you still see one now and again. I’d caution breeders about breeding Pointers with little or no color. This is worrisome to see dogs with little body color, as it can lead to white dog issues like deafness and blue or colorless eyes. Our gene pool is unique, as it is largely unrelated to any other breed here in the States, and as such, we have a database of health information that pertains to our own dogs and takes the guesswork out of the equation that many others have to undergo when you have little or no linebreeding to work with.
Do I feel that my breed has a promising future as a family companion?
Absolutely! Pointers are the best! Most of ours are in non-show family homes, and the show homes MUST also be family homes. The best way to not get a dog from us is to say you are looking to buy a “Special”—especially if you have bounced from breeder to breeder. That is not what we want for Team Cumbrian.
Do I have any thoughts I’d like to share about the sport of dogs in general?
It is a competitive sport. There will be winners and there will be losers. Do both with grace, and remember that you are contributing as a breeder to your breed and it should be a positive contribution; you are bringing your breed forward and safekeeping it for the future. You should not be doing this just to win a ribbon.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing experience I’ve ever experienced with a Sporting Dog?
I bought my first show Pointer in 1982 from Henri Tuthill. The puppy was $300.00. However, when I went to pay for her, I only had $299.00. For the last 30-plus years I have heard Henri remind me that I still owe him a dollar!