Interview with Hound Group Breeders Cheryl McDermott DVM & Emily Kerridge – Kr’msun Cirnechi dell’Etna & Pharaoh Hounds
Where do we live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
We are Cheryl McDermott DVM and Emily Kerridge, and we have a long history and friendship working together as co-breeders of both Pharaoh Hounds and Cirnechi dell’Etna. Emily began showing Pharaohs as a Junior Handler at age 11 in 1993, and Cheryl began showing in 1999 shortly after receiving her degree in Veterinary Medicine from Auburn University in Alabama. Dr. Cheryl acquired her first Cirneco, “Winemall Et Tu,” out of the second litter born in the US. The two met in 2002 when Dr. Cheryl made the cross-country move to join a new veterinary practice in Washington state. Emily was breeding Pharaoh Hounds at the time (Nefer-Temu Pharaohs) and quickly became the primary handler for Kr’msun Cirnechi once the breed joined the AKC Miscellaneous Class, and then finally attained regular Hound Group status in 2015. It was a natural progression that Cheryl and Emily partnered as co-breeders for both breeds.
What is our kennel name? How many dogs do we currently keep?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: “Kr’msun” is the prefix for our Cirnechi dell’Etna, and also quite recognizable is the “Nefer-Temu” prefix for our Pharaoh Hounds.
Which show dogs from the past have been our noteworthy winners?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: Dr. Cheryl was one of the first to import Cirnechi into the US, and made some significant contributions to the Foundation Stock Service (FSS) in this country. She was able to import her foundation sire, CH Are But Not’s Kr’msun Marcus Brutus, in 2002. “Brutus” was a pioneer for the breed in Rare Breed and International Shows, with numerous Group and BIS wins in those venues. As the breed did not attain full AKC recognition until 2015, he earned his AKC championship at the age of 14—the oldest in the breed to do so to date.
Perhaps the most noteworthy, though, has been a homebred granddaughter of Brutus, GCHG CH Kr’msun Juno. “Juno” was the first and, to date, ONLY Cirneco to achieve a Grand Champion Gold level, and spent two years as the No. 1 Cirneco in the US, bred by Dr. Cheryl and handled by Emily. Though retired several years now, she remains the top-winning Cirneco in breed points earned.
Which have been our most influential sires and dams?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: CH Are But Not’s Kr’msun Marcus Brutus, an import from Norway, was one of the country’s first FSS Cirneco, and highly influential as the foundation sire for Kr’msun. His daughter from one of his early litters, CH Kr’msun Octavia (also one of the FSS Cirnechi), went on to become arguably the most influential dam of Kr’msun, producing eight AKC Champions out of only two litters, including Juno referenced above. Brutus and “Octavia” are behind all of our most successful show and performance Cirnechi today.
In 2015, Cheryl imported GCHB Luna Sambuca JC directly from Italy to add new lines—including country-of-origin hunting lines—to the kennel. She also has been a top winner and great producer with numerous champions both in the US and abroad, including Lithuania and Australia.
Can we talk a bit about our facilities? Where are our puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: Our Cirnechi and our Pharaohs are whelped in our bedrooms or living rooms and raised in the home among our other dogs and with our children, who have helped us raise and socialize our puppies since they themselves were infants. Dr. Cheryl’s daughter is now 14 and Emily’s son is 8.
What is our “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do we make our decisions?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: We make our final placement decisions at 8 weeks of age and try to remain open-minded and not bring preconceived notions into our 8-week structure evaluations.
How do we prepare our pups for the show ring? Does our breed require any special preparation?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: Our puppies start life being actively handled and stimulated daily, and begin getting familiarized with stacking on a table and being handled in show-ring fashion (“soft”show training) at 4-5 weeks. We socialize to new people, places, and real-world sensory stimuli (as much as is safe to do before being fully vaccinated) from birth. We utilize clicker training from an early age, as both Cirnechi and Pharaohs excel with self-paced operant conditioning. Early and continued socialization is crucially important, as is a fair amount of consistency in setting AND enforcing rules/boundaries/expectations with both of these breeds due to their high intelligence and independent thinking ability.
Can we share our thoughts on how our breed is currently presented in the show ring? When Cirnechi were recognized by AKC in 2015, they were a ramp or ground breed. Now they are strictly a ramp breed, which most of us appreciate, as a much more thorough exam can be achieved (and a more accurate picture of profile and proportions can be seen) when a dog of this size is slightly elevated.
Are there any health-related concerns within our breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: With Dr. Cheryl being a veterinarian with a special interest and skill in canine reproduction and health screening for breeders (of all breeds), health testing is, and always has been, extremely important to us. We are proud to say that we have the most Pharaohs (under the Nefer-Temu prefix) in the country with CHIC numbers from the OFA. We also have the most health-tested Cirnechi (owned or bred by Kr’msun) in the OFA database.
We are troubled and mystified as to why the Cirneco parent club has been vocally resistant to recommending health testing to its members and fanciers of the breed, and why there is still no criteria established to achieve a CHIC number in this breed, after seven-plus years of full recognition.
For ourselves, we will continue to test our Cirnechi to document, maintain, and manage the health of our line as much as we are able. We typically test hips, patellas, eyes, and thyroid, and occasionally cardiac and elbows. We would like to see the parent club adopt and implement more positive recommendations (if not requirements) for health testing prior to breeding—at the very least. We HAVE seen some concerning health conditions (many of which could have been screened for) pop up worldwide in this breed, and the only way to combat this becoming a more prevalent problem is to proactively health test.
In our opinion, is our breed in good condition overall. Any trends that warrant concern?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: Like the majority of breeders in the US, we were saddened by the recent Standard change that was pushed through in 2020, after only five years of AKC recognition. The change has made the AKC Standard even more divergent from the FCI Standard that has been used as a blueprint worldwide for decades. Dogs and bitches that were previously within standard height (many of them quite successful, with notable contributions to the breed) are now disqualified. With the rest of the world operating on a different Standard (in regards to height as well as other breed-typical elements of type), it has effectively limited our already small gene pool even further, assuming we want to continue to achieve success in the AKC venue.
Movement is an area of concern for us, as we have been seeing an increasingly high percentage of Cirnechi with hackney movement or excess lift, which is not correct for this endurance hunting Hound breed. The springy trot called for in the Standard worldwide must still be sound and efficient, and high-lifting hackney movement is neither. We have seen some Cirnechi lacking in substance and trending more towards an Italian Greyhound-esque profile (and movement), which is not correct and should not be rewarded. These dogs hunted in rugged terrain and had to have enough substance and be hardy enough to hold up to spills and falls over many years.
Is our breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own our breed?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: Cirnechi are exceptional family pets. They are pack-oriented, therefore great with other dogs (especially of their own breed, or another Sighthound breed such as a Pharaoh Hound or Whippet). They are intuitively amazing with children of all ages. They are independent thinkers and prey-driven by nature, but also bond extremely closely and are very affectionate with their people. Due to their original purpose as hunters, they still possess a very high prey drive—the sight or scent of prey may cause them to take off, even if they are well-trained. Therefore, they must be in a securely fenced area or on-lead at all times for safety.
Do we feel that our breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Cheryl McDermott & Emily Kerridge: We feel there are a handful of dedicated preservation breeders here in the US, but this is still a very low-entry breed with an alarmingly small gene pool worldwide. Many breeders already work together in preservation efforts, and we’d love to see more inclusivity still.