Interview with Nancy Wight, Breeder of Rockin’ Heart Ranch Cirnechi dell’Etna
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Nancy Wight: I am blessed to live in beautiful Northern Idaho. I have been breeding dogs for 47 years and have been breeding and showing Cirnechi dell’Etna for over 19 years.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Nancy Wight: My ranch is Rockin’ Heart Ranch, LTD where I breed and show Cirnechi dogs and Arabian horses. I currently have about 10 dogs (actively showing and/or running, young to middle-aged) with a couple of older, couch-retired dogs.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Nancy Wight: For six of the first seven years of AKC recognition, I have been blessed to have bred and/or owned the No. 1 dog in the breed; one of which is the beautiful “Trixie,” GCHS GH Rockin’ Heart’s Beat Trix Potter, who is the dam of GCHS CH Rockin’ Heart’s Trickster At HighGard, the current No. 1 dog and Westminster KC Best of Breed winner.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Nancy Wight: GCHB CH Vito Dell’Ovo CM4 sired the breed’s first champion, first Group placer, and was himself the first Group-winning dog in the breed. And, of course, CH Rockin’ Heart’s My Heart SC who is not only the dam of Trixie and many other champions but is also the fountainhead from whom all the quality of movement and power of my dam line comes.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Nancy Wight: I am very fortunate because I live next to two agricultural universities that are a wonderful resource of veterinary and agricultural students. For the last thirty years, I have been blessed to have a lot of these amazing students work with me on my ranch. Puppies are whelped in my house and raised in my large country kitchen. The puppies are socialized by the students who work for me and by the many, many guests who visit us from around the world. They come to the ranch to see not only the dogs and horses, but also to see this beautiful area.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Nancy Wight: Since I have been breeding and showing dogs, and have produced many champions over the years, my methods are fairly standard and traditionally accepted. I think the distinction is that I work cooperatively with other breeders and we help to evaluate each other’s puppies. Over the years, I believe I’ve proven that I have developed an eye for good structure, movement, and beautiful type. Oftentimes, the puppy will show itself to be a star after it’s only a few weeks old in the whelping box, but usually that decision is made after temperament testing at 7-1/2 to 8 weeks. Evaluating structure and movement is critical at 8 to 10 weeks. I have a pretty good track record of being able to accurately ascertain the potential in my puppies, and I am often called upon to help other breeders evaluate their puppies.
Do I compete in Companion Events? Performance Events?
LURE COURSING: The most fun you can have with a dog that loves to chase! Many of my dogs have been successful in Agility and I have two clients who have titled dogs in Dock Diving. Of course, being a sight & scent hound, nose work is a natural for them. They are hunting dogs, hence—BARN HUNT!
Is “performance” part of my decision-making when it comes to breeding?
Nancy Wight: Somewhat, but really, soundness in mind and body, and the historical use of the dogs as well as the Breed Standard, are first and foremost in my mind.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Nancy Wight: Conditioning means lots of time to run and play, and time to explore and hunt for rabbits on the ranch and in our woods. This is an active breed and many judges have commented on the condition my dogs have. I have a bit of an advantage in that I have lots of acreage on my ranch for them to run and play, and I think it is imperative for their mental and physical health to do so.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Nancy Wight: Yes, even though it is a “primitive” breed possessed of very few health concerns. This is based on the fact that the breed is thousands of years old, and many health concerns have been eradicated by natural selection. However, there have been a few dogs in this country that have popped up with some health conditions that could not be visibly appreciated and could only be determined by genetic health testing. Experienced and knowledgeable people all know that health testing is a way to expose these invisible genetic problems, and thus, allow us to breed dogs to circumvent those genetic problems rather than blindly perpetuating them. By the very nature of health testing, we are exposing and bringing to light those (mostly invisible) genetic problems. In doing so, these can be eradicated rather than embedded to the detriment of the future of the breed.
It has been suggested by breeders in the country of origin that we should keep protein levels moderate and fat levels very moderate. Historically, this breed has existed on the leftovers of rabbits hunted for the family. Rabbits are notoriously lean, thus, this breed has adapted to eating a diet less rich than many other breeds from some other areas. This does not mean to suggest that a lower-quality food should be fed, but rather, a high-quality food with a less rich formula. I personally feed a high-quality kibble, but supplement with my ranch-raised lamb, beef, and goat’s milk.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Nancy Wight: For the last 20 or so years, the parent club has only approved one breeder (and now two) from the States, and a couple of others from Europe, to be listed as breeders. It is very obvious that we need more breeders. Fortunately, there are a half-dozen of us who are long-term, experienced, professional show people and breeders who are working together cooperatively to do our best to sustain this historically documented, ancient, and priceless breed.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Nancy Wight: In my opinion, Cirnechi are an incredibly sweet, even-tempered, and gentle breed. They are perfectly suited to be in families where the supervision of small children can be maintained, just as you would with any other breed. I’ve asked other breeders in Europe how is it that Cirnechi are so universally gentle with children. They’ve replied, “We are Italian. All Italians love children.”
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Nancy Wight: The biggest misconception is that they are mini Pharaohs. The best-kept secret is how sweet and biddable they are. Mine all have amazing recalls in an open field; and they make great retrievers. In the country of origin, in order to pass a hunting test, you must be able to call your dog off live game. Thus, there is a little bit more “cooperation quotient” that is evident in the breed.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Nancy Wight: I think most of the judges are doing a fantastic job. Occasionally, it would appear from the results that they are still having a subconscious recollection of the Pharaoh Hound’s Breed Standard. This breed is very much differentiated by having a different, higher ear set and a square outline with a shorter back rather than the longer back of the Pharaoh Hound (among other things). And since it has often been queried or commented upon, yes, they are supposed to have a long, steeply sloping, croup. Otherwise, we are very grateful to the many judges who have not only done a lovely job evaluating our dogs, but have also promoted them and recognized them in the Groups, etc.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Nancy Wight: Find a mentor, someone who will really give you their time and help you to achieve your goals. Someone who is more invested in the future of the breed rather than just promoting their own dogs.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Hound?
Nancy Wight: A few years ago, at the Denver shows, “My Heart” was about a year old. We were sitting and watching the Group rings when My Heart left my lap to climb onto my friend’s lap next to me. From there she went all around the Group ring from lap to lap, staying only a minute or two on each person’s lap, long enough to give them each a kiss and some love. Then, as she got closer back around to me and my group of friends, she tried to reverse and go the long way back around. Jerri Gates snagged her leash and, sadly, her “visiting the neighbors” trip was over. Everyone was delighted by her travels and, after the Groups, many came over to chat with us about the “social butterfly Cirneco.”
Are you looking for a Cirneco dell’Etna puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder?
Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Cirneco dell’Etna dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
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