Rockin’ Heart Ranch | Nancy Lee Wight

Rockin’ Heart Ranch | Nancy Lee Wight


Interview with Hound Group Breeder Nancy Lee Wight – Rockin’ Heart Ranch


Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?

Nancy Lee 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 for over 18 years.

What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?

Nancy Lee Wight: My ranch is Rockin’ Heart Ranch, LTD and I breed and show Cirnechi dogs and Arabian horses. I currently have about 11 young dogs and a couple of older, couch-retired dogs.

Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?

Nancy Lee Wight: For five 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 WKC BOB.

Rockin’ Heart Ranch - GCHS Rockin’ Heart’s Beat Trix Potter, Trixie
Rockin’ Heart Ranch – GCHS Rockin’ Heart’s Beat Trix Potter, Trixie

Which have been my most influential sires and dams?

Nancy Lee 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, she is the fountainhead from whom all the quality of movement and power of my dam line comes.

Rockin’ Heart Ranch - GCHB Vito Dell’Ovo, CM 4 Nancy Lee Wight
Rockin’ Heart Ranch – GCHB Vito Dell’Ovo, CM 4
Rockin’ Heart Ranch - CH Rockin’ Heart’s My Heart SC, FCh. Nancy Lee Wight
Rockin’ Heart Ranch – CH Rockin’ Heart’s My Heart SC, FCh.

Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?

Nancy Lee Wight: I am very fortunate because I live next to two agricultural universities that are a wonderful resource of veterinary and agricultural students. These 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 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 this beautiful area.

What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?

Nancy Lee 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.

How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?

Nancy Lee Wight: I believe the best show dogs are the ones that are happy in their job, so I do not over-train my puppies. I do get the puppies out a lot to socialize them and make sure that they have many wonderful and positive experiences. I think over-trained puppies end up being dull and lifeless show dogs, so I go with the less traditional, but more fun and positive, approach.

Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?

Nancy Lee Wight: I think that our breed is represented as they should be in the show ring. A beautifully free-stacked dog is going to catch a judge’s attention any day over a dog that is set up repeatedly and constantly fussed over.

Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?

Nancy Lee Wight: As a matter fact, I am very concerned about the notion being promoted by our national club that health testing is not of importance in our breed. Yes, it is a “primitive” breed. Yes, it is a 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 alarming 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. To suggest that breeders who are making use of currently available health tests are trying to hide something is oxymoronic. 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.

In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?

Nancy Lee Wight: Even though our gene pool is minuscule, overall I think the breed is enjoying a slow and steady increase in popularity. The majority of the breeders are conscientiously health testing and promoting the breed in an honest and forthright way. There are people who suggest that our breed does not have a small gene pool, but this is absolutely ridiculous. In talking to my breeder friends in Sicily, they assure me the gene pool is indeed small. There may be a larger number of dogs, but many of them are not available to breeders because they’re in hunting kennels and some are not purebred or registered. I have been actively importing dogs not only from some of the top-winning kennels in Europe but also from some of the primary hunting kennels.

Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?

Nancy Lee 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? Their reply is, “We are Italian, we all love children.”

Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?

Nancy Lee Wight: For the last 20 or so years, the parent club has only approved one breeder from the States and a couple of others from Europe to be listed as breeders. It is very obvious that we need more breeders. There are, however, 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.

For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Hound?

Nancy Lee Wight: It didn’t happen to me, but a friend shared that once, while walking his Cirneco puppy at a park, a squirrel came out from a bush and started walking next to the dog as if they were best friends. After walking several feet together, the squirrel looked up at the puppy and the puppy looked down at the squirrel. They both froze, and looked at each other as if to say, “This isn’t right.” At that moment, the friendship ended… the squirrel took off, with the puppy hot on its heels. If not for the pup being on leash, the park would have had one less squirrel.

  • Rockin’ Heart Ranch proudly Breeds and presents the finest bloodlines of Straight Egyptian Arabian horses, the mystical and exotic Cirneco Dell’Etna and the ever-charming Belgian Tervurens!

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