SAVING OUR LIONS: The European/Canadian Connection

Mme. Bennert:  Ashford Collection

Determined to discover how Lowchen in a Medici portrait may be ancestors of our pride, frustration was inevitable; the tale kept missing a beat. Certainly, Renaissance masterpieces lend credence to Lowchen being pampered pets of aristocracy, but the story fast forwards to Germany where there’s evidence Dr. Walthier was a breeder in the early 1800s. Decades pass until it’s noted that Maximillian de Coninck, of Belgium, bred and exhibited Lowchen. The story’s thread gains strength, as Mme. Bennert, of Brussels, is recorded as having fallen in love with this charismatic rare breed and purchased Lowchen from her countryman, Maximillian de Coninck, in 1897.

Now just as this mystery starts to unfold, confusion returns with the uprisings of WWII.  At this point, Mme. Bennert, a small breed club registrar, observes that during this war Lowchen are no longer being registered. Rumours swirl about owners being forced to push Lowchen into the street, to fend for themselves; it’s feared that some Lowchen were sent to the “rainbow bridge” by heartbroken masters, facing the ravages of war.

With war at an end, Mme. Bennert determined she’d keep Lowchen from becoming extinct. Aware it was time to breed her first litter and present Lowchen to Europe, she did extensive research, seemingly tirelessly writing and traveling, as the finest breeding stock was sought. In 1948, at age 72, Mme. Bennert delivered her first litter, a mating of Ulan with Sirginia, resulting in Xandre and Xenia.  While exhibiting Lowchen in Belgium, she met a German veterinarian, Dr. Hans Rickert. As the decades passed, Mme. Bennert encouraged Dr. Rickert to continue her commitment to keeping the breed moving forward; he agreed to assist his elderly friend, who was now in her nineties.

In 1968, Lowchen tracing back to his kennel, Von don drei Lowen, were exported to Britain; Mrs. Stenning (Cherrycourt Kennel) and Mrs. Banks (Cluneen Kennel) helped establish the breed in Britain. By the early seventies, foundation stock from British kennels entered Canada.  While Mme. Bennert and Dr. Rickert saved our breed from extinction in Europe, Gwen Appell, Kim Schmidt and Ardis Shurtleff continued this work in Canada.

(See Canadian Archives.)

© The Pringle Pride  2011