“This mess was followed in due course
by the Anatolian Karabash Dog Club,
somewhat in the style of David and Goliath,
having to take the Kennel Club to court to
fight to keep their special breed’s name and
standard. But, although the tiny breed club
won the day, the whole absurd scenario is
now being re-enacted, with the official
stance that the Karabash (Kangal Dog) is
not a specific breed; that all big shepherds’
guarding dogs from Turkey, including the
Karabash, are one and the same breed and,
as such, qualify for pedigree registration as
Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, with a standard
which is broad enough to cover them all!
Photograph by Marie Minchington
Enjoying the countryside
The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey,
Hodder Children’s Books, Hardback £12.99,
ISBN 0 340 89349 4. Paperback £5.99.
Not the least of Charmian’s achievements
in Turkey was importing a new breed of dog
She explains how it came about: “As a
child I was a passionate animal lover. Horses
and big dogs were my special interest. Being
brought up in a semi-detached house with
a small garden in a north London suburb
meant that my involvement with such
creatures existed, alas, only in the books
I read and in my imagination. Yet I longed
for a real involvement.”
Visits to the British Museum as a child
would find her gazing at the famous Assyrian
wall reliefs. “My interest always focused on
the big, handsome, smooth-coated, mastifflike
dogs of war, parading on tight leashes
with tails held high.
“Imagine my excitement when, whilst
working on the excavations at Nimrud
many years later, I caught glimpses of similar
kinds of dogs on the plains of Northern Iraq!
Descendants of the ancient dogs?
“Imagine my even greater excitement
when I discovered a distinct breed of dog in
Turkey, remarkably similar to those ancient
dogs. Unknown outside Turkey, this was a
tall, strongly built dog – mastiff-like in
appearance, with short, fawn or striped
brindle coat and black mask.”
The colloquial Turkish name for the breed
was Karabafl, although they were sometimes
referred to as ‘çomar’, which means mastiff,
or as the Kangal dog, since breeding had been
centred in the district of Kangal.
“During two years living in Turkey, I
came to realise that the Karabafl was a much
valued breed and that pockets of carefullybred
dogs could be found in certain regions.
It was a magnificent breed of dog. All my
‘dog longings’ returned. I wanted one.
Simple as that! But acquiring a good
example of this much prized breed was
not simple. Quite another story.”
Shortly afterwards, Charmian introduced
the first pair of dogs to the UK and the
Kennel Club registered them in their Rare
Breed files. In due course, the breed became
known as the Anatolian (Karabash) Dog
with its own special standard.
The Anatolian Karabash Dog Club was
founded in 1968. Unfortunately, the Kennel
Club later registered other imported Turkish
dogs of no specific type and included them in
the files along with the Karabash.
She says sadly: “A misunderstanding of
the Turkish language led certain people to
believe that a simple phrase which only means
‘a shepherd’s dog’ (of any type) was the title
of a specific breed. The registration of a
motley crew of dogs, fitting into that general
category, together with the establishment
of an alternative breed club for generalised
shepherds’ dogs, led to an absurd confusion.
“Whatever happened to common sense?”
She remarks: “It is 40 years since I first
introduced a fine breed to this country.
As Patron of The Anatolian Karabash Dog
Club, I now find myself heading an
organisation, set up for an acknowledged
breed, the existence of which is now denied
by the British ‘powers that be’.
“The bizarre story behind these events
would make a great book or documentary,”
she adds. “For truth can be stranger
So how did The Valley of Secrets
“My son Nicholas is now 32. When he
was six he was greatly upset by a television
feature about the destruction of the Amazon.
When he was 11 he created some novel,
fantasy animals in the round, obtained a UK
patent, aged 12, and later a US patent. He
believed that, as refugees from the Amazon,
the creatures could become ambassadors for
the forests, raising money and awareness in
an attempt to save the forests.
“As a dyslexic, Nick was unlikely to write
his story: how the creatures had been brought
to England early in the 20th century; how,
even as we spoke, in 1985, they were living in
secret somewhere in Cornwall. So, I hijacked
his story! It took 18 months to write.
“With fantasy set in total reality, and
unable to write about anything that I don’t
understand, I found that I needed a lot of help
– support and knowledge that was given with
great generosity by people who are top
experts in their fields: botany; anthropology;
history of art; pharmacology etc.”
Charmian is now working on another
book and is about halfway through it. Like
The Valley of Secrets, it is written for children
of all ages.
Web site created by Mark Griffin