The Early Years
The club emerged from The Apso and Lion Dog Club, which had gained Kennel Club recognition in the early 1930s, with Shih Tzu having initially been accepted into the ranks of the Apso. At that time General Douglas Brownrigg and his wife Lady Mona Brownrigg, two people deeply involved with the beginnings of the breed in this country and fixing the breed standard, called the breed Tibetan Lion Dogs - to distinguish them from the Chinese Lion Dog (Pekingese). However, when what were to emerge as Shih Tzu were shown with Apsos in 1933 at the West of England Ladies Kennel Society Championship show it became apparent that the two were quite different breeds, having various strong constructional differences. In 1934 it was ruled by The Tibetan Breed Association that the Brownriggs imported Tibetan Lion Dogs were, in fact, a separate breed. After consulting with Mr Croxton-Smith, a prominent member of the Kennel Club at that time, the decision was made to adopt the Chinese name for the breed - Shih Tzu - and an application was made to change the title of the Apso and Lion Dog Club to Shih Tzu (Tibetan Lion Dog) Club. This was granted and registered with the Kennel Club in 1934, the title being altered for the last time in 1935 finally to the Shih Tzu Club. The Club set about the task of fixing type by carefully recording and inspecting litters, any puppies not reaching the standard set were either not registered or sold to pet homes.
At that time General Brownrigg (later to become Sir Douglas Brownrigg) was Treasurer whilst Lady Brownrigg was Club Secretary, a post she held from 1934 – 1954 when she became President, maintaining her interest in the Club until her death in 1969. Chairperson was Mrs Eden. According to Shih Tzu News March 1962 the first President of the Club was Lady Edith Wyndham.
The Club’s first A.G.M. was held on the 10th of October 1935 at the Kennel Club Show, Crystal Palace. In 1937 the Club supported six shows – Cruft’s, WELKS, L.K.A., Richmond, Perth and Taunton. It also received it’s first trophies – The Hibou and Jeffrey’s Cups. Miss Enid Nicholls and Mrs M. Pacey being two of the earliest personalities to judge the breed, followed by other well known specialists and all rounders.
The War Years
Up until 1939 dogs were still being imported, as well as two bitches exported to the U.S.A. in 1938, which were to be registered there as Apso. Registrations were increasing and now the Club was putting on classes at many Championship Shows, the dogs being shown in ‘any other variety’ classes in England and Scotland (The breed had been registered as ‘Any other Variety’ since 1932). In 1940 the breed was put on the Kennel Club register and became eligible for challenge certificates (although none were actually awarded until after the war), a big milestone.
The war years bought about many restrictions in everyday life, including The Shih Tzu Club and the breed in general. Registrations dropped to an all time low and many lines died out.
Post War Recovery
On 20th March 1947, the first post-war meeting of the Club took place with eight people attending, including Lady Brownrigg, Secretary, The Countess of Essex, President and Miss Hutchins, Vice President. Lady Brownrigg wrote “When the war ended all was changed and I doubt if I should have restarted the Club if it had not been for the help of Mrs Garforth-Bles (now Mrs Widdrington) who had bought a bitch pup from me a few weeks before war broke out.” At this meeting it was decided to circulate all members with the breed standard, list of members and compile and circulate a Stud Register. There was much hard work carried out, attracting new people to the breed, supporting shows, presenting trophies and specials and maintaining the 1948 reviewed breed standard. In 1947 there were 11 registrations at the Kennel Club, this included a bitch imported from China by the Telfer-Smollitt’s. Mrs Garforth-Bles imported a dog from Norway.
LKA was the first Championship show to put on classes for the breed post war and in 1948 a total of four shows had Shih Tzu classes. By now the Club had 48 members, the cost of membership was 10/- and the Club had £38.2s 9d in the bank. The Shih Tzu Club made the decisions on who would judge the breed for the following year and held a list of available Stud Dogs, stud fees being about 4-5 guineas.
In 1951 the Club passed a resolution that breeders should not sell to the U.S.A. until the breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club as it was known exported dogs were often re-registered as Lhasa Apso.
A Growing Club
In 1956 Ken Rawlings took over as Chairman from Gay Widdrington and remained in that position until succeeded by Andrew Smallwood in 1996. David Crossley assumed the Chair in 1997 and retired in 2013. Our current Chairman is Matthew Russell. Mr. Beeley became the joint Secretary / Treasurer in 1957 serving until 1964 when he was succeeded by Charles Duke. Mr. Duke was succeeded by the late Josephine Johnson in 1979. June Weight assumed the duties of Treasurer from 1999 and Glenda Gilkes those of Secretary in 2001. Our current Secretary, Pat Gregory was confirmed in March 2004.
The first Annual Open Show was held on 26th August 1960 at the home of the Chairman, Ken Rawlings. The show was judged by Mrs. Widdrington who judged 40 dogs and 90 entries. The first Club Championship Show was held on 24th March 1962 at Porchester Baths, London. The judge for this landmark event was Miss. Enid Nicholls.
The Open and Championship Shows became permanent fixtures and helped create tremendous interest in the breed and the Club. By 1965 there were 16 General Championships shows with C.C.’s for Shih Tzu. Over the years the Club has gone from strength to strength, holding seminars, rallies, fun days and now two Open Shows and the Championship show.
To The Present
The Club has successfully upheld the Kennel Club standard and maintained the love and care of our unique breed, as projected by Lady Brownrigg from the beginning. As the breed increased in popularity other clubs formed and there are now five clubs who co-operate for the good of Shih Tzu. The Committee is still working for the breed and its members. Providing two Open Shows a year, a Championship Show in October (which regularly has the 2nd highest entry of the year) regular seminars, a thrice yearly Club magazine, a stacked Club Stall offering for sale all things Shih Tzu, a Breeders with Puppies Available register and offering help and advice on related breed matters freely to anyone who seeks it.
So enjoy your Club and use it well. It springs from much hard work given over many years by those the breed owes so much to.
Collated from The Shih Tzu by Audrey Dadds, Shih Tzu News 1962, the biography of Gay Widdrington in Shih Tzu News 2000 and the Shih Tzu Club Millenium Year Book