EVELYN HOWLES of the famous Harrowhill Wire Fox Terriers died in hospital on Valentine’s day morning. She had been ill for some time but remained optimistic that one day all would be well again. She was a strong-willed lady who refused to succumb to the inevitable passage of time.
Evelyn was born in the house on Whitehall Road where she lived all of her life. From an early age she was mad about dogs and when she was 10 her father bought her a wire dog puppy from a pet shop in Regent Street. She used to smuggle OUR DOGS into her room and read it with a torch because her father didn’t approve of her reading such papers! She used to write regularly to Our Dogs and ask for the pedigrees of famous wires and study them. Since she didn’t have a bitch to breed from she would practice line-breeding with tame mice giving them all names and pedigrees, and stage mice shows as if they were dogs!
She always wanted to be a vet but her father said that no daughter of his would ever have to work so she told him that if she couldn’t be a vet she would become a dog breeder. Fortunately she had an ally in her mother. Evelyn purchased a bitch puppy from Lord Roundway but never bred from her because she considered her to be too small and was scared in case she lost her as a result. She subsequently bought another bitch, this time in whelp, from the Roundway Kennels and called her Harrowhill Hidden Treasure. It was from this bitch that she started her breeding programme and a dynasty was begun.
During the second World War she had to work at the Post Office but she developed rheumatic fever and was bed-ridden for more than a year. In the meantime her father had deserted the family home to live with another woman so when Evelyn recovered she did some pet trimming in order to earn some money. It was a real struggle to keep the dogs alive. After the war she went to shows with her mother and younger brother, Tony. Her trimming at this time wasn’t too good so she used professional handlers to show her dogs. They didn’t do much winning with them so she decided to do it all herself.
In 1957, after 20 years of line-breeding, she made up her first champion – Ch. Harrowhill Strike Again – he was 5 years’ old when he gained his crown and sired champions and numerous championship show winners both at home and abroad.
It was around this time that she also bred miniature and toy poodles and did some winning with them as well as breeding and showing a few dandie-dinmonts. Whilst her mother was alive Evelyn kept over 30 dogs; her brother helped out until he left home to get married just before their mother died. Her father then returned home but he forced her to rehome most of her dogs. She kept Wires hoping that better times would come.
After her father died in 1962 she was again alone with her Wires. She continued with her breeding programme and went to some shows. In the early 70’s she became ill again, this time with carbon monoxide poisoning, and the illness rendered her unable to trim the Wires. It was around this time that Mr. Tom Watson came onto the scene. She taught him how to strip; he was very keen and would strip and hold the dogs for her, then she would put the finishing touches to them. Together they made up 5 champions including the famous Harrowhill Huntsman who achieved the ultimate accolade by becoming Best in Show at Cruft’s in 1978. Evelyn would never sell a champion but many breeders from abroad founded their kennels from her line and have made several champions; some of them are still producing champions to this day.
In the early 80’s Mr. Watson moved away from London so Evelyn once more found herself alone. She kept on breeding and showing hoping that, once more, better times would come. In 1993 through Hazel Bradford, I was introduced to her. I asked her if she would teach me how to trim, breed and rear wires and with my help we went to a few shows and reared some good dogs that were sent to be handled by Lyn Snow. He did some winning with them; two of them – H. Showman and H. Boyzone - were later sent to the USA and became champions there.
In 2002 I moved in to Evelyn’s home permanently to look after her and the dogs whilst she was recovering from a bypass operation. Together we bred a few litters and went to some shows. We even bought two smooth bitch puppies to breed and show but Evelyn’s cardiovascular problems became worse and we couldn’t manage to go to shows. Last year I took her to the East of England championship show and this was to be the last show Evelyn ever attended.
The world of wire fox terriers has lost one of its greatest breeders; she was one of the old school. Evelyn is survived by her brother Tony and myself – her close friend – and I hope to continue to keep the Harrowhill lines alive for her.