Icons of the Dog World: James and Emilie Farrell

Learn about the contributions of dog breeders James and Emilie Farrell of Foxden Smooth Fox Terriers.

By | September 1, 2011

James and Emilie Farrell
Foxden Smooth Fox Terriers

James and Emilie Farrell

Mr. and Mrs. Farrell were as devoted to the Greyhound breed as they were to their Foxden terriers.

James A. Farrell, Jr. and Emilie Hill Farrell are best remembered for their Smooth Fox Terriers. They bred over 50 champions under their Foxden prefix in addition to breeding and showing notable Whippets, Greyhounds, Beagles, PugsLakeland Terriers and a Canyon Crest Manchester. Foxden dogs were presented by legendary handlers like Percy Roberts, Leonard Brumby, Jr., Bob and Jane Forsyth, Peter Green and Mark Threlfall.

However, their most lasting legacy to the sport is summed up in this dedication to Mr. Farrell from Greyhounds in America. "His passing marks the ending of the era of the gentleman sportsman. … despite his many involvements, Jim always had time to evaluate a dog, greet an old friend or encourage a newcomer. … Mr. Farrell was a gentleman and a sportsman in the truest sense of the word.”

Foxden was founded on a pair of Smooth Fox Terriers the Farrells purchased as pets, not realizing that these dogs would launch a 40-year devotion to the sport and an iconic name in terrier history.

Years later, they described their start in the AFTC newsletter. "While on our honeymoon in Ireland in 1934 we purchased a brace of Smooth Fox Terriers at Mrs. Dean’s Molten Kennels. When we arrived back in Darien we took them to show to Percy Roberts, he kept the dog and entered him at Morris and Essex. The bitch soon came in season and was bred to the dog, and we were in business.”

Mark Threlfall met the Farrells in 1974. He was 21 and had just started working for Jane and Bob Forsyth. "Foxden was a huge part of their operation. Wherever you turned there was a Foxden Smooth, from young puppies to adults at every stage of their life.”

Threlfall describes the Farrells as, "One of the last breeders to maintain a kennel on that scale. They had handlers who could take 50 to 60 dogs. The numbers were so big. You were just immersed in dogs. You didn’t have anyone teaching you. You just did it 24 hours a day, and that’s almost how long we worked.”

However, he notes that money was not the only big difference. "It was a completely different attitude toward dogs.” The Farrells not only had the resources to breed on a large scale, they had the patience to cultivate a top-quality bloodline. "They went to England every year or two. If they saw something they were interested in owning, they would bring it back and breed it to half a dozen bitches to see what the dog produced.”

During WWII, Jim served in naval intelligence. He returned home to a very different dog world. Previously, it had been dominated by a handful of wealthy owners. They employed top-tier handlers who specialized in conditioning and presenting one or two breeds. If their clients didn’t breed a top-notch dog, they had the resources and connections to import the best.

A decade later, middle-class exhibitors entered the ranks. They didn’t have the resources to maintain large kennels or import top winners, nor did they have much interest in complicated breeds like Fox Terriers.

"Breeders like the Farrells kept the Fox Terrier viable in America for decades,” says Threlfall. "No one was breeding them. The breed might have disappeared off the map in this country.” The Farrells were not only interested in winning; they were dedicated to creating a legacy of quality. Thanks to Foxden, any serious American breeder had access to the best British bloodlines.

Foxden was equally influential in Greyhounds. Their stock was used to establish several significant lines. Although he was never shown, their import stud, Foxden Flamingo, is widely considered their most important contribution to Greyhound development in America. Bred by Jesse Prowse’s Carnlanga kennel, he was one of the few British dogs shipped to America during WWII.

Skipper became the first Lakeland to win Westminster in 1968, the last show held at the old Garden. This 1969 AFTC editorial captured the spirit of the historic event. "This dog, though not a Fox Terrier, belongs to two of the most popular and sportsmanlike Fox Terrier breeders. He was jockeyed by such a proficient and well-liked young handler, Peter Green, which added much to the poignancy of the moment. We are sure that one and all came away with the feeling that it was the happiest possible end of an era.”

Green arranged to import Skipper for the Farrells after his Crufts Group win in 1966. But it was agreed that he would stay in Britain to compete at Crufts in ’67, where he went Best. He not only became the first dog to win both Crufts and Westminster, he had an unparalleled impact on Lakeland development in America.

Top winners like Ch. Cozy’s Mischief Maker, Ch. St. Roque’s Tempermental and Ch. Revelry’s Awesome Blossom trace back to him. Nine years after Skipper’s win, Ric Chashoudian handled his grandson, Ch. Jo-Ni’s Red Baron of Crofton, to BIS at Westminster in 1974.

After Jim died in 1978 Emilie continued the Foxden breeding program with Mark Threlfall as her handler. "When I called her Monday mornings she wanted to hear all the gossip, because she didn’t get out to the shows very much then. We would chat for 20 minutes before she asked how her dogs had done over the weekend. This is someone who was paying me a lot of money, and she had an interest in my life, my family and my business.”

After Emilie died in 1994, the kennel was closed and the Foxden kennel name was permanently retired. "I was on the Florida circuit and got word that Mrs. Farrell had passed away,” says Threlfall.

"The Foxden dogs were put in our name and we finished the ones that we had been showing. It took awhile, but we found good homes for all of them. We wanted to do right by her dogs. You adopt your ideals and values from the people you meet on the way up. I was very fortunate to meet wonderful, gracious people like the Farrells.”

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