Pyerun with his owner G Ariel Duncan of Hounds of the Wild Hunt
Legend of Lure Coursing - Caspian Prince Pyerun Duncan, CD LCM 2, Can Field Champion.
Owner G. Ariel Duncan, Hounds of the Wild Hunt, Cherry Hill, NJ.
When I told Aatis Lillstrom (of Windhound Farm Borzoi) of Pyerun's death, Aatis provided the perfect epitaph "Pyerun changed our expectations of a lure coursing Borzoi".
Caspian prince Pyerun (pronounced Pye-roon) Duncan was a legend in lure coursing during his own lifetime. Nicknamed "The Alligator" for his habit of locating the lure line and then crouching across it, jaws agape, waiting for the lure, he became known from coast to coast. So keen was he to capture the plastic bag that if he was prevented from using his jaws by the use of a racing muzzle, he would fling himself upon the lure line and stop the lure by the use of the weight of his body. Pyerun's intensity and tough fanaticism was remarkable in a breed that is often seen to pull up yelping from a slight bump of a simple fall. So driven was Pyerun by his desire to obtain the lure that he soon developed a unique style of coursing which consisted of trying to decide ahead of time where the lure was going and then head it off rather than chase after it. He was remarkably astute at figuring out course plans.
Pyerun was purchased as a puppy in Rhode Island by Ariel Duncan. He attended his first field trial on October 5, 1975 and took BOB over an entry of 20 Borzoi. He earned his American Sighthound Field Championship title on October 10, 1976 the day after the first ASFA Regional Invitational, at the Connecticut Sighthound Club trial, to become the third ASFA Borzoi Field Champion. He completed his ASFA Lure Courser of Merit title September 9, 1977 to be the first LCM Borzoi. That year he tied with Kristull Ffuture Shock, then only a Field Champion, as #1 ASFA Borzoi. Ffuture Shock later became an LCM herself. In that year Pyerun and Ffuture Shock both earned 102 Bowen (dogs defeated) points, but Pyerun had 9 Best of Breed placements to Ffuture Shock's 8. He earned his Canadian Field Championship October 6, 1979 and his Companion Dog title May 2, 1982. Pyerun made the ASFA List of Top 10 Borzoi for the decade 1972 to 1982 with 439 Bowen points & 14 BOB's as the #5 dog. He was the #1 male on the list and he had been in competition for 8 of the 10 years. Until 1991 he was the only male Borzoi to rank as the Annual #1 Lure Coursing Borzoi. [in 1996 his greatgrandson Blaze achieved this honor earning more than 3 times as many Bowen points in 1996 year.]
Pye was a compact, well muscled dog, standing 30" at the shoulder. In physical type, he was almost identical to the dog pictured as the typical male Borzoi on page 23 of Thomas' 1912 book: Observations on Borzoi. He was a vigorous dog and actively competed in field trials from 1975 through 1983. He was a glorious red-gold in color as a young dog. With age a roan ruff encircled his neck. He had perfect ear set, his ears were tight, small and high set and he could scissor his ear tips tightly against his necl so that they lay "...like little capes, the tips almost touching" [to quote the Grand Duke Nicholi Nicholiavich on why he paid 2000 rubles for a Borzoi with perfect ears].
Pyerun was a tough dog to compete against. He started cutting fairly early in his career so he did not necessarily win in his later years. However he usually caught the lure, typically more than once during a given course, which ment that the dogs drawn with him had to have stamina and endurance. Pyerun was known as The Lure Operator's Bane and it was considered a good test of a lure operator if he or she could get the lure around an entire course without The Alligator chomping down on the plastic. Few were up to this task. Many times I wished that Pyerun wasn't there that day as my entry was rerun for the third or fourth time in the preliminary run. I finally solved the problem by breeding my best coursing Borzoi bitch to Pyerun and obtaining a daughter who came close to matching his fanaticism.
Pyerun began his lure coursing career in the days when all entries were muzzled. He was a rather fiesty dog, but rarely got in trouble unless some canine contestant tried to remove the lure from his mouth. Then he defended what he had worked so hard to acquire. I shall never forget the look on his daughter Darkness' face the day she calmly ran up and took the lure away from Daddy. he got it back 'real fast'! He was disqualified once, at a Grand Prix Challenge Cup trial Oct 14, 1979 for engaging in a three-way brawl with his old enemy Bianco and with Windhound's Tschovsky Ohms. He was reinstated in November of that year and coursed for another four years.
Pyerun remained in the company of Ariel Duncan until his death. He was a spirited, pushy, talkative dog who insisted that you pay attention to HIM. He grinned, he sang, he talked when he wanted attention. He screamed when he saw the lure. He was a true fanatic. In a sport where the advantage is to the hot young dog, he remained a well-known fixture for over 8 years.
I personally am extremely grateful to him for two things. He taught me how to operate a lure and he was the father of my fanatical lure courser and champion grinner Darkness.
Paradoxically it seems both long ago and no time at all since I wrote the essay about Pyerun for the Borzoi Quarterly Centerfold, however 6 years have passed. In those six years all of the puppies from his only litter (born 1979) have passed away, some of them have also become ancestors and their descendents have continued to participate in lure coursing events.
Pyerun was bred only once, to ASFA Field Champion Silkenswift Dianna Darkstar LCM. From this litter of 7 came 3 ASFA performance titled Borzoi: ASFA F CH Silkenswift Pye's Willow CD, ASFA F CH Silkenswift Pyper v Songmaker & ASFA & Can F Ch Silkenswift pye's Dark Design LCM 6, who was the first Borzoi to become #1 ASFA hound (a position she held for 2 years - 1980 & 1981)
Of Pyerun's pups the only performance titled one that was bred was ASFA & Can F Ch Silkenswift Pye's Dark Design LCM 6. She produced three litters. The best (from a performance point of view) being the first when she was bred to Am & Can Ch Windrift Kindred Spirit - who although never lure coursed - is (as of 1992) the all time top sire of lure coursing titled Borzoi. This litter contained three LCM titled Borzoi and one Field Ch who almost made her LCM but was injured and could not attain the final 35 points needed for the LCM. These dogs were ASFA FCh Silkenswift Innanna of Jem, ASFA FCh Silkenswift Tammuz LCM, ASFA FCh Howff Silkenswift Abargi LCM 2 and ASFA FCh & Can FCh Silkenswift Howff Ishtar LCM2 SC ORC (oval racing Champion at 8 years of age!). All four of these Borzoi have themselves produced performance titled Borzoi.
Ishtar has accumulated the most titles: ASFA FCh, Can FCh, Senior Courser (and AKC lure coursing points), Oval Racing Champion and LCM2. She lacks one first place for her LCM3.
Pyerun's greatest legacy is what he can teach us about the breeding of quality lure coursing Borzoi. There are to date (1992) 12 litters of Borzoi over 2 years of age descended from Pyerun. Ten of these litters produced a total of 26 performance titled Borzoi. There is also one AKC conformation champion - it does not have a performance title. Only one of Pye's pups who would not lure course was bred - that dog accounts for 2 litters of 14 of Borzoi in which only one of the pups attained a performance title. This gives a ratio of 2.16 performance titled dogs per litter. I do not have complete counts of number of pups in the litters I did not breed. From the litters we (Silkenswift) bred we have 19 performance titled Borzoi from a total of 31 pups for a 61% success level
For some level of comparison - if we look at the success of the top 60 Borzoi sires of conformation Champions we get an average of 1.3 Champion offspring per litter sired.
Pyerun has not been the focus of a program of inbreeding. It would be a mistake! The best performance dogs - the dogs that can keep running year after year - who do not look old at 6 or 7 - have low co-efficients of inbreeding. In addition Pyerun was physically a fairly average Borzoi - what he contributed to his descendents was his fanatical attitude. I call this the "fanatic gene". Possessors of this capability when bred to Borzoi who are good coursers seem to be able to reproduce themselves in around half of the pups. Bred to excellent (LCM) level coursers entire litters of performance titled Borzoi can be produced. However there will still be a spread between the fanatics and the average animals.
The "fanatic gene" produces a dog that will practically die to get the lure, but that is only part of the picture. the rest is to have that attitude in a body that is capable of standing up to the performance demands that that fanatic mind places on the body. This is a overall fit and muscular body with just the right amount of angulation with strong pasterns and hocks and a flexible back. It is also a moderate sized body (55 pounds in bitches - 75 pounds in males). In Borzoi - which are a coated breed in the show ring - that body will usually not carry the show coat when it is in top condition. The modest size and tendency to be lighter coated when you are really in top form are the two reasons that Pyerun's best descendents are performance titled but not conformation titled. Conformation judges who have no experience with performance Borzoi tend to penalize modest coat, modest size and being in running weight quite heavily. Paradoxically Pyerun's 7 missing teeth - which was the major reason that no other Borzoi breeder of his day would use him have not been a major problem to his descendents. I have had fewer problems with missing teeth in his descendents than I have had in litters descended from dogs with full dentition.
I have bred more ASFA titled sighthounds than any other dog breeder, in any breed. My percentage of lure coursing titled dogs is very high. We have had coursing titled dogs from every litter but one. We have breed several AKC conformation titled dogs. However our very best lure coursers - the dogs that are in competition for #1 for that year - have done poorly in the show ring and our best AKC dogs have tended to have no interest in coursing or to be so large that they are not really competitive in coursing, despite their interest.
I do not see any way out of this paradox in Borzoi unless we get judges that will look at dogs close to the lower end of the standard in size and who realize that a really heavy coat is typically found on a fat, out of condition dog. On the other hand the plight of the large, fast coursing Borzoi who could be competitive in the show ring would be improved if we had lure operators who would keep the lure a decent distance (15 to 30 yards) ahead of a large fast dog so that it could make the turns. A fast show sized Borzoi cannot make a turn if the lure is only 2 to 4 feet ahead of it when the lure turns. This happens over and over. Only the small or the slow dogs can make turns under those circumstances.
Sadly. most of Pyerun's coursing descendents have been black and tan, agouti or dominant black so a new generation of coursing enthusiasts has yet to yet see that flash of bright strawberry red under the sun as the lure is "alligatored" to a halt!
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