The Royal Corgis
By Ronald Clark
Cover showing Lucky Strike
Even the most expert canine judge would be hard put to it to pick the most distinguished dog in Britain. It is not only a question of breeds. Everyone who has combed a coat, studied the finer points of bearing, and taught discipline and poise through months of hard training, knows that no dog can ever equal theirs. Whether it's a champion or a mongrel is, personally, at least, immaterial.
Yet there is one stately, up-standing-eared fellow who lives at Pirbright, Surrey, who can claim a high place on any list of Britain's most distinguished hounds.
International Ch. Rozavel Lucky Strike
He is an eight-year-old, twenty-six pound corgi, a dignified dog with something of the elder statesman about him, born at Cranborne, Dorset, as the tide of the second World War was moving back across the Channel to the Continent. A U.S. Army medical officer assisted at his birth, and the auburn puppy was christened Rozavel Lucky Strike.
His owner, Mrs. Thelma Gray, had bred her first corgi more than fifteen years before, in the late twenties, when few people outside the Welsh hills knew of the sturdy and affectionate little dogs. In 1944 it was doubtful whether Mrs. Gray realized the distinction that would come to Lucky Strike.
Mrs. Gray sold the late King, then the Duke of York, his first corgi in the mid-thirties, little Dookie, who with Jane, a companion corgi, became one of the favourites of the two Princesses. She supplied more than one other of these tough yet affectionate little dogs to the Royal Family. And it was perhaps natural that when the Queen wanted more puppies she should visit the Rozavel Kennels and pick Lucky Strike as the sire.
Five resulting puppies - including Sugar and Honey, who are now Prince Charles's playmates - were chosen by the Queen. Living at either Clarence House or Royal Lodge, they bring to a total of eight the corgis which the Royal Family now owns as pets.
International champion Rozavel Lucky Strike's distinction does not lie only in siring Royal puppies. In his eight years he has sired no fewer than eleven champions.
Eager and proud is Bit of Luck, eleven months old and winner of two firsts at recent shows.
He is named as a successor to international champion Lucky Strike
Lucky Strike, whose championship cups shine in the hall of Mrs. Gray's pleasant home at West Hall Farm, has played an important part in popularizing his breed in Britain. Just what that popularity means is well shown by the Kennel Club figures. In 1925 only ten corgis were registered. By 1933 the figure had crept up only to 202, and at the out-break of the last war it was only in the neighbourhood of 1,000. By 1945 the figure had reached 1,954, and the corgi had become tenth on the Kennel Club's popularity list.
Today, with 4,595 dogs registered -all Kennel Club figures are for registrations by year and not total figures-the corgi is the fourth most popular of all breeds in Britain, being beaten only by cocker spaniel, Alsatian and Pekingese.
Three Perky Corgis with keen eyes on championships.
The reason? Simple enough to Mrs. Gray. At an average weight of 20-24 pounds, the corgi is a small dog and a moderate meat-eater, a useful thing for both postwar homes and postwar budgets. It has a pleasant, if slightly quizzical, temperament. And, it also has a quart-size character and determination in its pint-size body.
The cost? Fifteen pounds is a fair price for a corgi puppy. It is only when you begin to reach Lucky Strike's distinctive position in life- stud fees are £10--that your value begins to soar. Then, like Lucky Strike, you may hear your master or mistress turning down offers that run into thousands.
From the British weekly magazine "Illustrated", June 1952