Lonn and Ann Kuck of Star, Idaho own Elk Run Kennels. Dogs have been an important part of our lives since 1975. Bloodhounds initially captured our interest. However, since 1991, our Braque du Bourbonnais have become an integral part of our lives.
Lonn was a big game research biologist/manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for 32 years, retiring in 2001 after 12 years as the State Big Game Manager. Initially our hounds and now our Braqueﾠdu Bourbonnais provided a bridge between Lonn’s profession and his hunting avocation. Lonn has always been a big game hunter, however, the need to add a bird dog became apparent in the 1980’s as his interest in hunting upland game birds intensified. Never one to take the easiest path, Lonn initiated a search for a pointer but for something different. Looking beyond the established pointing breeds in this country,ﾠour search focused on breeds best suited for the foot hunter.
An article in Dog World magazine in 1988 provided our first insight into the Braque du Bourbonnais. At that time, it was estimated that there were no more than 1,000 Bourbonnais in existence. The Frenchﾠwere trying to establish the breed in the United Statesﾠto help avoid the breed’s extinction. The Frenchﾠwere trying to establish the breed in the United Statesﾠto help avoid the breed’s extinction. This article provided the impetus for us to expand our research into the Braque du Bourbonnais. We initiated a search for a Bourbonnais puppy, a search not rewarded until 1991 when we purchased Bessie (Phantom's Belle LaBete) from Beth Cepil’s first litter. This was only the second litter whelped in this country. Bessie formed the foundation for Elk Run Kennels, now the oldest active Braque du Bourbonnais kennel in North America. We took a risk on the Bourbonnais, a risk worth taking. Over the years,ﾠour Bourbonnais have provided us many rewards and memories. Gun Dog magazine featured Bessie in their June/July 1993 issue (http://www.idfishnhunt.com/braque.htm). Bessie was the first Bourbonnais to pass the North America Versatile Hunting Dog Association's (NAVHDA) Utility Test, attaining a Prize II, scoring 200 points out of a possible 204. Bessie was NAVHDA Snake River Chapter's Dog of the Year in 1994. In addition, in the spring of 1998, she earned the first championship points for a Bourbonnais in a National Shoot to Retrieve Association trial. Above all else, Bessie has provided us many memories of filled bag limits and points over most native upland birdsﾠfound in the West.
Although obtaining a pointer as a hunting partner was our original goal, this breed's qualities as pets were the factors that most enamored us with the breed. They are first and foremost simply nice, small, loving dogs. These qualities, and Bessie's sweet, gentle disposition, keen desire to hunt, and intense need to please provided the impetus for Elk Run Kennels to initiate a Bourbonnais breeding program.
Our goal at Elk Run Kennels is to breed Braque du Bourbonnais with superior hunting instincts and ability. Although the Bourbonnais is rare, our objective is to improve the breed not just produce more Bourbonnais. Our breeding program is based on the premise that our Bourbonnais must be equal to or better than the other versatileﾠbreeds readily available to the North American hunter. Elk Run achieves the realization of this goal by breeding only dogs that have proven themselves in the field on wild birds and are NAVHDA hunt test qualified.
Even for the more familiar breeds, the production of puppies that mature into proficient versatile hunting dogs; that are sound, healthy and conform to a breed standard is, at best, a difficult task. A task compounded in a substantial way for a rare breed by their rarity and even narrower gene pool. Therefore, Elk Run Kennels imports all of its sires and dams from the topﾠperforming kennels in France. All Elk Run Bourbonnais are direct sons and daughters of proven and titled French field dogs. Elk Run Kennels is not willing to settle for dogs diluted by two or more generations removed from the better French dogs. Therefore, imports maximize the gene pool and quality of dogs incorporated into our breeding program. Since the breed’s near extinction in the 1970’s, the French have rapidly improved the quality of the Braque du Bourbonnais. Elk Run Kennels stays abreast of these improvements by strategically adding select imports to our breeding program. Over the past 17 years, Elk Run has imported ten dogs, seven of these met our criteria for breeding. The decision to exclude three imports was both emotionally difficult and expensive. These were not easy decisions but a prerequisite for the success of our breeding program.
"Breed the best to the best" is a proven method for success. We utilize hunt tests sanctioned by NAVHDA to provide an objective and independent evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each of our dogs. We encourage all of our puppy owners to participate in the NAVHDA Natural Ability testing program.
NAVHDA hunt tests are noncompetitive events in which a three-judge panel evaluates "versatile hunting breeds" against a field performance standard. Standards designed to objectively evaluate versatile breeds bred toﾠhunt, point, retrieve and track on both land and water.
NAVHDA offers four levels of testing. The Natural Ability Test designed to evaluate the inherent natural abilities of young dogs and to gain insight into their potential usefulness as versatile gun dogs. This test rates seven important inherited abilities: nose, search, tracking, pointing, water, desire and cooperation. The Utility Preparatory Test measures the dogs’ development midway through their training toward the Utility Test. The Utility Test evaluates trained dogs in water and field, before and after the shot, as finished versatile hunting companions. The Invitational Test is the highest level of testing and only dogs who have achieved a Prize I in Utility are eligible. This limits the entry to exceptional dogs that have demonstrated a high level of training and test their skills in the advanced work (NAVHDA Aims, Programs, Test Rules June 1998).
All Elk Run dogs must have passed NAVHDA's Natural Ability Test with a minimum score of at least 100 points to be included in our breeding program. ﾠIn addition, Elk Run has owned and trained eight Prize I Utility tested dogs. Our "Rudy" (Moliere du Pontelle de Maicou) became the first Prize I Utility Bourbonnais in North America. Our Shorty (Sherrif des Bois de la Mariniere), Issy (Savane du Pontelle du Maicou), Gus (Vegas du Pontelle de Maicou) and Star (Etoile de la Benigousse) are still the only Bourbonnais to a maximum scored of 204 points in earning their Utiliy Prize I's. Dogs owned or bred by Elk Run have achieved many firsts for the breed. Our most significant achievement was the obtainment of a first Versatile Champion title for Patty (VC Patou du Pech du Cayrol) in September, 2005. This was followed by Strider (Elk Run Yukon Jack), owned and trained by Matt Lurken becoming the first American bred Bourbonnais Versatile Champion in the fall of 2013.
Finally, Elk Run Kennels is committed to breeding sound, healthy dogs. ﾠSurprisingly, despite the Bourbonnais' small size, hip dysplasia is an issue within the breed. For hip evaluation, Elk Run Kennels utilizes the PennHip program. PennHip is a measure of the laxity or tightness of hips in dogs. PennHip is based on the premise that the tighter the hips, the lower the probability of dysplasia. Elk Run Kennels will only breed dogs with hips that are as tight as, or tighter than, the top half of over 40,000 dogs, of all breeds, evaluated by this technique.
We are determined to breed the finest bird dog available. It is our intent to continue our study of this breed in order to insure we produceﾠthe best Braque du Bourbonnais in North America. In July of 2004 Ann and I traveled to France to attend the Braque du Bourbonnais National Specialty and Field Trial in La Cavalerie. This trip provided us with an opportunity to see many Bourbonnais and to interact and learn from the top Bourbonnais breeders in France. In addition, this trip provided us an opportunity to select two new prospects for our breeding program. By traveling to France we were able to select only the best puppies available from dogs that are proven field champions with superior conformation and temperament. ﾠﾠClick for photos from our 2004 trip to France
Our goal is to produce pups with intense hunting desire, proper temperament, correct conformation and soundness in accordance with the FCI international Braque du Bourbonnais breed standard.