Icons of the Sport: Samuel Evans Ewing III

Learn about the contributions of dog breeder Samuel Evans Ewing III of Eagle Farms Irish Wolfhounds.

Samuel Evans Ewing III
Eagle Farms Irish Wolfhounds

For five decades, Eagle Farms kennel in Chester Springs, Pa., broke records and made Irish Wolfhounds a competitive force in the group ring. Its international fame earned Samuel Evans Ewing III the nickname “Mr. Irish Wolfhound.”

Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Sam grew up with Cairns and Gordons. He graduated from Princeton in 1952, attended University of Pennsylvania School of Law and became a partner of Ewing and Ewing law office in 1955. Those are generally considered life’s major events. But the real turning point in Sam’s life happened two years earlier. In 1953 he purchased his first Irish Wolfhound, Ballymacad of Ambleside, bred by Alma Starbuck, author of The Complete Irish Wolfhound. Bally sparked his lifelong devotion to the breed and a few months later he entered Bally at the upcoming Devon show just for fun. He walked out with a Group Third and the rest is history.

Sam was in his 20s and he had the resources to go all out, but he took his time learning the breed and selecting stock. After finishing Bally in 1957, he purchased Carraig’s Burke, often described as the best puppy in Starbuck’s kennel. Burke finished in 1959. Sam’s first important dog came along the following year. Ch. Hillaways Padraic of Eagle, bred by Catherine Cram and Helen Dalton, became top IW in 1964 and 1965, went BOS at the IWCA national in 1965, BOB from the Veterans class in 1966 and sired 23 champions.

Although several Eagle Farms IWs were successful sires, Sam exhibited for almost a decade before taking the plunge to start a breeding program. This is often cited as a major key to his success. In 1962 he purchased a Padraic daughter, Glentara Grania of Eagle, and Ambleside Edain of Eagle from Anna Starbuck. Bred to Padraic, Edain produced Ch. Eohey of Eagle, grandsire of one of his later winners, Ch. Aefe of Eagle.

That was a propitious start, and when Sam started breeding, he did it big. At its peak, Eagle Farms produced several litters a year and the kennel housed more than 100 hounds. Few breeders have the resources to maintain a breeding program like this, and it allowed Sam to patiently construct a prepotent line. He concentrated on one key trait at a time without losing sight of the big picture. The Eagle breeding program was based on linebreeding. He maintained four viable, complementary lines but also utilized outcrossing and inbreeding. Most importantly, Sam was patient and very selective. He didn’t expect big winners in every litter.  In less than a decade, his Irish Wolfhounds were setting records and making history. In 1975 his owner-handled Breac O’Shawn McDown of Eagle became the breed’s first Westminster Group winner.

Sam also imported carefully, at a time when new fanciers were avidly purchasing British stock without the slightest idea of what they were buying or breeding. His most important import was 2-year-old  English Ch. Boroughbury Brona in 1967,  bred by Elsie James. James founded her Boroughbury kennel in Co. Kerry, Ireland in 1942 with Clonboy of Ouborough. A two-time BIS winner Clonboy was the most influential sire of the era. From 1944-1951, most English champions were his second- or third-generation descendants.

Brona was cut from the right cloth. She became a multiple BIS winner and consistently reproduced the inherent quality of her line. In 1969 she produced top-winning Ch. Broughshane of Eagle. Winner of 15 BIS, he was top IW from 1971-1973, setting a new record for the breed. He won the IWCA specialty in1972 and went BOS the following year. A daughter, Ch. Gweebara of Eagle, was BOS at the 1975 national and another, Ch. Aasleagh of Eagle, went BOS in 1979. The 1983 IWCA winner, Piuritan Priscilla, and 1985 winner, Ch. Brandy Whines Morah of Eagle, were both sired by Ch. More of Eagle, a grandson of Broughshane of Eagle. His most important grandson was Aodh Harp of Eagle, known as Hughie. Born in 1980, he was BOB at the 1984 specialty and won the Group at Westminster in 1985. His career total of 15 BIS equaled that of his famous grandsire. Sam owned or co-owned five Irish Wolfhound Club of America National Specialty winners in 1966, 1972, 1983, 1984 and 1990. By the end of 1979, Eagle Farms had produced 98 champions and garnered international admiration. 

In addition to his phenomenal success as a breeder and owner-handler Sam wrote and lectured extensively on every aspect of the breed from genetics and breeding to grooming, nutrition and history. Sam joined the Irish Wolfhound Club of America in 1955 and was actively involved with the club for five decades. He served as an officer, board member and AKC delegate from 1987 to 1998 and president from 1968-69.

He organized several IWCA specialties and fun matches as well as educational events like the famed Killybracken Get Together at Killybracken Kennel, a two-day educational event open to anyone interested in learning more about the IW. It featured lectures, panel discussions, grooming seminars and videos on structure and movement. Always mindful of the big picture, he willingly shared his time and expertise with novices at a critical period when many new fanciers were entering the breed. As Chairman of the IWCA’s Education Committee he organized hands-on workshops for prospective judges using his own hounds as examples of the breed’s good and bad qualities.

He was also a founding member of the Irish Wolfhound Foundation and The Irish Wolfhound Association of Delaware Valley, and a board member of the Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhound Association. After retiring from his legal career in 1998 he devoted even more time to dog club activities. He held offices in the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr Kennel Club, Chester Valley Kennel Club and Penn Treaty Kennel Club.
Sam passed away in 2004 at age 74. To symbolize his incredible contribution to the breed, the funeral procession to his grave included more than a dozen Irish Wolfhounds. His companion, Samuel Houston McDonald, continues to breed under their Eagle Farms prefix.


From the June 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the June 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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