In the early 20th century at Valley Farm Kennels in Simsbury, Connecticut, Joseph B. Thomas raised and sold Russian wolfhounds, also called Borzoi. The farm boasted nearly 4000 square feet of buildings for the dogs surrounded by acres of grounds. As an advertisement claimed: “Visitors are always welcome and trains will be met on request. There are constantly in the Kennels between fifty and one hundred Wolfhounds of different ages”. Most were for sale. What made these hounds different was that they were from the interior of Russia, not the Imperial Kennels. Thomas called them the “ancient type” and he spent many months tracking them down and then breeding them.
I had never heard of Valley Farm Kennels until someone contacted me about a guest book he had and wanted to know more about. Well, I could not find a lot of information about the Kennels, but the guest book is now part of our collections and we hope someone will do additional research about the people and the hounds involved.
People visited the Kennels from New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington, DC, and of course, Connecticut. Visitors signed the guest book and some added poetry, sketches, and even musical notation. The book dates from 1901-1915.
The poem penned on the pages illustrated here reads:
Poets have sung of golden days
on the banks of the far-away
And their thoughts are fair to look upon
In an ideal sort of way!
But give up something more practical
Wolfhounds fair to see-ski
And a day or two at the Valley farm
Will be good enough for me-ski
Several questions come to mind. How many visitors actually bought a Wolfhound? Or were they just sight-seeing? How many people were repeat visitors, and why? What other attractions were in the area? As usual, I have more questions than answers.
After Thanksgiving, look for this volume to be on display in our latest exhibit “Cats and Dogs.”