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Meet Kike - the mole-catching dog

PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:42 11 January 2016

Kike likes muddy weather (picture: John Noblett)

Kike likes muddy weather (picture: John Noblett)

not Archant

It’s one of the world’s rarest breeds and its super-sensitive nose makes her perfect for hunting out a gardener’s pest. Emily Rothery reports

Kike is one of only 25 in the UKKike is one of only 25 in the UK

No dog is perfect but John and Jennifer Noblett believe theirs is as near as it gets. What is even more remarkable is that they didn’t choose Kike - she was chosen for them. But then, this is no ordinary dog, as any mole might tell you. John is a master mole catcher and he needed a well-behaved dog with a keen nose that could help him.

Jennifer has a horse and wanted a dog that would happily mix with other animals at the livery yard.

The couple have a pint-sized King Charles cavalier, called Bella, and she needed to be confident they would rub along at their home in Warton, near Preston.

Kike (pronounced Kee-ka) is a Stabyhoun and John first encountered the breed by chance on a working day. ‘I was called out to catch moles and the client owned a breed of dog that I had never seen before. She explained that the dog was a Stabyhoun, a rare breed that originates from Holland, and that it would be the perfect dog for me.’

The breed is controlled by the Dutch authoritiesThe breed is controlled by the Dutch authorities

John did more research, contacted the UK Stabyhoun Association and filled in an application form. There is a long waiting list because the Dutch control the breeding programme and have strict regulations. There are currently 25 in the UK and only around 6,000 worldwide, making the it one of the world’s top 10 rarest breeds.

‘My application was nine pages long,’ laughs John. ‘But because we had such specific requirements we got a pup sooner rather than later.’

Jennifer adds: ‘When we met the pup we could see straight away that she was interested in everything and would make a good working dog. It was as if she had been tailor-made for us.’

This remarkable breed originates from Friesland, a province in the North of the Netherlands where it is known as a national treasure. It is thought that the ancestors were probably related to the spaniels that came north during the Spanish occupation in the late 16th century.

Master mole catcher John with KikeMaster mole catcher John with Kike

Stabyhouns were invaluable to the poor farmers of the area, who needed a good all-round dog to protect their property, be tolerant towards livestock, and be friendly with children. The versatile hound also excelled at catching vermin and soon gained a reputation as an unsurpassed catcher of moles.

‘The dogs would rid the farms of moles and yet leave the pelts undamaged,’ says John. ‘As moleskin was in demand for quality clothing in the 1900s it meant that a good Stabyhoun could bring the equivalent of 100 euros. The dogs would be taken from village to village in the basket of a bicycle. Things haven’t changed much as Kike happily rides alongside me on the quadbike as I go about my work.

‘Stabyhouns have a natural retrieving ability and have been used as a gundog to retrieve small birds and game since the early 1800s. She is the perfect companion for me as she is so loyal and has needed so little training. She is just over a year old now and attracts attention wherever we go especially the rural shows where I often have an information stall.

‘I know that I can trust her off the lead and owners of unruly dogs look on with envy. One of the most striking things about her is that she will stay by my side no matter what. The first part of the name ‘Staby’ is Dutch for stand by me.’

Bella with KikeBella with Kike

Kike has been gradually introduced to mole catching. Like her owner, she is truly at home in the countryside. ‘When riding on the quad she is always sniffing the air and when we stop will jump off and head straight to a rabbit warren. When we are catching moles her unbelievable nose is a real asset- better than any dogs that I have had. She can unearth a mole in a shallow tunnel or use her natural ability as a pointer to show me where the creatures are.’

John, president of the Guild of British Mole-catchers, explains about the more serious consequences of mole activity ‘Moles bring bacteria in the soil up to the surface. Any farm that grows grass for silage or haylage won’t want to take in the soil as bacteria thrive when wrapped in plastic. This can cause sickness in cattle and sheep or prove fatal if consumed by horses.’

John and Kike also do work for Lancashire County Council keeping playing fields usable. She loves to be out in the rain and snow but that she can’t tolerate the heat too well so he will leave her with Jennifer on hot days. ‘Although Kike loves to be active she is equally happy just sitting on my knee – she’s just a big lap-dog,’ smiles Jennifer.

Kike is really all you could want in a dog – intelligent, easily trainable, affectionate and tenacious but never vicious or snappy – she truly is a ‘stand-by-me’ dog in every respect.

Anyone who is interested in a Stabyhoun puppy can email christina@stabyhounuk.com or visit www.stabyhounuk.com

Do you have a remarkable dog ? Drop us a line at letters@lancashirelife.co.uk

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