The Belgian Whitefield kennels

In the summer of 1996 I visited Franz Groenen at Kloesheuvel mansion near Bree, in the north-eastern part of Belgium. He was one of the great personalities of the European field trialing community and breeder of the well-known Whitefield pointers. Sadly his brother and best friend, Guy Groenen, had passed away only a few weeks before my visit.

Kennel Whitefield was founded already in 1921 by their father Dr Michel Groenen, a man with a huge legacy in medical research. Towards the end of his life he had been a possible Nobel Prize candidate. Franz became a co-owner of the kennel in 1960, while younger brother Guy had a specific interest in pigeon racing as well as the pointer breeding. After their father died in 1971, Guy became more involved with the work in the kennel. The brothers were highly respected in the European gundog community; being serious, honest and congenial in their pursuit of improving the breed, and sought after at judging field trials. They had access to hunt and train their dogs on the large fields of Waterloo, where Napoleon lost the battle. They also made it possible for field trials to be run in these fields. 

Guy Groenen with Kragheden Mak and top of the page Franz Groenen with his Mitridate del Vento when I visited him.

In the autumn of 1995 Guy was diagnosed as being terminally ill. At the European Championship in April ’96 Guy attended to bid farewell to all his friends. He passed away the following month, aged only 58. At the funeral his pointer friends lined up with their dogs in a guard of honour, from the church to the grave, while hundreds of pigeons were released above.

At my visit, Franz proudly showed me 150 top class racing pigeons, a litter of cocker spaniel pups and a three weeks old pointer litter. He had been to Italy with his Italian bitch Nada delle Torricelle (Brus di Valeggio – Jetta di Veronello) and had her mated with the super fast Astro (Assur – Rusa della Steccaia). In his kennel he also has Nada’s litter brother Nadir delle Torricelle. At the time Franz was particularly focused on improving angulation and movement. Because of that, when he was in Italy, he had also stopped at Giorgo Guberti’s world famous del Vento kennel to acquire a young male dog with the best movements. He let lose the youngster, Mitridate del Vento (Falerno del Vento – Sera del Vento), who effortlessly stretched out in gallop around the property. Another appealing female, Whitefield Pruna (Feo – Whitefield Nice) was on heat at the time, and waiting to be brought to the del Vento kennel and be mated with a male with the attributes he was searching for. Nada delle Torricelle was next mated with Mitridate and that produced Whitefield Vico.

In the 1970s Franz Groenen enjoyed great success with Whitefield Arno (Sernos del Bocia – Whitefield Xigane). Xigane was by the great Clastidium Islo (Bogas Tino – Clastidium Elba 2) and his daughter Whitefield Unna (Clastidium Islo – Whitefield Panda). Unna was one of the last dogs his father Michel Groenen bred. Her mother Panda was a great mix of Whitefield and de Valcour lines. Panda, who was a Grande Quete champion was sired by GQ CH Whitefield Miko (Iko de Valcour – Whitefield Kiria).

At one stage, the Groenen brothers had also looked to Denmark to improve their gene pool. Zitas Monika (Oksby Fly II – Zitas Nanna) had been bred by legendary Peter Jensen but was as a young dog owned and handled by Sønderjyden breeder Gerhard Wolff. She had won a 1st prize in novice class, placed 6th in the 1974 Danish Derby, and in 1975 won 2 x 1st prizes in Open stakes. Franz bought her and had a lot of further success with her on the continent, making her an International Field Trial Champion. She also became an important brood bitch in the kennel. One of her offspring, Whitefield Frac, was sold to England where he won the Champion Stake and sired the likes of Fernglen Forester. A few years after Franz got Zitas Monika, Guy got hold of a Danish male called Kragheden Mak (Alsbjergs Sep II – Stormosens Flora), who became one of his very best dogs but often handled by Franz. He placed 2nd in the 1986 International Pointer Championship. One of Mak’s progeny was Whitefield Hester, who became a very important brood bitch in France. They also imported the bitch Siv (Birkmosens Tuk – Kragheden Siv), her mother being Mak’s litter sister. She had a litter with Franz’ greatest dog, Whitefield Hipp, which produced Whitefield Kita who also became a brood bitch in France.

Whitefield Hipp (Chim – Whitefield Frana) was a great-grandson of Zitas Monika, and like her he also became an INT. FTCh. Hipp won the 1990 Coupe d’Europe and in October 1994, at the ripe age of 11, won the International Pointer Championship. The dog died in December 1995. When I visited Franz still had an ageing Italian called Clastidium Land (Celo – Clastidium Gulla). Another prima pointer, also with Danish lines behind him.

Franz with his great European Champion Whitefield Hipp and above Whitefield Glenn who was in Dutch ownership.

The Groenen family always had strong opinions of how a pointer should look and how it should perform in the field. It showed in the longevity of a kennel, which contributed greatly to the European pointer for more than 90 years.

Franz Groenen passed away in 2014, on the last day of the year.

Franz Groenen with a 7 year old Clastidium Land (Celo – Clastidium Gulla), line bred on Ferreos Tom, and with his wife Renee Thiss.