The National Agouti Cavy Club may well be the oldest cavy club in the world.
The English Agouti Cavy Club, as it was first known, is known to been in exsistence in 1908 (the actual date at present is unknown) and thought may have been formed in 1906 which was the year the English Self and Dutch Cavy Club's were formed.
Reference has been found to a 'Grey Agouti' being on show at Crystal Palace in 1888 which was possibly the first Agouti shown.
The late 19th Century/early 20th Century saw many fanciers experimenting in developing new breeds/colours and as a result the Golden Agouti was soon born (late 19th Century).
Keighley Championship Show 1906. Two "thrilled" young exhibitors photographed with their prize-winning cavies. The one pictured bottom left is a Golden Agouti.
Little at present is known of the early history of the Club but the fabulous silver trophies 'The Fernie Bowl' for best Silver Adult and the marvellous 'President's Cup' for Best Golden u/5 months were first competed for in 1917. Twenty years later, believed to be in the 1930s, saw the development of a new and third Agouti colour, the Cinnamon.
The oldest Club Year Book available to date is from 1946 with the Club again managing to run through another World War. The Club President then was Mr. Jack Smith, who was very successful with his ‘Elmdene Stud’ of Silver, Golden and Cinnamon Agoutis which included Best Agouti at Bradford Championship Show on three successive occasions. Club Secretary was Mr. Reg Lodge who’s thought to have taken over this position in the late 1930’s or early 40’s and the Club had six committee members, six judges and a healthy membership of 58.
This book mentions the newly adopted fourth colour to the Breed and Club, this being the Salmon Agouti. Few people still remember seeing these and some take the view that this colour required much work whilst others regarded it as a particularly attractive colour. Either way, in 1988 (after many years of not being seen) it became an unrecognised colour.
Also mentioned was the recent description change of the Golden Agouti colour from ‘dull golden’ to ‘rich golden’ and was seen as a great improvement for this colour which was at that time second best to the Silver. The quality of the Cinnamon at this stage was also thought in need of improvement.
The points allocated for the Agouti standard are also published, these being: Ticking 30, Colour 20, Shape 20, Coat & Condition 15, Eyes 5, Size 5, Ears 5. This make-up of points remained identical (at least 70 years) until it was reviewed in 1988 and the British Cavy Council reviewed and updated all Breed Standards in 2006/7.
Unfortunately during the 1950’s (due to believed poor secretaryship) the Club was left to run down and eventually by 1960 became almost dormant. In early summer of that year Reg Lodge approached Brian Emmett (who had kept a number of Agoutis including a Stud on Cinnamons since 1939) at the Otley Show, to see if he would consider taken over and re-starting the Agouti Club. Brian agreed and was given a 1946 Club Year Book to model on and no funds!
In 1961 the Club held an A.G.M. where Brian proposed that the Club changed its name to the National Agouti Cavy Club which was accepted. G.R. Lodge was elected President along with seven committee members and nine panel judges. Club Membership then stood at just 25 with a subscription rate of 10/- (50p) for Adults.
An extract from the Agouti Cavy Club year book 1961 reads:
I am a very happy man – why? I’ll tell you. I was asked by Mr. Lodge to take on the job, pro tem of secretary of the dormant Agouti Cavy Club, this was sometime in December, since then I have worked for, planned for and actually dreamt – Agouti Cavy Club.
I started with nothing - no records, stationery, members, committee, or the thing called money. The arrival of this year book at your home is a milestone marking the progress of the Club to date. We now have members, stationery and rosettes, Club Judges, committee and a Club that is forging ahead. Due to the fact that the Club was penniless, I turned over in my mind the possibility of a year book, but decided that this was out of the question. However with the stubbornness of a Yorkshire man and the spirit of a fancier that we would have a year book or bust well, here it is, all hand printed and the cost to the club – was nothing. If you think I should have stuck to my original idea of not having one, due to this not being up to standard, I am sorry. If, however, you think that it fills the bill, a short note to that effect, and any criticism, would pay me in kind for the hundred and odd hours of heartbreak that I have put into it.
I close on the oft spoke words ‘Thank you all and please let me have your continued support in the future’ this I ask for the sake of the Agouti Cavy Club.
Brian Emmett. (Secretary)
This must have been a major task for Brian to take on, and a credit to him, as I’m sure we wouldn’t have the Club we have today if it wasn’t for Brian. His incredible work saw him become an Honorary Life Member & Judge. Brian remained Secretary until 1979 during which time Mr. Pat Kelly took over the President's position. In this period Brian and his committee did a sterling job taking the Club to its heyday with 125 members in 1978.
During the 1960’s, Mr. Vic Bailey also joined the Club and he was to become a Legend in the Agouti Fancy with his Silvers, winning numerous awards including B.I.S. at the Club’s Adult Stock Show on an unprecedented 14 occasions.
During the 1970’s, three new colours were accepted by the Club – Lemon, Chocolate and Cream, with Miss Sarah Hewes being the prominent breeder until sadly having to give up due to ill health in the early 2000’s.
Mr. Geoff Fox (whose Stud of Cinnamons became almost Legendary) took over the post of Secretary in 1979 with Brian Emmett becoming the new Club President. Geoff, as quoted by Brian, was ‘an excellent secretary’ but disappointingly in the early 1980’s saw popularity in the Agouti fall along with Club membership, which went down to 65 in 1984. (The reason for this seems to be the increasing number of new breeds and sadly many of the long time old agouti fanciers passing away). Continued fine work, however, from Geoff saw membership rise again in the mid 1980’s and when he resigned from the post in January 1988 membership had risen dramatically to 118. Geoff was also rewarded with Honorary Life Membership for his fine work for the Club.
The secretary position in January 1988 was taken over by Mr. Peter Gammie, a successful young man who also kept a small but winning stud of Cinnamons.
The first task undertaken by Peter was an important one, re-drafting of the Agouti Standard. After much discussion amongst members, the Standard was eventually accepted by the British Cavy Council (B.C.C.) and regarded as a good example of how a Breed Standard should read. The quality of this Standard stood out during 2006/07 when its wording was barely altered when the B.C.C. reviewed and amended all Breed Standards.
Shortly after Peter taking over as Secretary, the Cavy Fancy’s magazine Cavy World folded. This was a huge loss to the Fancy and a replacement was urgently required. Peter, along with Bryan Mayoh and Tony O’Neill acted quickly and produced a new monthly magazine called ‘Cavies’. Due to much of his rare spare time being taken over by ‘Cavies’ Peter was unable to promote the N.A.C.C. as he wished or was required and he asked Ros Lockwood to help by becoming Membership Secretary and he remained General Secretary whilst an appropriate replacement could be found.
In 1995 Peter found a possible suitable and young replacement, Steve Davies, who joined the Club at the start of that year. Steve, who had a successful stud of Black English Crested, had always greatly admired the Silver when seeing Violet Davies’ Silvers at local shows but had to wait a number of years before obtaining his Stud of Silvers, when purchasing all Steve Owens surplus stock. He found success immediate when being shocked to win Best in Show with a Silver boar at the Club's 1995 Adult Stock Show. Peter asked Steve at Bradford Championship Show 1996 if he would take on the role of secretary and after much thought and discussion with Ros Lockwood he agreed and took over at the Club’s A.G.M. at Saltaire in March 1996. Peter’s final job was to complete the new Club Handbook which saw membership still at a healthy level of 88. In 2008 Peter was awarded an Honorary Life Member & Judge for his work for the Club.
Despite promoting the Club & Breed as much as possible, Steve’s early years as Secretary saw membership fall to around 55 and the numbers of Goldens had declined with the A.O.C.s becoming almost extinct. Thankfully, however, as is seen throughout the history, membership improved and more Goldens were seen by the new Millenium however A.O.C.s were still scarce.
Bradford Championship Show 2003 saw a turning point for the Club with new fancier Martin Harrison joining and obtaining both Golden & Silver stock. Despite keeping a number of other breeds, it soon became evident to Martin that the Agouti was the outstanding pig for him. By 2006 Martin was greatly helping Steve and Club by taken over as Points Organiser and Publicity Officer. Martin’s work in promoting the Club & Breed was immense, writing a regular column in ‘Cavies’ and organising a new Club Stand which saw much praise and was awarded Best Club Stand at Bradford Championship Show 2007.
Thanks largely to Martin’s tireless work membership grew. However, despite this improved membership, Steve was very concerned on the numbers of Agoutis and breeders in the U.K. and in 2004 undertook a Club census. This showed a total of 133 Golden and 194 Silver breeding/young boars and sows but, as worryingly thought, showed there were just 34 Cinnamons; 27 Lemons; 11 Chocolates & 5 Cream breeding/young pigs (in the UK from returned Census forms). Martin Harrison and Di-L-Emma Stud were extremely worried by these findings and decided to try and build up and improve the A.O.C.s.
The year 2004 also saw a new breed taken on by the Club, this being the Solid Agouti. The Solid Agouti (a recognised breed in America for many years) differed from the normal Agouti as it has a ticked belly and had been imported to the UK from Europe in the late 1990’s by Dalmation fanciers to successfully breed spots on the Agouti Dalmation’s belly. In 2004 the B.C.C. accepted the name Solid Agouti and gave the breed a Guide Standard, meaning it could be shown in Rare Variety classes only.
Penny Bell (Club B.C.C. representative) was the main breeder and supporter of the Solid in the UK and thanks largely to her the breed was granted a Full Standard from 1st January 2009.
The year 2007 saw a blow for the Club with Martin Harrison very reluctantly having to give up the Fancy due to ill health. He was awarded Life Membership in 2008 for his immense work for the Club and Breed.
In 2008, Secretary Steve Davies undertook compiling another Club Census. This showed a total of 121 Golden and 210 Silver breeding/young boars and sows but despite an increase, the number of A.O.C.’s were still dangerously low, with just 47 Cinnamons; 28 Lemons; 30 Chocolates & 18 Cream breeding/young pigs (in the UK from returned census forms). Club membership stood at 72.
2012 saw new members from Scotland - John & Pam Gardner (Tickety-Boo Stud) and after a couple of years dappling with all six agouti colours they realised the urgent need for the very rare 3 chocolate based AOC's. Thanks to kindly optaining good anitial stock from Madelaine Coomber they quickly went to work on increasing both numbers and quality. As a result (and with a number of other members taking on the AOC challenge) currently (2016) numbers of Chocolates and Cinnamons have greatly increased and with some good show results too.
Today (2016), Agoutis are enjoying a resurgence of interest and success with some established, respected and experienced fanciers from other breeds having taken up Agoutis. Support for the various colours continues to fluctuate, however, with the Cream still very rare and it would be particularly welcomed if more fanciers took on one of the less-well supported colours, maybe as well as their main colour.