Thursday, December 22, 2011

In Memory of Joan MacLaren, Braxburn Boxers, UK

The following is a tribute written by Dr Bruce Cattanach to his dear friend Joan MacLaren, a noted Boxer fancier who died on November 28 of cancer. As you read Dr Cattanach’s words, you will see that our breed has also lost a dear friend, who honored the traditions established by Frau Friederun Stockmann (see the photo at the bottom of this page), while at the same time, acknowledging and combating “modern-day” Boxer health threats like ARVC. Our deepest condolences to Joan's family and friends.
 “Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.”
Joan MacLaren

Joan MacLaren of the long-established Scottish Braxburn Boxer kennel died peacefully on the Saturday morning, 28th November after a short but fiercely fought battle against lung cancer.  Only a few weeks ago she was hammering away about Boxer cardiomyopathy and the new kidney disease in the breed, while excitedly telling me about a discovery she had made about the origins of the Boxer in some writings of Frau Stockman, perhaps the most important person in the development of the breed in Germany.  But Joan’s main concerns at that moment were for her husband and family.  Such was Joan’s life, and her dedication to everything important to her.

Joan had an intense interest in animals and animal breeding from her school days.  Boxers quickly became her breed of interest, and she started showing in the early post-war period, but when she married Jimmy MacLaren of Viewpark Scottie heritage, Braxburn Boxers were surely set to make waves.  And they did.  Numerous champions and significant winners were produced, but it was really the breeding rather than showing, that attracted Joan.  Any visit to Braxburn kennels demonstrated dogs that never got near the show ring.  They commonly lacked the flashy white markings demanded for the show ring, but invariably were of such excellent type and conformation that one could never help but be impressed.  Presented free-standing as Continental practice, they showed a consistent picture of the archetypal Boxer.

And type was Joan’s watchword.   She was an ardent follower of Frau Stockman, and had absorbed all her teachings on what a Boxer was and what it should be.  Her friendship with Otto Donner, one of the main breed wardens for the German Boxer Club up to a few years ago was also a big influence.  As a consequence of this Joan had very clear views on Boxer type and was quite forth-right in expressing these views which very often were not in accord with those in the British show scene, but she always stuck to her guns.

Breeding animals invariably leads to unwanted defects at some time or another and Braxburn had its share.  It was touched by the neurological disease, progressive axonopathy, in the 80s and Joan did all she could to help the establishment and operation of a breeding controls scheme that ultimately proved totally effective.  When aortic stenosis was recognised as a breed problem, she had cardiologists from the Edinburgh vet school visit the kennels every year to test all her dogs as well as those of colleagues of like minds.  But it was an initially undefined heart condition in some of her dogs that caused her the most difficulties.  This was eventually found to be the heart disease, cardiomyopathy, that the breed is still battling today, but she never denied or tried to cover up anything.   Rather, she was immediately pressing the heart expert of the day, Professor Fisher of the Glasgow Veterinary School, to investigate the problem.    For Joan anything and everything untoward was investigated and not swept under the carpet.

Joan was one of the earliest members of the Scottish Boxer Club and thereafter served the club in various offices.  She and Jimmy were the core to the educational programmes on type and conformation that the club offered decades before current judges’ training schemes were thought of.  Joan was a leading speaker in the British Boxer Club’s judges’ conference in the 80s.  She was also the Scottish representative on the Breed Council sub-committee dealing with the KC’s drive to standardise all the breed standards, much to her total frustration.

While the Boxer was Braxburn’s breed of main interest, the MacLarens also showed a number of other breeds, these including Bostons, Corgis, Pugs, Scotties, and Whippets, and they also had some notably CC level successes with Beagles.  In more recent years bantam chickens became a serious show interest and gave the MacLarens many successes.  Breeding for type was always the key element.

The MacLaren household was unique.  A cockatiel and a free-flying parrot ruled the roost indoors, and collections of the artwork of the multi-talented Frau Stockman as well as many other beautiful models and pictures adorned the rooms, but incubators with hatching chicks could often be found in odd places.  Out of doors, masses of chickens of various varieties and geese were to be found, and in earlier times Joan kept milking goats and ponies and also rabbits, guinea pigs, and even fancy mice.  Joan was the ultimate animal lover and stock breeder and she was a fountain of knowledge on all things concerned with animal breeding and genetics. 

The Boxer breed has lost someone special with the death of Joan MacLaren.  Sympathies go to husband Jimmy, daughter Mandy and son Jimmy.  Joan will be greatly missed.



  1. When I read the kennel name Braxburn the name 'Braxburn Cornelia' comes to my mind ... I have read or possibly seen a picture of that dog somewhere. I have done a quick Google search and nothing turns up. Anybody knows?

  2. Search for Braxburn Cornelius, he was a beautiful dog. Sad to hear about
    Joan, I had a weekend and summer job at Braxburn Kennels in the mid-80s and have loved boxers ever since. She and her husband Jimmy were very kind to me. This is a great article.