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When Julian Fellowes' home turned into Dachshund Abbey for the day


Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, the actor, scriptwriter and Tory peer better known as Julian Fellowes is, with his wife Emma, something of a dachshund enthusiast. So much so that yesterday he allowed the grounds of his country home to be overrun by the dogs and their owners. Amid the glory of the Grade II listed pile that is Stafford House in Dorset, smooth and wire-haired, standard, dwarf and miniature breeds competed for the titles of prettiest bitch, waggiest tail and best legs.

Members of the Southern Dachshund Association managed to generate a sense of competitive urgency that was not always matched by their beloved pets. In the dachshund agility course, which included a hurdle, many of the dogs appeared to struggle with the concept of jumping.

The 3in hurdle was just too much for a number of the smaller dogs, and it was the defending champion, Zebedee, who took the prize, clearing the agility course in 29 seconds. "He's always been naturally very strong, and this is the third year that he's won," said owner Nina Baxter.

Lord Fellowes – best known as the creator of ITV's hugely popular Downton Abbey – is a lifelong dachshund fancier. "My mother introduced me to them when I was quite young," he said. "Later Emma became a dachshund obsessive, so my mother and my wife have had this shared quality and we have always had a dax around."