A silent breed killer

A Silent Breed Killer

By Hans Hilverda

Did you ever notice how easily judges, exhibitors and breeders get used to changes within a breed? In many cases it even goes so far that these changes are gradually lifted to the level of required characteristics. It is mostly dogs of well-known breeders/exhibitors that start a certain change (read : set a trend) within a breed. There is for instance the somewhat bigger Miniature Schnauzer with the terrier “look”; the somewhat leveller elegant looking Shih Tzu with its long neck; the Weimaraner who becomes bigger and bigger and more impressive ; the “American” English Springer Spaniel, to name a few breeds.

As soon as a dog with a slightly ‘deviating’ type starts winning, the ball starts rolling. The dog goes to the ring of honour, the one judge bends over to his neighbour and says; “have you seen that beautiful dog”? Breeders and exhibitors notice that judges like that particular dog and start trying to breed or to buy that type of dog. At such a moment the original Breed Standard does not seem to be of importance to some exhibitors, winning in the show ring is all that matters to them.

When after some time you are sitting at the show ring looking at that breed again, it could happen that you see in a class e.g. 5 dogs of which 4 are ‘deviating’ from the standard next to a correct “standard” type of dog. At most shows the (correct) (complying) to the “standard” dog will be considered to be the ‘odd one’ and the true ‘deviating ones’ will be placed behind the boards 1 through 4. For those breeders that adhere to the Standard this is a very frustrating experience. The temptation is of course very big. Many of the deviating dogs are often very flashy looking ones, and often show a gait, exterior and motion that looks more spectacular than the movement of the ‘standard’ dog. One has to be very strong and come from a good breed conscience background to resist the temptations and keep on preaching the true belief and keep breeding in compliance with the standard.

Often the appearance of difference in type in a breed leads to polarisation between judges and breeders alike. One of the hallmarks of this polarisation is that certain characteristics of the dogs are even more exaggerated to make it stand out and be recognisable.

So one can observe that and conclude that the nonadherence to the standard of many breeders / exhibitors and judges poses a direct danger to the existence of our breed population.

Except for getting used to trends within a breed, the getting used and the acceptance of inherited faults is a problem of the same kind or even worse.

When judges repeatedly reward dogs with these faults with an ‘excellent’ and also give them their championship tickets, breeders will not be challenged to improve the breed : they are already winning! In such cases only the die-hards and true idealists remain faithful to the breed and try to improve on it, but how many of those people do we have within one breed?

Accepting without any objection of changes that please the eye but are against the standard is an open invitation to the ‘silent breed killer’ to do his job and carry out his devastating work within the breed.

Seen from the perspective that breeding is nothing more then passing on genetic material to the next generation, allowing this to happen means that one wilfully accepts and helps spreading of genetically deviating material in an irresponsible way that will pollute the genepool (hereditary material) .

Would it not be good if breeders and judges would, at least once a month take the standard at hand of the breeds they are entrusted, and what would it be valuable to organise regular meetings with breeders and judges to discuss certain trends and ‘faults’ that creep up in a breed. Never forget that the only guideline during judging and breeding should be the FCI – approved breed standard.

So, behave and act as true disciples and spread the gospel according to the original breed standard.

11 thoughts on “A silent breed killer

  • 7th December 2020 at 7:35 pm

    I breed terriers, but have noticed that more Great Danes are winning with jowls! Massive, sloppy, drooling jowls. It makes me think “ugh” when I see them, remembering the BIS spotlight on a sleek and stunning Dane in 1973!

  • 7th December 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Food for thought – perhaps extending “soundness” in standards to include genetic soundness … with testing as prerequisites for show entrance … would begin to address the “whole preservation” requirements for sustaining a breed. Genetic drift and deleterious disease traits are serious breed killers, and show wins promote the breeder in the eyes of the buying public. Breed for true preservation.

  • 8th December 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Well said! So important to remember that particular breed’s function (most breeds have a reason for being ). and an exaggerated coat, length of neck, rear angulation, even over-done flashy handling, can change that breed’s identity . Judges may never agree on finer points but basic breed standards should be kept – & discussions are always useful.

    • 10th December 2020 at 8:09 pm

      Once every 10 year tops……. I don’t know where you get your information!

  • 11th December 2020 at 8:30 am

    At one time some breeders would never breed to the current big winner unless they truly exemplified the standard. Winning the National for that breed meant fewer people would go to that stud. Now, sadly, as the older breeders are retiring, we see our beloved ancient breeds bastardized by bigger stronger faster better.

  • 11th December 2020 at 10:44 am

    Thirty or forty years ago, there were still judges around who could remember what the various breeds were originally bred to do and many of them, especially in the terrier breeds had a working knowledge. Unfortunately, as time has gone by we have lost most of these good all-rounders. So many of the breeds we see in the ring today, bear little resemblance to the dogs these judges would have known and in many cases would have worked with. Times have changed and I would hazard a guess that there are very few, if any, of the working kennels remaining. For those up and coming judges, who are genuinely interested in a breed and how it should be constructed to perform the work for which it was bred , the responsibility lies in the various breed clubs, to ensure that the opportunity to learn about their breed is there for those who wish to learn. Perhaps more importance should be given to the breed judging, rather than the group ring and BIS.

  • 12th December 2020 at 12:12 am

    I “grew up” in dogs working for a conformation handler so I definitely learned what good conformation, gait and breed type looks like. After 20 some years I moved on to doing performance. I’ve been away from the show ring for a solid 10 to 15 years now.
    I was watching the National Dog Show and I noticed something. The dogs were all getting longer, higher on leg and generally rangy. It was very obvious that they were all trying for the elegant side gate that wins more often.
    Just too bad that it goes against the breed type and standard of many breeds

  • 20th December 2020 at 6:38 pm

    In the the Border Collie herding world ie USBCHA sanctioned trials folks there refer to AKC registered Border Collies as “Barbie Collies” cause they really cant herd. Big difference between HXBs and even novice/novice in just the outrun distance. Rare to see HXBs offered at anything but the minimum distance. I live in VA where the Border Collie wars are still being fought and for good reason.My rough and smooth collie are allowed to work USBCA Sanctioned Open trials. My late rough collie girl Kate could easily do an Open course and even a double lift cause her breeder bred for herding first. And yeah both her parents were DCs. Found out about her breed cause my herding instructor helped run the Blue Grass Classic and saw her auntie running in novice/novice. Only standard for a herding breed should be can the dog herd. Conformation along with agility are destroying the herding breeds. You can easily spot an agility trained dog on the herding trial field.

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