Barbara J. Andrews, Courtesy ShowSight Magazine 2001
There's a little-known secret about
the part Nature played in how judging evolved. Go back 12,000 years and learn
how to judge
canis purebred in this unusual introduction to Breeder and Judges'
Education Seminars, circa 2005
We're told that Mother Nature cannot
be improved upon. Well, that’s not so. First of all, if Nature were so perfect
she would have given breeders three hands instead of two!
Seriously, Nature is not our mother,
it is a ruthless, totally objective tool used by an infinitely Higher Power in
the process of creation. I believe in Divine Creation but as a dog breeder I see
Evolution at work in every litter. Fitting together those seemingly incompatible
beliefs has allowed me to become a fairly successful dog breeder.
Understanding our roles in the
process of evolution makes breeding and judging easier. Let’s start with things
you know but may not have realized. Nature is constantly experimenting but
mistakes are not tolerated for long. She is only momentarily amused by a bad
design like the duckbilled platypus and in the true sense of time, the useless
mistake exists only a minute! As the original architect, Nature corrects it or
throws it out.
Nature has done an extraordinary job
on the canine species but if we interfere too much with the blueprint, we can
expect consequences. If we bend a stifle joint too much, like any good engineer,
Nature will compensate for the imbalance. Then, being human, we are compelled to
tweak something else. Therein lies the problem and we have only to look around
the show ring to see the results.
When we select for extremes, Nature
compensates. Savvy judges and breeders have to work backwards as many of us are
doing today. Although genetic problems seem to happen overnight, they are always
the result of pushing the envelope to get the judge’s attention or selecting for
a trait that is just too “outstanding.”
First, we must throw out a common
myth. It isn't fair for judges to say “We can only
put up what breeders bring to us.” The fact is, Breeders will bring
to the ring what they think the judge will put up. Unhealthy abnormalities
have gotten significantly worse due to everyone soft-peddling that issue! And
being human, most judges will be drawn to something more extreme (noticeable)
than something quite ordinary (correct) so breeders and judges must share equal
blame for evolving structural and behavioral breed problems.
If we each
understand Nature's script and play our part well; we breeders “evolve” a good
line, you judge it well - and neither of us creates a platypus!!
So let's take a look at evolution.
Weather, war, and whimsy all have an effect on the planet and its inhabitants.
Let's assume the master plan has assigned mankind a primary role in constantly
modifying the canine form in order to meet the demands of an evolving
civilization. To insure harmony, evolution divided Carnivores into Bears,
Hyenas, Cats, Raccoons, Weasels, and Mongooses, each evolving to fit into a
non-competitive slot in the ecology. Then, the Bear Family further divided into
Wolves, Coyotes, Jackals and Foxes.
years ago, Man began to tinker with the wolf as evidenced by the oldest
documented remains of canis familiaris, found in of all places, Idaho and Iraq! Gradually,
man's first friend and hunting companion developed into one that rarely hunts
for food or depends on fitting in to its surroundings. Since man learned how to
control the environment, there was no harm done. Indeed, we developed
interesting variations called “breeds” and Nature was not particularly offended.
But then, a couple of centuries ago,
man began to select for traits that markedly interfere with functionality and
overall health. We’re told it’s important to know Breed History but it many be
more helpful to know how a breed evolved. Acknowledging our human compulsion to
mess with Nature’s design, you need only look around the show ring to know that
we’ve made some really bad mistakes.
In just the last fifty years, we’ve
gravely insulted the careful work of evolution by creating genetic misfits with
eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, legs that can’t run, and in many dog
breeds, natural reproduction is a thing of the past. Were it not for the
compensations of science, some purebreds would be teetering on the brink of
Indeed, canis familiaris is
looking over a precipice because after all, our lifetime is but a blink in the
eye of evolution. We are observing an astounding increase in deadly
genetic problems and a corresponding decrease in reproductive ability. As
a tool of Evolution, you've just been handed a new title –
Custodian of the Canine Gene Pool.
before we talk about purebred dogs, we need to understand our personal
accountability for having changed the domestic dog more than any surviving
mammal on the planet! Consider this. The Sabertooth became the Bengal. The
Mammoth, the Elephant. Not too radical a change right? But then, Modern Man
created the Chihuahua. And the Great Dane. Think for a minute how incredible
this is. Twentieth Century Man has actually created a new sub-species. Let’s
AKC gave you a license to judge.
Nature has given breeders the desire to develop
canis purebred but with both comes responsibility. Would you fault the
too-big, too-wide, floppy, soft foot of a lioness? No. She is a stalking
predator. The overly flexible pastern allows her to precisely place each foot,
advancing softly toward her prey without rustling a leaf. When she charges, the
oversized feet are an impediment, which is why she can’t run far but if she’s
timed her rush well, they become extraordinary grasping tools with the power to
knock a wart hog senseless!
if a novice breeder decides the cheetah would be better served with the lion’s
foot because it is after all, so functional? A good judge would know the cheetah
is designed to hunt smaller, faster game. Non-retractable claws on a small,
tight foot means traction and speed. The deep chest, extreme tuck-up, lighter
bone, and long legs clearly signify that this animal does not compete with the
stalking-pouncing cats for food. No indeed, this cat is equipped to go
zero-to-sixty in six seconds!
Knowing what the cheetah is, you
award and/or perpetuate it for Cheetah virtues, not as a Lion!
Let’s go back to canis lupus. Narrow
chest, flat rib cage, long legs and short back, big floppy feet, east-west
front, cow-hocked rear, oh, and did I mention the light eyes? Right away we want
to improve that design! Can’t keep our hands off of it. Let’s shorten the leg.
Give him spring of rib. Lengthen the back and tighten up those snowshoe feet so
he can trot more efficiently. And for Pete’s sake, darken the eye.
Whoops, the wolf died out the very
first winter. Couldn’t plow through deep snow with the wide, deep chest and
shorter legs. Couldn’t traverse packed snow with those small tight feet,
couldn’t run down his prey or pace behind the herd for days. Snow glare blinded
him. Sort of like the platypus he was…
Here’s where you come in. As a newly
licensed tool of evolution, you will recognize the wolf’s superb design for
survival and endurance …… you might level the topline and tail carriage, tighten
the foot-pad and lengthen the back just a trifle because
our dog will tirelessly trot a packed trail or show ring. He is no longer
the ice hunter. The well-fed, carefully developed purebred has a new purpose.
Northern Man created the incredibly functional Siberian Husky, evolved through
our need for endurance, beauty, and speed.
Would a Malamute do as well? No. But
man also needed to move heavy loads, so he selected for a shorter, broader back,
heavier bone, denser muscle and the greater body weight needed for an
unsurpassed Arctic freighting dog.
Judging is done in a day. Breeding in
less than seventy but it doesn’t stop there. I truly believe we’ve been given
permission to shape
canis purebred to serve modern man’s needs and desires. Given that power,
then every single decision we make has an impact on canine evolution.
When we talk about “Breed History” it
should be with the thought in mind that we are responsible for the dog's
developmental history. If I’ve done my job here, you will select stock, whether
in the show ring or for breeding, with a whole new appreciation on how “form
course you can only judge what we bring to you but that is no longer an excuse
because today you lost innocence. It’s like learning about sin, once you know it
exists, you can’t ignore it any more. Breeders bring to the ring what they think
a judge will put up. Now you know how crucial your decisions really are.
Depending on the flexibility of the
Breed Standard (which may not have been written with the insight you now have),
you must weigh and reject that which you now recognize is detrimental to the
purebred dog. If you judge with the objectivity of Nature, and if you share your
profound knowledge with Breeders, they will respect and learn from you.
Having created canis familiaris,
breeders and judges must each do our part to prevent the untimely extinction of
an evolving sub-species, canis purebred.
- from Judges' Seminar Guidebooks
prepared by Barbara (BJ) Andrews
JEC Chairperson, Akita Club Of
Founder and First President,
Miniature Bull Terrier Club Of America
Toy Fox Terrier Club Of America
Approved Presenter, AKC Gazette Columnist
Author of eight breed books
published in four languages
Breeder of over fifty BIS, BISS, and/or Group Winners
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