by Barbara J. Andrews, Founder-1st President, Miniature Bull Terrier Club Of America
This page sponsored by Mini-Bull Fancier Suzann Hoesman
Judging the Mini-Bull Terrier is best done with a smile - and understanding of the purpose of his utilitarian head, eyes, ears, thick hide and muscle.
Miniature Bull Terriers were nearly extinct in America when Bill and I decided to import them in 1984. Click for instant information on the ii MBTCA History
What Makes a Mini Mighty? Not size. Not weight. Especially not fat! Winkie Mackay-Smith, who judged our first National Specialty, put it this way “Too many Standards should be called Bullweilers. Size must be considered whether judging Standards or Miniatures. One must be able to tell them apart. And there must be more than head and color separating the Bull Terrier from some Working breeds.”
Bolded words or phrases are direct quotes from the (AKC & UKC) Miniature Bull Terrier Standards. Male or female, the Miniature Bull Terrier should be strongly built, an agile, superbly conditioned athlete. Muscle mass is inherited, as is that short tail, neat ears, and substantial bone. A Mini with no muscle is untypical, therefore, lacking in type.
While size separates the Standard and Mini-Bull Terrier, there are other distinguishing features. The Mini-Bull Terrier still carries the hot blood of small terriers and is therefore to have a bit more fire, and be slightly more active, and energetic than a Standard. When awake that is. Like Ch. Becca, they do sleep soundly and it is this characteristic position that owners say accounts for the Mini-Bull's unique downfaced head (smile).
The MBT greets life with unfettered exuberance. If his joy in being the center of your attention causes him to be a little “over the top”, you will only smile as you walk your line or approach him. Would that all judges were as delighted by a dog show as is the Mini-Bull.
Examination is on the table. Glen and Jean Fancy go over the entire dog before checking the mouth. More judges might adopt this procedure as it allows you to examine a dog that welcomes the attention rather than one who has already resisted the process. The bite is quickly done as there is no need to count teeth. You can only judge based on the standard but bearing in mind that at the time it was written, the bull terrier did not have today’s head, therefore crowded incisors, inset canines, and missing teeth were not an issue. As was pointed out in the Evolution Of Judging, the irony is that a somewhat longer, less blocked head might afford good dentition in a breed that needs its teeth...
Size defines the breed but the best Mini-Bull might swing the wicket. Standards have improved head type but you will often find yourself weighing virtue against a size fault. Thus, as a judge, you are in the same position as the best breeders.
Overall virtue should take precedence but with the realization that the breed will soon become the size of Standards if judges allow breeders to take the easy way, trading size for heads and angulation. Ch. Greystone White On White is a top Specialty Winner and prominent sire. "Biff" is an outstanding example of Miniature Bull Terrier head, eye and ear placement, topline (including arch over loin) and substance. He is very "bullie" but within the standard, proof that outstanding type can be achieved in a dog under 14".
Proportion and Substance. Mini’s may be downright bullish or terrier elegant but substance is paramount. Most feel that the ideal is right in the middle, as is perfectly defined by the name. This is a Bull Terrier in miniature. The well-muscled square “Quarter Horse body" is extremely important.
Head should be long. As heads improve, many are “blocked and chopped,” i.e., the foreface has become shortened by an exaggerated curve. Taken to the extreme, the downface can be seen as coarse and contributing to dentition problems.
Seen in profile, the MBT head should be strong and deep with underjaw deep and well defined. The head is egg shaped and filled completely up for a reason. Such a head is hard for an opponent to grasp. The solid, virtually unbreakable bone is a battering ram filled with teeth!
Again bearing in mind the history and purpose, the head should have adequate length and teeth meshing just right. It is not only male Mini-bulls that excel in head. The bitch at left is Ch. Grayoak Harvetta Wallbanger. Note the high eye placement, neat ears, broad smooth egg shaped skull, and her wonderful expression.
The profile should curve gently downward. The standard says “gently” so fault the “too cranked” profile which can result in a “parrot jaw” wherein the lower jaw recedes because it is pushed back, dominated by the exaggerated foreface. The white dog in profile is Ch. O'BJ Master Of Disaster. The oval outline could be smoother but it is not marred by bulging cheeks or hollows under the eyes. You may have to adjust your eye to the unusual proportion of a head that is not equally balanced but is instead, longer from the tip of the nose to the eyes as shown in the profile view.
Each of these head studies show proportionately small ears set well back on the head, strong and deep lower jaw, and good eye placement, shape and size.
Expression. The smallish dark eyes can be hard to read but leave no doubt that this red bitch is keen, determined, and intelligent, ready to take on any challenge. Eyes are well sunken to prevent injury in a fight, and the piercing glint, rarely seen in the friendly show ring, is something not to be forgotten. The Miniature Bull Terrier is all about function, pound-for-pound, an unexcelled fighting machine and vermin exterminator.
The small, thin ears are disposable. Sorry but it’s true. Like the eyes, they are placed high up on the dog’s head for a good reason. This young bitch has excellent head proportion, ears set well back, strong muscular neck of proper length (not a swan neck!) and lovely color. She could have a bit more fill between the eyes and better turn of foreface.
Teeth are important to a fighting dog. The way they meet is a perfect compromise between the Bulldog and the Terrier, which is why either a level or scissor bite is correct, one no more preferred than the other. Do not judge the Bull Terrier mouth by that of other terriers any more than you would judge a Miniature Bull Terrier by the Bulldog standard.
Teeth should be large, strong and perfectly regular. That means no crowding or spacing that weakens the jawbone, especially the lower, gripping jaw. The Miniature Bull Terrier Standard does not fault missing or misaligned teeth but honest breeders acknowledge the problem. If you award a good bite in a head that is correct but without gross exaggeration, you are doing the breed and its future a favor!
Neck, Topline also includes the word muscular. There may be a laugh wrinkle at the corners of the mouth but the neck should be free from loose skin which is a “handle” for an opponent. You can’t lift his skin nor can you pinch for fat in a proper Bullie. The neck should be long and arched. That does not mean swan-like. It just means longer than a bulldog’s neck!
The back is level but there must be a slight arch over the loin, which incredibly, many judges fault while forgiving a slack shoulder or the dip at the withers caused by upright shoulders. The Miniature Bull Terrier male above, imported by the Andrews, shows the ideal flow of powerful neck into perfectly set on shoulders and a muscular, compact body. He is challenging so his tail is "up" but ideally should be level with the back.
Body should be firmly packed with great depth. Esthetically speaking, a long tail is a give-away to the Dalmatian influence, as is a whippy tail. For more practical reasons, the Miniature Bull Terrier's tail is short and thick at the root (less likely to be injured), it is set on low (protects the sizable anus without having to be tucked) and is carried horizontally for the same reason. The tail tapers to a fine point. Think carrot! Puppies are to be faulted for gay tail even though, as when showing dominance, it may be only temporary. The colored bitch Aust. Ch. Erenden Roxana, is a lovely example of flash, strong head, proportion, good shoulder and front.
Forequarters. Muscular. Straight shoulders in the Mini-Bull are a common fault so be sure to reward a very pronounced backward slope. The forelegs should be of moderate length and perfectly straight with strong (unbreakable) bone but not to the point of coarseness. Bowed front legs can be a sign of dwarfism and are not found on strong and upright pasterns.
Hindquarters are muscular including the inner thigh, therefore the stance will be wide and parallel making to dog difficult to topple. A Miniature Bull Terrier can not move like an Airedale. If it has the correct musculature, it will move wide going away. Hocks are well let down and stifle is well bent as in this import bitch Ch. Eiraght Wicked Sister at Erenden.
The Miniature Bull Terrier Standard specifies feet are round and compact and have well arched toes. What is doesn't tell you is that those knarley hard hammers come equipped with equally thick hard, impossible to cut toenails! Not even a grinder, used frequently will make Bullie feet pretty! As a judge, just look for the right shape, and strong thick pads.
Coat looks fine but is actually harsh to the touch and should be flat, tight, and glossy. Again, not to afford a tooth hold, the skin should fit tightly.
Miniature Bull Terrier Color The “commonness” of the brindle color was spurned until it was realized that many genetic assets were hidden in the dark pigment. Whites could be deaf thus a white carrying brindle was/is very desirable. The backwardness of early breeders should serve as a red flag to those who would put color, markings, dentition, or even anatomical faults above temperament, overall breed type and health. The white hair is pure white, not flecked with color.
The colored Bullie should be predominately colored as exemplified by the pair of outstanding colored dogs below, owned by Mrs. Q. Youatt, England. Note the short thick tail carried level, arched neck, up on tippy-toes alertness.
Gait is defined by the jaunty air that shouts Mini-Bull Terrier. The packed-up, weight-lifter body moves compactly but cannot single track, therefore the legs should move parallel to each other. The bulging muscle and broad chest forces the Mini to move wide in the front. The rear quarters do not so much “drive” as they maintain balance while affording quick agility.
Side gait is free and easy but will not have the reach and drive associated with a narrow-bodied breed. The simple act of getting from one place to another is a “big adventure” for the Minibull and his care-free, confident, exuberance says “I’m the best-natured Gladiator you’ll ever meet!”
Temperament is full of fire and courageous. The Miniature Bull Terrier fears nothing. A dog that is "meek and mild" or uncertain on the table does not deserve to be seen in the Bull Terrier ring!
The Bullie is amenable to discipline, like a little boy caught with a frog in his pocket, he's apologetic while hiding a grin. Scold him and he accepts it with grace. Strike him and he shrugs it off and loves you anyway. So again, no Miniature Bull Terrier should ever cower or show any aggression towards the judge.
Faults are judged in exact proportion to its degree. A significant statement. Award for virtue. Fault a Miniature Bull Terrier only to the degree he departs from the ideal. But do fault him because good breeders will respect the judge who rejects the serious faults of breed type. For example: a slightly undershot bite is only a slight fault because a level bite is correct. A large ear on an otherwise correct head is only a slight fault compared to narrow body, weak quarters, or fine bone, all of which interfere with function. The mature Ch. "Casper" (below) is an outstanding example of proportion, outline, tail set, head.
POINTS TO CONSIDER: Group Judge Diane Foot, writing in Dog News says "The BT is first of all a Terrier. It is not just a head.” She then brings up something we all need to consider “Lately I have noticed some lovely arched profiles, but the overall head is lacking in depth and width. An extremely arched over head, while pleasing to the eye, without the proper width and depth is totally incorrect.”
Ms. Foote calls attention to the fact that Bull Terrier exhibitors do not usually stay for Group where they can gain the experience and objectivity of all-rounders. That is true but it must also be said that many Miniature Bull Terriers find it discouraging to be ignored by an incompetent judge who judges the Terrier Group but who obviously does not understand the Bull breeds.
Encouraging both exhibitors and judges, she says “If while you’re judging the Terrier Group, you happen to notice that the Standard Bull Terrier has stayed to show in the Group ring, perhaps you could give that animal consideration for one of the placements.” You can see her smile as she adds “…don’t just assume that Terriers are short and fuzzy. And even if you don’t place that particular Bull Terrier, be aware that you are witnessing the beginning of a new way of thinking for the BT breeder/owner, that Bull Terriers can and must compete in the Group Ring at an all-breed dog show.”
Speaking for all Miniature Bull Terrier owners, it is a thrill to see a judge’s eyes light up when he or she spots a good quality Bullie. But disappointment follows when a slightly undershot mouth causes that judge to mentally dismiss an otherwise outstanding Miniature Bull Terrier.
And conversely, what a pity to let proper dentition go in favor of only showing exaggerated heads to breeder-judges?
Is dense (unbreakable) bone and substance more important than a narrow dog that single-tracks coming and going and "really reaches out" in the Group ring go-around?
If Miniature Bull Terrier breeders continue to show just to each other (specialty shows), there is the fear that Mini-Bulls will become ever more vulnerable to extremism designed to "catch the judge's eye." As long as judges hold the ribbons, what choice do we have? Some have chosen to just keep the Mini-Bull as a pet and find another breed to show.
Remember what we learned in Evolution? This breed, as much as any and more than most, is on the brink of becoming a rare breed once again.
Miniature Bull Terrier breeders ask honest, perceptive judges to help us. We are mostly owner handlers. We ask that you not forgive that which interferes with health or function and don’t award things that may be correct in most other terriers but are anathema to the Bull Terrier.
JUDGING POINTS TO REMEMBER Miniature Bull Terrier topline is not flat but has a slight arch over loin. Heads are decidedly different, for reasons we avoid discussing. Think “egghead” or “football.” Eyes and expression are wicked yet full of sparkling good humor. Movement is jaunty, a cocky swagger. The well muscled Mini-bull tries to single track and would love to "reach and drive" but he can’t.... And if he did, he'd be off balance, his untippable center of balance all wrong. Ears small, neat, thin, placed high. Tail is a short little “carrot” carried horizontally. The Mini-Bull's attitude is fearless, ready for anything, including trotting happily around the ring. He loves people; never met a stranger and is absolutely, positively never shy!
The Miniature Bull Terrier is a utilitarian, indestructible four-wheel drive SUV. There is nothing about him that is not designed with purpose. He is among the most unique, jocular dogs you will ever encounter. After all, when you look like a Mini-Bull, you have to have a sense of humor!
On behalf of all who appreciate “a little bull” THANK YOU for coming. THANK YOU for caring!
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