Meet Edd Embry Bivin, Judging Legend, All Sporting, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting Groups, and Herding Breeds.
Interview by Barbara J. Andrews - September 2007
BJA: Mr. Bivin, tell us about your first breed, first show dog, and your best producer.
EEB: My first breed was Pomeranians, they acted like big dogs (smile) and they were anything but small. They had great temperament and were tough little dogs. My first show dog was a Pomeranian male and I put a major on him but he didn’t finish.
The best Pomeranian that I ever produced was “Reddy Teddy.” This was while I was a kid in high school and college and had little money to show dogs with but he did finish handsomely and he did some nice siring. When Irene and I married, I switched breeds (he chuckled) and our best show dog was the Doberman Pinscher that Irene and I own and show, the Dobmann Thomas Jefferson dog.
Let’s see... the best producer we ever owned? I would have to make that two dogs, the Boo Radley dog that sired the Grand Futurity winner at the Doberman Pinscher National Specialty three years in a row out of three different bitches. He and his son Eldo Radley tied for the top sire of the breed one year. Those two were the better producers and each one of them brought their own strengths, complimenting and balancing each other perfectly.
BJA: When, and why, did you decide to become a judge?
EEB: I’m hard-headed, determined and focused. I probably decided to become a judge when I was a kid. I showed good dogs and I would get the reserve ribbon and get patted on the head. I believed in the sport and knew if I ever were to become a judge, I wouldn’t pay any attention to where a dog comes from or the age of the individual handler. I would elevate what I consider to be the best dog.
BJA: Are you online and if so, do you find the internet useful?
EEB: I am online but to be frank, I don’t have much free time, there are other things I have to do. I use the internet as a tool, not as a source of entertainment.
BJA: What do you do in your “other” life?
EEB: I’ve been Vice Chancellor at Texas Christian University for sixteen years but I have been at the University for thirty years. That’s in Fort Worth, Texas where I have lived all my life. I don’t have a lot of time for other hobbies but we do enjoy travel. We are involved as much as possible in the community, certainly in the arts. Irene and I love the opera and symphony. I’m very physical so I also work out and exercise a lot. “Keeps me sane, or somewhat sane, (laughing) or let’s say more sane and less crazy.”
BJA: Indeed, you appear very fit so you must not be crazy! Let’s talk about the sport today. Are most breeds better than 10 years ago?
EEB: No. Breeds are cyclical, they progress and they fall back. So I can’t accept the term “most.” I will tell you that there are many breeds that are better today and many breeds not as good as they were ten years ago. A big part depends on who is directing breeding programs and pockets of interest around the country.
BJA: Would an AKC computer generated match-up for assignments be fair?
EEB: Perhaps, if it is a computerized list of judges who are available on given dates, taken from the general approved list, but I’m not in favor of any kind of restricted match-up list.
BJA: Does the commercialization of the sport bother you?
EEB: Commercialization of anything is of concern to me. You have to also understand commercialization in many instances, in my opinion, is necessary to capture the fancy of a new population that looks toward commercialization as a source of information. That is my point of view as expressed in a letter that was published prior to the AKC/Iams Invitational. It compares the marketing of the American Kennel Club as a brand name product.
(Editor: we have requested reprint permission for highlight of that article, and will provide a link to the Dog News site. It is worth the read.)
“I linked the branding opportunities of the American Kennel Club to those of higher education though the televising of sporting events. To a greater degree, the commercial factor has improved the conditions for dogs and people at dog shows. The sponsorship of the major food suppliers has enhanced the quality of tenting and in many instances the general quality of venue. If it makes it better for dogs to go to shows and better for people to take care of their dogs at dog shows, then that’s a positive thing.
BJA: Have you judged out of the country and would you do so again?
EEB: Yes, I have a lot of opportunity to judge outside the country but I don’t get to do it often because of my schedule. But I really enjoy it and learn something new every time I go. We make a mistake by sometimes rejecting the opinion of someone from outside the country without taking the time and opportunity to look at the value of what they are saying. You don’t have to agree with them but look at it for what they say.
BJA: Are you nervous or excited about so many new breeds being admitted?
EEB: Neither. But I think it is important that those breeds be properly understood and accepted for their intended purpose and form to function.
BJA: Are you bothered by flamboyant clothing or behavior in the ring?
EEB: The term flamboyant is not the major thing for me but I am bothered by a lack of appropriateness. I wear bright colored pants. I don’t consider that to be flamboyant as long as it is appropriate. I am bothered by presenters of dogs that have not yet learned that the best handler is the handler of which you are least aware.
I’m bothered by excessive speed in gaiting dogs, I am bothered and becoming more bothered by the over-baiting and feeding of dogs in the ring. It is not appropriate. It is all too frequently used as a mask for undesirable temperament and as a compensation for a lack training and preparation.
BJA: You mentioned baiting, what grooming techniques drive you nuts?
EEB: Again, excessiveness. I have become an adult asthmatic so I am bothered by hair spray. I don’t let people stand outside my ring and use it. In the first place, it’s deceptive. I don’t mind them using it to neaten a dog up a little bit but not to plaster this stuff for the purpose of making coat texture or building a deceptive picture.. I am bothered by excessiveness.
BJA: Which do you rely more on, visual or manual examination?
EEB: Both equally. I’ve always said the ability to judge is partially dependent upon the eye-hand coordination. If you don’t have an understanding for balance and proportion as described in the Standards, judging is a long hard battle.
BJA: When you first look down the line, what draws your eye?
EEB: Balance and proportion. Carriage and outline. (smile) Outline and character.
BJA: Should showmanship and presentation be considered?
EEB: Certainly. One should never miss a good animal with proper type and character. I become concerned about individuals applauding dogs or saying it’s not a great such and such but it’s a great “Showdog”. Dog shows are a format for the evaluation of breeding stock. Generic dogs are not the strength of any breed.
BJA: Do you plan to apply for new breeds? Which ones?
EEB: Sure, eventually, but I’m not in any hurry about it. I have been approved to judge for soon to be forty-one years. I once went fifteen years without applying for new breeds. Which ones? I don’t know. I do caution aspiring judges that the great harm in judging is when people get in too big a hurry to get too many breeds without thoroughly understanding the dogs for which they are approved.
BJA: Do you learn more from personal talks with breeders or from seminars?
EEB: Both, it depends on the integrity, knowledge, and depth of knowledge of the individual to whom you’re talking. I can say that in my background because I pre-date seminars, I learned more from personal talks but I had access to valued mentors and still do. One of the things that I say about talking and learning is be damn careful with whom you talk. At seminars the quality of the discussion is generated by the quality of the presentation. You know, there are people who have better ability than others to articulate their opinion. Seek them out.
BJA: Do you use the internet to learn more about breeds?
EEB: Yes, on occasion, I use it as a tool. If I were a college or high school student today, I would be much better versed in using the internet because that’s their generation. But yes, I do use it.
BJA: What do you most enjoy about judging?
EEB: Obviously the dogs, and the people. I also consider judging to be a personal competition of Edd Bivin with himself. Every time I go in the ring I compete with myself, to do the best job I can do, on that day, within the circumstances with which I find myself.
BJA: What a fascinating scenario. You may have just answered the next question but here goes, what advice would you give to today’s novice?
EEB: Build a knowledge foundation, be nosey and be inquisitive. Compete with yourself every day, do the best you can with what you have presented to you. There are people who criticize me because I take it too serious; maintained a long time ago that people put far too much investment emotionally, psychologically and financially in this game to ever take the evaluation of their animals as anything but serious. Act like a judge.
One of the first things I learned and then later re-learned, is the sacrifice people make to come to a dog show, to load and unload and come back and forth, in and out of the building etc… You have to stop and think sometimes what these people had to go through to get to this dog show. Did they leave a husband or wife at home so they didn’t have to load the whole family, did they not have the money to afford a hotel room etc… you never know. Frequently people walk in my ring and say ‘I’m scared to death, this is the first time I’ve ever done this’ and my standard comment ‘look around you, everybody here came to a dog show the first time and probably didn’t know as much about it as you do” (laughing)
BJA: One last thing Mr. Bivin. Think of a breed (or two) that you are most comfortable with and tell us what you consider to be the most important physical characteristic.
EEB: The most significant physical characteristic of the breeds that I have lived with more than any other would certainly be how that breed, or the individuals in that breed relate to me. Why do I repeatedly want a black and tan Doberman Pinscher bitch? Because I have had such positive experiences with some that I don’t intend to be without one! Why do I adore my Pointer bitch? Because of how she relates to me. Do I love the fact that she’s of such quality that she finished her championship? Certainly. Would I love her any less had she never done that? Of course not. The two dearest Doberman Pinscher bitches that I ever owned as far as living with every day, taking in cars, on trips, sleeping on our beds, screaming the minute I walked into the house if they were in their crates “Let me out!!” never finished their championships – one of them should have the other shouldn’t have. Do I give a damn? No, I still don’t talk about one of them because I tend to cry every time I do...
BJA: This has been absolutely delightful, one of the most enjoyable, enlightening and thought- provoking interviews we’ve ever done.
EEB: What more can a person do? If I have encouraged people to think about things that help the sport, what more can be done.
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