Posts Tagged ‘Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’

reccent westminster winner

There was time when this blog was part of an official network of bloggers. We would amplify each other’s posts.

The most important thing was to be anti-kennel club and anti-dog show. If one could be rude as possible about it, then do so.

Such an environment is not exactly designed for close collaboration, for eventually we all turned on each other.

I became a pariah from that group, and things sort of died down. I still blogged about dogs. I still got pageviews.

But over time, I’ve slowly given it up.

For the sake of my own art and my own sanity, I’ve consciously moved away from dog writing. I do write about dogs on occasion, but so much about dogs has already been said.

The problems of closed studbooks and breeding exaggeration in conformation are still there. They have been highlighted much more in the past decade, but I’m reaching the point in my life that I’ve written enough about them.

I am not writing one of those “Westminster rewards breeding freaks” posts, because the usual suspects likely already have the draft written and just need to cut and paste the problems associated with the winner next Tuesday.

People are moving on in the world of dogs. I’m okay with it. And I’m certainly okay with finding comfort in my own skin as a mostly wildlife and natural history blogger.

I’m not writing about Westminster on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. I don’t know what I’ll write about, but my guess is I’ll try my hand at producing something like Rick Bass or Aldo Leopold or Annie Dillard (and fail because those are masters) and post it here.

And no one will get into a big argument with me, and I will feel better for having tried do something artful with this here English language and what it is I think I know about nature.

I’ll trundle on. I’ll try to write. I’ll hope you read it and don’t hate it. I’ll get better over time.

And so it goes.

It’s the silly work I do online.

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A very sound specimen of a breed I really like a lot wins BIS at Westminster:


Not complaining.

I wish the AKC allowed black roan in this breed though.




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affenpinscher banana joe

Well,  every year at this time there is a big dog show in New York.

And for the first several years of this blog, I would take this opportunity to make fun of it.

Then I’d call for some kind of reform, so we’re not putting of little weak-in-the-knees dogs, like Malachy that really are quite defective.

I’d get quite a few hits for a couple of days, but then it would trail off.

And then I’d find something more interesting to write about, which, I can tell, isn’t really that hard to do.

It was much more interesting to write about the BOB winners at Crufts being disqualified for failing their health standards– mainly because there was a kind of collective meltdown among certain dog breeders in the UK.

Which was absolutely hilarious.

But the only reason why there was any freak show around Crufts is because the Kennel Club (of the United Kingdom) has been dragged into reform.

The AKC can’t be reformed in the same way. The way it’s organized– with its standards delegated to its member breed clubs–makes it almost impossible to change anything.

So does it do me any good to write anything demanding reform of the AKC?

Not really.

No one will listen to me anyway. I’m just a trained monkey hacking away at the keys.

And the other thing is that the AKC’s more popular breeds aren’t really bred for shows anyway. If you want an AKC Labrador, you can find one that isn’t inbred at all. You can find one that has the size and color you like, even if it doesn’t adhere to standards.

And really, the same goes for German shepherds and golden retrievers, second and third most popular breeds with the AKC.

You can find very healthy German shepherds that don’t have the sloping backs or the ataxic gaits, and you can find little red border collie-type and polar-bear type golden retrievers.

Whatever floats your boat.

There is a lot of hope for those breeds.

However, in the breeds that are quite uncommon, like the affenpinscher that won Westminster last night. things are not so good.

The Germans, like the Americans, were very eager to take up the dog fancy system that had first been developed in the United Kingdom towards the end of the nineteenth century.

And like the Britons, they began to select among their various landraces to produce “improved” breeds.

Farms all over Germany had ratting dogs– some smooth-coated and some wire.

Some were mid-sized and could be of some use in herding stock, while others were small and were good at killing rats deep in the granaries. IN different areas, these dogs were called pinschers or schnauzers.

In the early 1900’s, they began to produce a show version of the small wire-coated pinscher with a somewhat snubbed nose. The dogs looked a little like some kind of monkey, and that’s why they are called affenpinschers. “Affen” means monkey.

This breed has never been very common.

And one of the little known-secrets is that it is almost impossible to breed.

I remember reading an article in Dog World about how hard it was to breed affenpinschers. The bitches would often have only two puppies in a litter, which isn’t that unusual in small dogs.

However, this breeder claimed that it would be very rare for both puppies to survive more than a week. One of them would usually die of a congenital defect within just a few days of birth.

And the chances that the survivor would make it to adulthood were not that high.

Now, the Germans were always into breeding really hardy dogs, so it makes me wonder why they would have wanted to produce a dog like this.

And maybe that explains why this breed never became popular.

The affenpinscher wasn’t the only small pinscher breed developed at this time.

Around the same time period, the Germans also tried to create an all-merle breed of miniature pinscher, which they called the “harlequin pinscher.”

As one could expect, an all merle breed will always be a colossal failure. That’s because if a dog is homozygous for the merle allele, the chances are very high that it won’t have functional eyes or open ear canals.

I could write a screed here, but all it would do is be some noise for a few days.

For me to tell people that the dog show isn’t the best way to evaluate dogs for breeding purposes is a bit like me telling you to stop giving money to John Hagee Ministries.

If you’ve made up your mind that both actions are correct, nothing I say or do will change your mind.

It doesn’t really matter.

The world is changing in both cases.

For me to kick a moribund institution like the AKC would simply be a waste of time.

It’s not going down because of anything I did.

It’s going down because times are changing.

People are questioning.

And because they are, it’s a waste of my time to write a screed.

If you’re looking for that, you can certainly find it. (And I bet you know where to look).

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Well, the 2012 Crufts Dog Show is on in Birmingham, England.

And things are a bit different in the UK dog show circuit.

This year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show awarded a Pekingese named Palacegarden Malachy Best in Show.

As I noted at the time of the win, this was a win for qualzucht-– “torture breeding”– and will do nothing more than fuel the flames of the animal rights extremist lobby.Continued denial of this dog’s obvious conformation issues and then celebration of his victory at this show are nothing more than accelerants to that fire, which is burning hotter and hotter every year.

Palacegarden is the an Pekingese kennel that is operated in Northumberland in the far north of England. It is owned by Jim and Jean Smith.

And they have done reasonably well on the UK show circuit. I don’t believe this particular site is up to date, for there is no mention of Malachy,  a grandson of their dogs Palacegareden Sullivan and Palacegarden Donovan, in their “brags” section.

But the Smiths are his breeders. He was born in the UK, but he is being campaigned in the United States.

They are also breeders of Palacegarden Bianca, and she is being campaigned in the UK. She was also shown at Crufts this year, where she was expected to do quite well.

She would have won Best of Breed at Crufts.

But then something happened:

She failed a health test.

As a result of the pressures coming from Jemima Harrison’s Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary, the Kennel Club (of the United Kingdom) decided to implement health checks for all Best of Breed winners in 15 breeds at all of its General and Group Championship shows this year. These health checks are given by independent veterinarians, and if they say the dog isn’t a healthy example, it is dismissed.

The KC won’t list the reason why both the bulldog and Peke were denied BOB’s this year, but both breeds are severely brachycephalic and are well-known sufferers of brachycephalic airway syndrome, which interferes with a dog’s ability to fully respirate and cool itself. This condition is directly connected to breeding for the very short muzzle in both of these breeds, but this short muzzle is seen as ideal in the both breeds’ official breed standards.

Because they can’t have a BOB, the Peke and bulldog cannot compete for the group or Best in Show, and the point is to force breeders and judges within these breeds to produce and put up healthier animals.

With the Peke and bulldog, they will probably either have to change the standards or their interpretation of the standards.

And their fanciers will complain.

Tough, I say.

I seriously doubt that Malachy could have passed the test either, seeing as they were both bred by the same breeders and to the same standard. He may have, but his lumbering gait and hard panting, clearly showed to me that he wasn’t a good example of what a dog should be. Of course, we won’t know for sure.

However, because the Kennel Club has been forced implement health inspections for dogs in certain breeds before they can become BOB, dogs with welfare issues associated with their conformation cannot advance.

In the American Kennel Club, no such requirement exists at conformation shows.

And this is why we see dogs like Malachy winning major shows– and everyone oos and ahs over him.

In the United Kingdom, this is no longer acceptable.

And I think we should thank Jemima Harrison and her production company for putting the pressure on the Kennel Club to implement these reforms. Pedigree Dogs Exposed really opened the eyes of so many people, and it dragged the somewhat recalcitrant British dog fancy into making some modest changes for the health and welfare of purebred dogs.

But in America, where PDE has had very little exposure, people still think it’s okay.

The dog and its breeders get lauded.

And the dogs continue to suffer from their partially blocked airways.

PDE specifically targeted the pekingese for its extreme conformation, detailing how Pekingese named Danny actually won BIS at Crufts in 2003.  The rumor mill suggested that this dog had had a facelife. When Jemima Harrison’s team tracked down the real story, it turned out that he had not had a facelift, but instead, he had undergone a procedure to pare back some of his soft palate, which was obstructing his trachea. Dogs with extremely short muzzles have mouths and throats like normal dogs, but they don’t have enough space for all the things that go in there. It is possible for the soft palate to become very scrunched up in the back, which restricts the airways. Facelifts for show dogs are illegal under Kennel Club rules, but soft palate surgery is not.

Perhaps most infamously, Danny had to be placed upon an icepack to cool himself just before the awards ceremony at Crufts.

I was waiting for Malachy to be placed on an icepack. I think he needed it that night, but my guess is his handlers were smart enough not to do that while the cameras were running.

So here we can see a real world example of how Pedigree Dogs Exposed has changed the conversation.

In America, an extremely brachycephalic Peke wins Best in Show at the American Kennel Club’s most prestigious show, but in the UK, a Peke from the same kennel is dismissed because she doesn’t pass a health inspection.

It’s a real shame that PDE never received the exposure that it deserved in the United States.

But that’s to be expected.

This is the land of Citizens United, plastic surgery, and Hollywood. Glitz, glamour, and fakery of all sorts comprise much of the national zeitgeist.

But if things start to change for the better in the UK, it might start to trickle in over here.

Let’s hope it does.

See related posts:

And Chris has a post up at BorderWars on this same subject.


Update:  It turns out that Crufts did allow another bulldog to be shown in the Utility group, so a member of the breed can be judged in group following this dismissal.  Still wonderful news!

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I’m not going to go on and on about the health of deerhounds.

I think everyone knows about their many health problems and very short average lifespan.

So I think that I am just going to say that I am happy that a not particularly flashy or exaggerated dog won.

After watching that peke try to trot around the ring a few times, I wanted the anti-peke.

A deerhound is a good anti-peke.

Deerhounds are supposed to be both dignified and rugged– living symbols of the Highlands, Alba, and Ancient Caledonia.

Every time I think of deerhounds, I think of this Robert Burns poem:

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer –

A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North

The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.


Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow;

Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;

Farewell to the forrests and wild-hanging woods;

Farwell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.


My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer

Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;

My heart’s in the Highlands, whereever I go.

I can see this dog in its native habitat, accompanying the deer stalkers as the pursue the red stag. The men are wearing their deerstalker caps and are dressed in their Harris tweeds. A rifle fires, and the shaggy deerhound is set loose. The dog bounds forward as if it were made of coiled springs. As it accelerates into full gallop, it becomes a gray blur. One wonders if one is looking at a dog or a shaggy gray cheetah that is advancing upon the shot stag.  Within a few seconds, the great hound is upon the deer, and just as soon, the quarry is down.  Two symbols of the Highland wild collide in a permutation of the ancient conflict between predator and prey. The primeval and the primitive meet in the shadowy mists of the Highland mountains.

That’s what I think of when I consider the deerhound.

Call me a romantic.

But that is the essence of this dog.

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Yes. That’s a Scottish terrier winning Best in Show at the 2010 Westminster Kennel Club dog show last night.

And the Scottish terrier has won this show more than once. From this list, I am counting that this breed has won BIS 8 different times.  It is instructive to look closely at all of the winners through the history of this event. How many BIS dogs were terriers and possessing a coat that can be clipped or stripped? Just look at the list. It really is quite amazing.

This tells us that dog shows (or at least this particular one) are really good for a certain type of dog. If a dog has a feisty and extroverted temperament and a coat that can be sculpted in some way, this dog will tend to do well in the ring.

Yes, I’m very aware that the judges are judging dogs to their breed standards. The dogs are competing only against the ideal description of their breed.

However, it does seem to me more than a little interesting that terriers with coats seem to do very well.

In fact, go back to that list and count the number of smooth-haired sight hounds that have won BIS at Westminster. Then check the number of mastiff-type dogs that have won (and yes, you can count Newfoundlands. You’re going to have to!)

So if I really want to do well at dog shows, I need to get me a feisty wire-haired terrier, and because you really don’t want to compete against a big field, it is probably a good idea to get a relatively rare wire-haired terrier.

Like Winky:


But a Scottish terrier will do.


Now, the Scottish terrier that won last night is going to be touted as the greatest dog in the nation. This dog is the epitome of the virtues of intense selective breeding through the generations.

But you see the Scottish terrier has some rather detailed health surveys that have compared the breed’s performance over a decade .  It turns out that the Scottish terrier’s life expectancy has dropped from 1995 to 2005.  It turns out that Scottish terriers that have been extensively bred for the show ring for many generations simply aren’t that healthy, even when compared to the generic Scottish terrier bred for the pet market.

Now, I should point out here that the dog called a Scottish terrier is actually a merger of two distinct types of terrier native to Scotland. One of these was the Highland terrier, which looked more like a cairn terrier. The cairns probably are a Highland terrier that have at least some ancestry in the Hebrides, where they were closely associated with the Skye terrier. The other type of terrier merged into this dog was the Aberdeen terrier. Aberdeen terriers looked a lot like Scottish terriers, but they were not nearly as short in the leg. From this taxidermied specimen at the Rothschild Museum at Tring, England, it appears that at least some Aberdeen terriers were smooths or at least lightly broken-coated.

It turns out that the show version of the Scottish terrier is an American invention. The AKC recognized this breed before it was recognized in its native country. That was 1885. The KC didn’t recognize it until 1888.  Scottish terrier, however, was a far less specific term than it is today. If it came from Caledonia and was something like a terrier, it was a Scottish terrier.

Cairns, scotties, Skyes, and westies could all interbreed until 1917, which is one year after the KC stopped registering litters of golden and flat-coat crosses. For my purposes, I don’t consider a breed a “true” breed until the registry closes. When the registry closes, one can idea of when the Tristan da Cunha phenomenon starts.

To be honest with you, I have not looked closely at the Scottish terrier’s particular history.  it appears that even though it didn’t exist in a closed registry system until 1917, it has a far longer history as being exclusively a show dog than the golden retriever, which was put in its closed registry at roughly the same time. If the health studies are to be believed, the golden retriever has a longer average lifespan than the Scottish terrier. The golden retriever was not a popular show and pet dog in the early part of the twentieth century, but the Scottish terrier certainly was. And that factor is key to why the Scottish terrier’s health issues are worse than the golden retriever, which is a breed that definitely suffers from reduced genetic diversity and similar health problems.

I don’t know if anyone has used one as a working terrier for a very long time. Perhaps the last time they were used was when they were Aberdeen and highland terriers.

What has happened to the breed since it was recognized is a pursuit for physical perfection that has resulted in very real health problems for the breed.

I guarantee you that if I start playing around with pedigrees, I will find that just a few studs have sired most of the puppies in each generation.

This dog is meant to be a show dog and a fashionable pet.

It has been bred for its appearance for many, many generations. And most of that breeding happened with a certain degree of ignorance about health issues and a certain amount of a quasi-religious belief that selective breeding of this type “improved” organisms.

And the result has been a Scottish terrier with very real problems with autoimmune diseases, cancer, very short lifespans, and reduced litter size.

This breed has been created by whim and caprice, the vagaries of fashion, and the efforts of some starry-eyed romantics with a penchant for eugenics.  It was not created to be healthy and game as one would expect in a JRTCA Jack Russell.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” said Albert Einstein, and I just don’t see how extolling the virtues of this Westminster winner helps this breed.

Talking honestly about the health of this breed and the real history of its population would be a much better discussion.

Too bad you won’t hear that on the news.

But I don’t think the Scottish terrier can take nae more.

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The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is going to be on television tonight.

I am also here to announce that I am operating under a moderated position.

I hear my blog being taken off blogrolls right now.


Hear me out.

I’m not against the concept of the dog show. I’m against dog shows entirely consuming dogs. They are not the only measure of quality of dogs.

I would be among the last people to tell you that conformation isn’t important. If a dog is built in a fashion that keeps it from moving efficiently or comfortably while doing its work,  then we can say it has bad conformation.

Conformation is but one pillar on which dogs are built. Conformation complements the other traits.

And that should be the perspective on which we focus our energies.

I think it all can hang on a simple rule for working dogs:

If you start to get a split in your breed between show and working forms, I think it’s time to have a discussion about conformation.

Another rule applies for nonworking dogs:

If the top dogs in your breed have difficulty moving, whelping, mating, and cooling themselves, you might need to have a discussion about conformation.

For all dogs another rule should apply:

If you notice that lots of genetic disorders have started to pop up in your dogs and if you also notice that you have a Tristan da Cunha situation in your registry system, it’s time to have a discussion about health testing and possibly opening up the registries.

I think that if we can have civil conversations about these issues, I am fine with dog shows.

And you know, I think most people in dogs are willing to talk about these issues. The trick is getting an institution that will respond to these needs. The KC in Britain is starting to take these issues seriously, mainly because the public, including many breeders, are trying to push for reform.

Can the AKC be reformed?

Well, I’m not convinced that it can’t.

And even if it can’t, we have nothing to replace it.

Maybe we can work to build our own institutions.

That’s not a bad start.

But we have to have some kind of institution. People will do awful things to dogs in the quest for mammon, and there has to be an institution, at least at the level of civil society, that ensures that we are doing right by our animals.

I sincerely believe that most people aren’t in dogs because they want to hurt them.

Everyone wants the best for these animals. Those who don’t want the best for the animals shouldn’t even own a goldfish.

We have to have this discussion here. I am willing to listen to anyone, provided that this person comes in good faith. That’s how I moderate this blog.

So if you choose to watch the dog show tonight, please think about the animals, their gene pools, their history, and what the future might hold. Think about that ancient bond that man has with Canis lupus familiaris. Think about that time when we were just another species in the ecosystem, and the proto-dog wolves were both our alarm systems and hunting assistants. Think about how far we’ve come from those hunter-gatherer camps. Man and dog, wagons hitched to the same star, our destinies forever linked.

Let’s hope that we choose to do right by them. They deserve it.


Now that I’ve waxed poetic for a moment, I need to offer one observation.

I don’t know how the average person would know what is going on the ring.

It is always said that the dogs are being judged to their breed standard, but it is never said what these are.

And it would make for very bad television for the announcers to present every breed standard and every little esoteric quibble and fancy point.

However, I don’t think the average person really understands what is going on. I think the average American is just sitting there rooting for his or her favorite breed, which is interesting, I guess.

The really interesting part of what goes on in a dog show is during the breed ring competitions, but these competition are virtually never televised. It’s always group and then BIS.

I think that if people really knew what was going on, these shows would be far more interesting.

Update: I am watching it, but I just switched from USA to CNBC. I’m not that much into wrasslin’.

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