Watching well-bred dogs at a show, each one trained, groomed and oozing with breed type it’s easy to romanticize how the breed standards were written. A group of highly passionate fanciers, sitting around a table in somebody’s kitchen, dogs laying at their feet, crafting a scholarly manuscript to serve as a blueprint for the breed into perpetuity. Some breed standards are very descriptive. Some long, some short, many with unique language. Each standard reflects the people who developed the breed and their view of what makes it special. Some of the AKC’s 173 recognized breeds are very old, with standards originally written over a century ago. Some of the breeds are more recently recognized and their standards seem written with a more modern flair. Most parent clubs have changed their standard over the years. Sometimes the changes are made to beef up a section of the standard or clarify a point that seems too vague or is hard to interpret by judges. Standing nearly alone for longevity without a change is the Afghan Hound Club of America. Its standard has remained untouched since 1948, eight years after becoming an AKC member club.
When breed standards were first written, they were often one long description. Wandering back and forth from the purpose of the dog to the shape of the head to the texture of the coat. The AKC encouraged clubs to rework their standards to fit within the framework of what we see today. Smaller, more easily understood paragraphs with headers, written with enough detail to be clear on most of the points. But buried in these reworked documents are glimpses of the people who stood behind the breeds we still see today. Hidden gems in the descriptions, spanning all seven groups, that once discovered are great sources of curiosity and some humor. Some seem part of a bygone era in both word choice and cadence. Some make use of descriptions that defy logic and others contain as much scholarship as a thesis paper. Take a look at the list that follows and try to match the quotation from the various standards with the breeds listed. Some are used more than once. The answers are found at the end.
Welsh Springer Spaniel
Gordon Setter Tibetan
Wire Fox Terrier
German Shorthair Pointer
Smooth Fox Terrier
1. …..stands well over the pads, and this stance gives the appearance of much activity and a proud carriage…
2. …. has a long, strong, clean, “one piece” head, which is unique to the breed.
3. This breed has twelve disqualifications. The most of any breed.
4. …. cropped or uncropped, the latter preferred.
5. This breed list no faults, only defects.
6. ….Yellow or mean-looking eyes are to be heavily penalized.
7. …. It is always a unit – the Apollo of dogs.
8. …. Hide very thick and loose fitting.
9. This is a breed that has no gross or incapacitating exaggerations and therefore there is no inherent reason for lack of balance or unsound movement.
11. …. It should be of good strength, anything approaching a “Pipestopper” tail being especially objectionable.
12. …. Disqualifications: China or wall eyes.
13. …. Nose: Bulbous and spongy in appearance with upper edge rounded.
14. …. Pitted teeth from distemper or allied infections are not penalized.
15. Head described as the “cranium” in these two standards.
16. …. Teeth should be evenly placed and the lower jaw wide between the canine tusks.
17. …. Never fat or soft.
18. …. Extremely thin or fat dogs are discouraged.
19. (Referring to the head of this breed)… so rarely as to partake of the nature of a freak – a Terrier of correct size may boast a head 7 1/2 inches in length.
20. …. when the eyes are set too high up in the skull and too near the ears, it also amounts to a fault, the head being said to have a “foreign appearance.”
As breeders, we are responsible for producing healthy, typey representatives of our chosen breeds. We spend time searching out the perfect stud dog and researching pedigrees. But, how much time does the average breeder spend reacquainting herself with the standard written years before as a blueprint? At a recent kennel club meeting, the members gathered around the table were each asked to quote one thing from their respective standards. Few could. How can breeders produce dogs that fit the standard if they are so ignorant of it? The fascinating descriptions hiding in some of the standards are probably overlooked by many people who consider themselves experts in their breeds. Judges are another matter. If breeders don’t review their standards, how can they hold judges to a higher level of knowledge? When the Gordon Setter standard was revised in 2002 the anachronistic description of the teeth was left intact. This may have be done out of respect to the breed’s founders, but maybe this single line has been overlooked for more than a century by the revisionists charged with making needed changes. Let’s hope when today’s breeders look at their standards they don’t have a foreign appearance.
The Answers: 1. Alaskan Malamute, 2. Flatcoat Retriever, 3. Beauceron, 4. American Staffordshire Terrier, 5. Beagle, 6. Welsh Springer Spaniel, 7. Great Dane, 8. Border Terrier, 9. Bichon Frise, 10. Cane Corso and Rottweiler, 11. Smooth Fox Terrier, 12. German Shorthair Pointer, 13. Spinone Italiano, 14. Gordon Setter, 15. Neopolitan Mastiff and American Foxhound, 16. Tibetan Spaniel, 17. Anatolian Shepherd, 18. Gordon Setter, 19. Wire Fox Terrier, 20. Wire Fox Terrier