Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Dog That Chases Ribbons

Someone on a breeder's discussion group this morning posted a link to this article written for the dog show world about Border Terriers.

The article starts off:

The Border Terrier experts emphasized time and again that this breed is a working terrier, and that the important characteristics were those that support that activity.

"The Border Terriers experts..."

What does that even mean? 

Experts by dint of what?  Experts on this dog's history?  Well, if they are, then they will know this breed was cocked up for the show ring by puppy peddlers, and has never seen much work since

Experts because they have collected a lot of ribbons?  Ha!  I have never known a dog to chase a ribbon, not even if it's waved on a string from the end of a fishing pole. Chasing a ribbon?  That's a job for a cat, not a dog!

Certainly, these border terrier experts were not experts by dint of DIGGING!  Don't believe me?  Read the article!  My God, it should come with a laugh track!

Experts?  Experts! 

No doubt they consulted with Mr. Fuchs himself?  A true expert he is, but perhaps they might check on his motivation?

And what did Mr. Fuchs, the helpful theorist, say? 

Well, it seems he told them that the most important feature of a border terrier is... wait for it... wait for it...

"Feet small, compact, toes moderately arched with thick pads” and “Ears small, V-shaped, moderate thickness.”

I almost pissed myself laughing.  Oh yes, Mr. Fuchs the fox wants the Border Terrier to be judged on the shape of its feet, and the daintiness of its compact toes!  


What else?

Why head shape, of course.

A border terrier should look just like a swimming otter!

Why?  Well, because some book written by some pretender who never tossed a shovel full of dirt said so, of course! 

Not that early Border Terriers looked a whit like any kind of otter, let it be said.  And not that looking like an otter is of any use on land or in a hole underground and working!

And what is the third most important part of a Border Terrier?

Why the tail, of course.  The tail!

Tears of laughter streaming now.  Fantastic!  Someone buy these dog show people a drink.  Damn, what a punch line! 

Chest size is fourth on the list, so it does finally show up, but what we find paired with it is a wonderfully vague word --- "spannable." 


What does that even mean?   

Are we measuring our house in cubits?  Spannable by whom?  A woman?  Wilt Chamberlain? 

It is a ridiculous term of course -- a British dog dealer's term. 

Red fox are found all over the world, and they come with chests of 14" or less.  Taxidermists do not measure their animals with a "span"!

But if you are precise about a working terrier's maximum acceptable chest size, as the Germans are with their working dachshunds, then what are you going to do with all those over-large dogs with all those magnificent "otter" heads that have chests too big to get to ground ?

The dogs must be sold for cash, after all.  You cannot shoot them or give them away as defective and dysfunctional by design.  So the word "spannable" is trotted out.  It's a vague word that covers a lot of mischief.  Paper over the hole and full speed ahead!  And what does it matter?  It's not like any of these Kennel Club types are actually going to work their terriers, are they? 
Of course not!  Don't be ridiculous! So what does it matter that the average  winning Border Terrier has a chest greater than 17"?  They will never see a fox!

Ah well, all amusing and nothing new.   I wrote much the same post as this nine years ago, and I even illustrated the point with pictures. 

But nothing changes in the world of show ring theorists, does it? 

No, of course not.

The article in The Canine Chronicle tells us that:
"Twenty-five Border Terrier experts were invited to complete the survey on which this article was based; almost all were judges."

Oh right.  Judges. 

Those are the experts

Not the fox.  Not the digging man.  

Blue blazer rosette chasers. 

Any wonder why the Border Terrier is so rarely seen in the field today? 

They have these dogs chasing ribbons -- a job best suited to... a CAT!

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