“Card from Hong Kong”
Posted on 07/08/2013 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
It was early 1976 that I visited China for the first time, but admittedly it was not then the China that I have come to know since. In fact, that initial trip was to judge for the Hong Kong Kowloon Kennel Club, and Hong Kong was at that time still a British protectorate.
That said, Hong Kong was as “China” as I had ever experienced before and I was quite frankly totally blown away by how sophisticated the purebred dog scene was. Needless to say, the number of British citizens residing in Hong Kong made the city one of great sophistication and high economic standards.
Now, 37 years later, I am back here in Hong Kong. Much has happened and much has changed since that time, not only with the city itself, but also with my own experience of the entire country. Hong Kong is no longer a part of the British Empire. It has now rejoined China. While there have been changes in the city, Hong Kong is, and undoubtedly will remain, a unique and distinct entity. Communist China, despite its ideology, is just as aware of this as is Hong Kong itself, and I seriously doubt there will be any attempts to alter the brilliance of this Asian jewel.
Since my most memorable first trip to the Far East, I have visited and judged on the Chinese Mainland undoubtedly at least a dozen times - having experienced both shows in the major cities and in the smaller, outlying districts.
The visitor today will, contrary to what tales of Communist government would lead us to believe, find opulence and price structures in the major cities that, in many cases, put some Capitalist countries to shame. Certainly, China is not a country for budget retirement by any stretch of the imagination!
I visited Beijing for the first time sometime early in the year 2001, and again shortly before the city was host for the Olympic Games in 2008. The transformation took my breath away!
What had been little roads lined with minor shops and restaurants had become major tree-lined throughways lined with skyscrapers representing practically every international major corporation I had ever heard of. Brand new and breathtaking is the best way I know to describe it all.
Dogs, and the Purebred Dog Scene
Little dog parks and locals walking their dogs along the Beijing boulevards was a very common scene, and as I recall there wasn’t a mixed breed among them! Granted, some were done up in some outlandish trims and get-ups, but purebred they were.
I was well aware of the stories told about the Chinese dog scene - both the fact and the fancy. I find the breeders and exhibitors there no less enthusiastic and dedicated than they are here at home. Is the dog scene as sophisticated there as it is in North America? In a word, no. But consider the fact that dog shows on Mainland China are just now slightly over 10 years old.
The venue of this weekend’s show in Hong Kong, and many of the sites throughout the country, are comparable with some of the best in North America and would be the envy of many show-giving clubs in the more rural areas of the U.S.
There are many registry sources in China, and the breeders and exhibitors seem to move easily and happily amongst them. Asking one exhibitor how she felt about the multiple organizations, she responded, “We don’t care much about who is running the shows. We love to show our dogs and (are) happy to be able to have more shows. Where we were once lucky to have any show within traveling distance, today we often have a choice of where to enter.”
What is judging like in China? Quite frankly, judging is not a whole lot different than it is judging anywhere else. You begin the day looking for that “one in a million dog” and, percentage wise, I don’t think the outstanding ones were any less prevalent than you might find in any country whose sport is in its early stages.
Like here in the U.S., different breeds seem more popular in one section of the country than what they might be in the next. Overall, Chow Chows, Siberian Huskies and Goldens seem to rule. Their Chow Chows can hold their own anywhere.
Presentation of the various breeds wasn’t bad, considering. If anything was at fault, it was in the area of being overdone. Hair spray is well-used there. It seems magazine photos and videos are the major learning tools among the Chinese. I’m not sure that all of the exhibitors there have quite grasped the fact that coat is trimmed to the individual dog rather than as a general application.
Handling is coming along well. The better handlers know what they’re doing and know exactly how to go about their business. Amateurs are amateurs of course; some learn faster than others. Remember, it’s all been going on for only 10 years. The U.S. leads in influence, without a doubt. No surprise there; nowhere has presentation, style and glamour been elevated to such a high level as in the U.S.
Chinese students are required by law to study Mandarin, Cantonese and English. I think more people speak and understand English there than are brave enough to attempt speaking it. The younger generation stands out in that respect, of course. I find the younger generation quite proud to be able to respond in English. There are enough English-speaking Chinese around, no matter where you go, so it is relatively easy to find someone quickly to help interpret.
But is it safe to send dogs there?
I would not hesitate a moment to send a quality dog to a bona fide breeder or exhibitor in China. Early on, I might have said that it would depend upon the breed. Initially, I don’t think most exhibitors were up to the extensive care and preparation some breeds take. Now the situation is entirely different. Coated breeds are undoubtedly the most popular throughout China, and they are cared for and presented beautifully.
If you are able to condition and present Chow Chows and Pekes and properly put down Miniature Schnauzer coats, you can pretty well put your hand to just about any coated breed, and the Chinese have managed to do just that. I do not recall finding a single mat on any of the coated breeds I judged!
Early on, I found that most, if not all the dogs I awarded were bred in China and from American stock. Some here might want to dismiss that as purely American success, but I see it otherwise. I well recall how many really outstanding dogs I sold to exhibitors and so-called breeders here in the U.S. and in whose hands it hardly took a generation for all I had accomplished to go down the drain.
While this does hold through even now, my Best In Show winner here in Hong Kong this weekend was a Pekingese bitch that it turns out had completed 2012 as Top Dog All Breeds. Runner-up to her in quality was a Bichon Frise bitch that could win in America any time, any place. The Peke bitch was bred in Great Britain, the Bichon bitch bred in Hong Kong of American bloodlines, and another of my favorites, a young Pointer bitch, was bred in New Zealand and held New Zealand, Australian, American and Hong Kong championships.
What I love about China is the obvious growth in interest and participation. There is a lot of enthusiasm throughout the country, and everyone seems to want to learn. I love those characteristics in anyone, anywhere.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club’s first all breed judges.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.