Around the World in 14,600 Days
Posted on 08/06/2013 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
Just the other day a fellow judge asked me how long ago it was that I actually began judging all-breed dog shows. I thought about it a bit and trying to remember how it all actually did start took me back to early 1973.
The phone rang in the office of Kennel Review magazine, the dog publication I owned at the time. I picked up the phone and a very pleasant voice announced, “Hello, I am the president of the Association Venezolana Criadores, in Caracas, Venezuela and I wish to invite you to come to our country to judge our 25th Anniversary all-breed dog show on March 23 and 24 of this year.”
The call was totally out of the blue. Forget about surprised, I was flabbergasted!
I thanked my caller profusely, but explained to my caller that I was not a licensed judge at that time. This seemed to make no difference to my caller. “Senor,” he said, “anyone who makes such a fine magazine as the Kennel Review will be easy to make a good judge!” (He was more confident than I!)
At any rate, I did go to Caracas and I did judge - all breeds! And when I say all breeds I mean exactly that. I was the only judge and there were well over 200 dogs each day. It took me forever!
It was probably the beginning of that famous urban legend - you know, the one about the show going on so late that the exhibitors had to pull their cars up to ringside and turn on their headlights so the judging could be completed.
By the 1970s I had already spent about 25 years in purebred dogs and on more levels than most lovers of the sport ever have had the opportunity to. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the dog knowledge, but like most beginning judges I wanted not only to be sure I was making the right decisions, I wanted to be very sure.
Because of my lack of experience, I made the fatal mistake of wanting to be beyond sure that I wasn’t making any mistakes, so it was move, move, re-move, check, double check, and triple check and on and on and on - well into the night. I learned that it is all well and good to be sure, but there is a point one can reach in judging when time begins to work against you and makes you lose sight of the forest because of the time being spent on each and every individual tree; comparing the branch of this tree against the trunk of another.
The assignment made me realize I had a lot to learn about judging technique and procedure, and fortunately I was given the opportunity to do so by going on to regularly judge all breeds at major championship shows throughout the world; here in the U.S. first with the United Kennel Club and then later for the Federacion Cynologique Internationale and the AKC. My assignments led me to China, Japan, Australasia, Mexico, South and Central America, South Africa, England, Ireland, Scandinavia and throughout Europe. This continued on through my retirement from publishing in 1992 when I then began to judge regularly here in the U.S. as well.
From early on, and then frequently through the years, I had the pleasure of judging in China as well as in Australia and Finland. These are, of course, all vastly different countries in their organization and approach to judging. As I wrote last month, China was only in its infancy then insofar as dog shows.
When I witnessed the intense interest of the early Chinese exhibitors, I felt even way back then that China would one day be a very strong part of the international dog scene. My many more recent assignments throughout the country have proven that to be more than true.
I think the primary difference that exists between the North American dog show enthusiasts and exhibitors in the other major dog showing countries is our obsession with Group and Best In Show competition. With the exception of perhaps Australia, what happens after the Breed judging is incidental to the importance of the day in shows abroad.
Exhibitors in England, Scotland and Ireland go to dog shows to win those cherished “tickets” or “C.Cs” (championship certificates). These are equal to our Best Male/Winners Dog, Best Female/Winners Bitch and the championship points. The Scandinavian Countries have been much the same through the years.
Real dog judging as far as the exhibitors in those countries go takes place in the classes - Winners Dog, Winners Bitch. The highly competitive breeder-exhibitors take pride in being acknowledged for superiority within their breed, and the highest respect goes to the judge who “really knows his stuff” when it comes to breed judging. It is the true test of what a judge knows or perhaps in some ways, a test of what he or she doesn’t know about a breed.
Our superstars are so well heralded and their accomplishments so well publicized that they are practically household names well in advance of the time a judge may even see them for the first time.
I find it very difficult to separate Canada and the United States when it comes to the actual dogs. They may have fewer than we do this side of the border, but the percentage of quality is certainly no less than one finds here in the U.S. in averages classes.
The two countries continually influence each other, and our judges move back and forth constantly, thus it is difficult to draw comparisons between the two countries. The two countries do have different administrations; who is in charge comes and goes, but somehow the changes seldom have great effect upon themselves. Being able to produce a good one and being able to appreciate quality is what purebred dogs is really all about.
Over the past several years I have judged in Canada often - as far east as Newfoundland and as far west as Vancouver Island. There have been many other assignments between those distant points, including the delightful Thunder Bay event and the always enjoyable Auld Lang Syne Kennel Club in Chilliwack, British Columbia, the famous Alberta Kennel Club in Calgary, and the Stormont Dundas and Glengarry (SD&G) show near Ottawa.
The latter two are both beautifully run shows with outstanding entries in both number and quality. I had judged both of the these shows in the past and it was interesting to see that in spite of the dire predictions by some for shows and entries in Canada, these two shows have grown from strength to strength over the years. They must certainly be included among Canada’s leading all-breed events.
These two shows work very hard to have an intelligent blend of both international and domestic judges. The combination results in a well-rounded, and in the end, interestingly similar set of opinions that find the best dogs rising easily to the top. It proves the opinion of many that the truly outstanding dogs are able to succeed under judges of diverse origins.
I can’t help but think back on the time I judged the Irish Setter Club of Canada’s National Specialty when it was held there. The flashing mahogany/red of the breed contrasted to the shades of green found elsewhere only in Ireland itself was a stunning visual that I will never forget. The fact that the mighty CH Muldoon Dewitt’s Great One was my Best of Breed winner certainly did help to color that unforgettable picture!
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 July 2013 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.