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Year-End Shows - From Inside the Ring
Posted on 04/02/2012 in Ringside Conversations.

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Year-End Shows - From Inside the Ring
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp

As each year heads towards its finale, those who are avid exhibitors can’t help but think about those Top Ten aspirations. The last few months of the year are the last shot at securing a place among the Top Ten or perhaps even winding up the year at the very top of the breed.

Judges do not have the same considerations for the close of the year but there is no doubt that some of our best shows are held in various parts of the country as the year approaches its final days. This past November and December I had the extreme pleasure of officiating for the first time at United Kennel Club’s Gateway shows in St. Louis, Missouri, and once more at one of my favorite shows, the Hampton Roads Classic in the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia.

Something Old, Something New
The Gateway shows were held at the spectacular new Purina Events Center at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Missouri – a site built with every imaginable dog show event in mind. There is perfect lighting, flooring, acoustics, and more than enough room for spacious rings and easily traversed aisles.

Personally speaking, the highlight of so many UKC shows is the opportunity they provide for good sized entries of breeds that one seldom has the opportunity to see very few of at any other event here in the U.S.

This past Gateway show was an outstanding example of this opportunity. Each and every judge on the panel came away totally impressed with the size of entry and depth of quality present in both the Berger Picard and Silken Windhound entries. The former is a handsome ancient herding breed and the latter a striking new addition to the Sighthound group.

Ancient History
As new as the Silken Windhound is to our ranks so is the Berger Picard of ancient. Probably Celtic in origin and reportedly closely related to the Beauceron and Briard, this handsome upstanding breed has worked flocks since the ninth century in the Picardie region of France where he continues to do so to this day.

What is truly unique about this breed lies in the fact that most herding breeds fall either into the categories of “fetching” (rounding up) or “protecting” (warding off predators). The Berger Picard can be relied upon to perform splendidly in both respects.

Never of tremendous numbers in the first place, the two World Wars of the 1900s all but reduced this breed to total extinction. Fortunately lovers of Berger in its homeland were not about to let this happen and concerted efforts put the breed on a slow but steady road to recovery.

Still considered a true rare breed by comparison to so many others, interest in the breed has grown steadily here in North America and the UKC has been of great assistance in allowing the Berger to take a well-deserved place in the Herding Group.

The shaggy rough-coated Berger Picard is considered a herding breed of medium size. Males stand between 23.5 - 25.5 inches at the shoulder and females are preferred between 21.5 -23.5 inches. Going over these preferred limits is considered a fault.
The Berger is without a doubt a jovial fellow but at maturity can be fully relied upon for total devotion to his family and does not hesitate to stand between any member and danger. The breed is said to be particularly fond of and protective of the family’s younger members.

I had seen an occasional Berger Picard here in the U.S. and of course a bit more frequently in Europe but without a doubt the Gateway entry was the largest I had had the opportunity to so much as see, much less judge both here and abroad. I found the quality truly outstanding and among the dogs, some that are destined to have a great future in the show ring and I would venture to say in the whelping box as well.

I found a variance in style among the dogs – some slightly to the left of what might be considered the standard’s ideal and there were perhaps what some might consider a bit off to the right. At the same time, however, it could easily be seen why those being actual breeders do breed to both styles in order to bring out that highly elusive “ideal” that we all strive for in our respective breeds.

The exhibitors themselves were fantastic in their willing- ness to share knowledge and discuss the state of the breed with those of us who judged, and each of us came away with a feeling of having learned a great deal. Those of us who do judge, treasure those learning experiences above all else.

New Kids on the Block
Unless I miss my guess, the Silken Windhound has the potential of becoming one of the UKC’s most competitive new hound breeds. Moderate size (18.5 - 23.5 inches), exotically beautiful, and coming in a host of colors, this breed will undoubtedly appeal to a huge spectrum of the dog fancy.

Initially, the Silken Windhound was the unfortunate victim of some adverse publicity in that unscrupulous individuals falsely indicated that the breed was in fact a purebred longhaired genetic mutation of the Whippet. This statement, proven to be untrue, did nothing to enhance the reputation of either the Windhound or its innocent fanciers.

Dedicated members of the breed and the standard of the breed itself, credit Francie Stull of Kristull’s Silken Windhounds as the true founder of the breed. Stull’s foundation for the breed was based entirely upon top quality show and coursing Borzoi lines, small Whippet based Lurchers and Whippets from both show and coursing lines.

The official history of the breed goes on to say that Silken Windhounds arrived as a breed with Stull’s “D” litter whelped in 1985. In 1998 the name Silken Windhound was officially adopted and the Yahoo Windhounds list was formed. The International Silken Windhound Society that was chartered in 1999 maintains all pedigrees and DNA- verified registrations for the breed.

From a purely personal and artistic aspect, I can truly say that I have seen few of the newer and rarer breeds having come to the purebred dog scene that can surpass the Silken Windhound for its beauty, elegance, and appeal.

They are every inch the Sighthound and give the dog lover who appreciates those appealing lines the added bonus of a beautiful silken coat. This fellow can provide the man of the family with a coursing dog by day and the family a joyful companion at home in the evening.

There is just one thing that I do hope the breed’s fanciers work toward as the breed develops and that is ear carriage. The standard asks for those lovely ears that are, “small and fine in texture, folded and lying back along the neck when in repose.” Understandably in this early stage of development the standard does allow “prick or semi- prick, when the dog is alert.”

Semi-prick or “tulip” ears, especially when small and have fine leather, do not seem to detract from the serenity of this breed’s expression. However, I must admit fully pricked ears fight the breed’s expression and do provide a startled and unfortunately jarring appearance to the observer. Perhaps a nit-picking criticism, but I say this in defense of the breed’s otherwise beautiful expression.

Hampton Roads Classic
2011 was my second time to judge the Hampton Roads Club’s show and all the raves given to the event on my first trip there applied not only as well but more so the second time around. The club has the unique ability to draw the cream of the crop when it comes to quality and their Groups and Best in Show lineups can stand up against the very best anywhere in the country.

There is no doubt that a great part of what attracts exhibitors from far and wide is the hard working, hospitable club members. They make judge and exhibitor feel right at home from the moment they arrive and go well out of their way to help out in each and every way they can.

The Terrier Group was as good this time around as it had been the last time I judged. Interestingly, however, the makeup of the Group had shifted considerably. In just a few years, the emphasis had shifted from the Pit Bull Terrier to the Rat and American Hairless Terriers with excellent entries in the two breeds both in number and quality.

Rat Terriers have had quality entries for a good number of years, but I was delighted with the terrific improvement in quality and consistency of the Hairless Terrier entry. There are obviously concerted efforts being made here, and the winners on each of the days in those breeds were top class.

A special note has to be made of the caterer that Hampton Road brings in each show to provide sustenance for exhibitors and judges. Many times exhibitors are left to keep themselves going with a hot dog and soda day in and day out but Temple Farms Catering comes fully prepared with a menu fit for food lovers of all kinds – particularly for those who love east coast seafood. You have never tasted crab cakes the likes of those prepared here.

Do yourself a favor and include the Hampton Roads Kennel Club shows on this year’s itinerary.

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 March 2012 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.