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Glossary Of Conformation Terms


Abdomen: The belly or undersurface between the chest and hindquarters.

Almond eyes: An elongated eye-shape, describing the tissue surrounding the eye itself.

Angulation: The angles formed by the appendicular skeleton, including the forequarters [shoulder (scapula), arm (humerus), forearm (radius, ulna)], and hindquarters [hip (pelvis), thigh (femur), second thigh (tibia, fibula), hock (tarsus)].

Arm: The anatomical region between the shoulder and the elbow, including the humerus and associated tissues. Sometimes called the “upper arm.”

Babbling: When a dog opens three times, or has been struck where no track is evident.

Back: The dorsal surface (topline) of the dog extending from the withers to the croup.

Bad mouth: Crooked or unaligned teeth; bite over or undershot in excess of standard specifications.

Balance: A condition wherein all proportions of a dog are in a static and dynamic harmony.

Barrel: A rib (thoracic) region that is circular in cross-section.

Bay: The prolonged bark or voice of the hunting hound.

Beady: Eyes that are small, round, and glittering, imparting an expression foreign to the breed.

Beefy: Over-heavy development of the hindquarters.

Belly: The ventral (under) surface of the abdomen.

Bitch: A female canine.

Bite: The relative position of the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed, including scissors, level, undershot or overshot.

Blanket: A color pattern. A black marking over the back that extends from neck to tail.

Blaze: A white stripe running up the center of the face usually between the eyes.

Blocky: Square or cube-like formation of the head.

Bodied up: Mature, well developed.

Body length: Distance from the sternum (breastbone) to the buttocks.

Brindle: A color pattern in which black pigment is layered in regions of lighter color (usually tan) producing a tiger-striped pattern. Or light pigment layered on a dark background.

Brisket: Usually refers to the sternum, but in some standards it refers to the entire thorax.

Brows: The ridges formed above the eyes by frontal bone contours.

Brush: A bushy tail; a tail heavy with hair.

Butterfly: A partially unpigmented nose.

Canines: The two upper and two lower large, conical pointed teeth lateral to the incisors and anterior to the premolars.

Carpals: Bones of the wrist.

Cat foot: Round, compact foot, with well-arched toes, tightly bunched or close-cupped.

Character: Expression, individuality, and general appearance as considered typical of a breed.

Chest: The part of the body or trunk that is enclosed by the ribs; the thoracic cavity.

Chiseled: Clean-cut in head, as contrasted with bumpy or bulging outlines; particularly beneath the eyes.

Chops: Jowls or pendulous flesh of the lips and jaw.

Cloddy: Low, thickset, comparatively heavy.

Close-coupled: Comparatively short from last rib to the commencement of the hindquarters; occasionally used to characterize a comparative shortness from withers to hipbones.

Coarse: Lacking refinement.

Coat: The dog’s hair covering.

Cobby: Short-bodied, compact.

Cold-nosed: The ability to smell and accurately follow an old track; sometimes referred to as a cold trail.

Compact: Term used to describe the firmly joined union of various body parts.

Condition: Health as shown by the coat, state of flesh, general appearance and deportment.

Conformation: The form and structure, make and shape; arrangement of the parts in conformance with breed-standard demands.

Coupling: The part of the body between the ribs and pelvis/hindquarters; the loin.

Covering ground: The distance traveled by a dog with each stride as it gaits.

Cow-hocked: Hocks turning in, accompanied by toeing out of rear feet.

Crabbing: Dog moves with his body at an angle to the line of travel. Also referred to as “side-winding.”

Cranium: The skull. That part of animal bony skeleton that contains the brains.

Crest: The upper, arched portion of the neck.

Crossing over: Unsound gaiting action which starts with twisting elbows and ends with crisscrossing and toeing out.

Croup: The region of the pelvic girdle, formed by the sacrum and surrounding tissue.

Crown: The dorsal (top) part of the head; the topskull.

Cryptorchid: The adult whose testicles are abnormally retained in the abdominal cavity. Bilateral cryptorchidism involves both sides; that is, neither testicle has descended into the scrotum. Unilateral cryptorchidism involves one side only; that is, one testicle is retained or hidden, and one descended.

Dam: The female parent.

Dentition: Forty-two adult teeth, including incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.

Depth of Chest: An indication of the volume of space for heart and lungs, and commonly referenced to the elbow (i.e., above, at the level, or below).

Dewclaw: An extra claw or functionless digit on the inside of the leg; a rudimentary fifth toe.

Dewlap: Loose, pendulous skin under the throat and neck.

Diaphragm: A muscular sheet that separates the thoracic and abdominal cavities.

Dish-faced: Slight concaveness of foreface when viewed in profile.

Disqualification: A decision made by a judge that a dog has a condition that makes it ineligible for any further competition under the Bench Show Rules or the standard for it’s breed; or, an undesirable feature of a dog that results in such action.

Dog: A male dog, also used collectively to designate both male and female.

Domed: Evenly rounded in topskull; convex instead of flat. Domy.

Down in pastern: Weak or faulty pastern (metacarpus and/or metatarsus) set at an incorrect angle.

Drive: A solid thrusting of the hindquarters, denoting sound locomotion.

Dry neck: The skin taut; neither loose nor wrinkled.

Ear: The auditory organ consisting of three regions: inner ear, middle ear, and the most important pinna (leather) which is supported by cartilage, extent which varies with breed standard, and which affects the expression.

East-West front: Incorrect positioning that causes the feet to turn outwards.

Elbow: The posterior region of the articulation between the arm (humerus) and forearm (ulna).

Elbows out: Turning out or off from the body, not held close.

Entropion: A complex genetic condition that results in the turning in of the upper or lower eyelid, potentially resulting in corneal ulceration.

Even bite: Meeting of upper and lower incisors with no overlap, level bite.

Ewe neck: A neck in which the topline is concave rather than convex.

Expression: The general appearance of all features of the head.

Femur: Thigh bone. Extends from hip to stifle.

Fibula: One of the two bones of the leg (i.e., the “lower” thigh, second thigh, or lower leg). The other bone is the tibia.

Fiddle front: Forelegs out at the elbow, pasterns close, and feet turned out.

Flag: A long tail carried high. Feathering on tail.

Flank: The side of the body between the last rib and the hip. The coupling.

Flews: Upper lip pendulous, particularly at the inner corners.

Foot: The four digits or toes, each consisting of three bones including a toenail or claw. The ventral surface is cushioned by pads of connective tissue.

Forearm: The portion of the forelimb between the arm (humerus) and the wrist (carpals) including the radius and the ulna.

Foreface: The anterior portion of the skull (head) that articulates with the cranium (braincase) i.e., the muzzle.

Forequarters: The combined front assembly from its uppermost component, the shoulder blade, down to the feet.

Front: The forepart of the body as viewed head on; i.e., forelegs, chest, brisket, and shoulder line.

Frontal bones: The anterior bones of the cranium forming the forehead.

Gait: The pattern of footsteps at various rates of speed, each pattern distinguished by a particular rhythm and footfall.

Gallop: Fastest of the dog gaits, has a four-beat rhythm and often an extra period of suspension during which the body is propelled through the air with all four feet off the ground.

Game: Hunted wild birds or animals.

Girth: Diameter of the ribs at the widest point.

Goose neck: An elongated, tubular-shaped neck. Also termed swan neck.

Haw: A third eyelid or nictitating membrane on the medial (inside) corner of the eye.

Head: The anterior portion of the dog, including the muzzle and the cranium.

Head planes: Viewed in profile, the contours of the dorsal (top) portion of the skull from occiput to stop, and of the foreface from stop to tip of nose. Usually spoken of in relation to one another, i.e., parallel, diverging, converging.

Height: Vertical measurement from the withers to the ground; referred to usually as shoulder height. See Withers.

Hindquarters: Rear assembly of dog (pelvis, thighs, hocks and paws).

Hock: The tarsus or collection of bones of the hind leg forming the joint between the second tibia thigh and the metatarsus; the dog’s true heel.

Hocks well let down: Hock joints close to the ground.

Hocking out: Spread hocks.

Honorable scars: Scars from injuries suffered as a result of work.

Humerus: The bone of the arm.

Incisors: The six upper and six lower front teeth between the canines. Their point of contact forms the “bite.”

Jowls: Flesh of lips and jaws.

Knee: See Stifle.

Knuckling over: Faulty structure of corpus (wrist) joint allowing it to flex forward under the weight of the standing dog.

Layback: The angle of the shoulder blade as compared with the vertical plane viewed from the side (laterally).

Leather: The flap of the ear; the outer ear supported by cartilage and surrounding tissue.

Level bite: When the front teeth (incisors) of the upper and lower jaws meet exactly edge to edge. Pincer bite.

Level gait: Dog moves without rise or fall of withers.

Lippy: Pendulous lips or lips that do not fit tightly.

Loaded shoulders: Excessive development of the muscles associated with the shoulder blades (scapulae).

Loin: The region of the body associated with the lumbar portion of the vertebrae column (i.e., posterior to the ribs and anterior to the pelvic girdle).

Loose slung: Construction in which the attachment of the muscles at the shoulders is looser than desirable.

Lumbering: An awkward gait.

Mandible: The bone of the lower jaw.

Metatarsus: Rear pastern.

Molars: The posterior teeth of the dental arcade, with two on each side in the upper jaw and three on each side in the lower jaw in an adult with correct dentition (42 teeth).

Monorchid: A unilateral cryptorchid.

Moving close: When the hocks turn in and pasterns drop straight to the ground and move parallel to one another, the dog is “moving close” in the rear. Action places severe strain on ligaments and muscles.

Moving straight: Term descriptive of balanced gaiting in which angle of inclination begins at the shoulder, or hip joint, and limbs remain relatively straight from these points to the pads of the feet, even as the legs flex or extend in reaching or thrusting.

Muzzle: The head in front of the eyes – nasal bone, nostrils, and jaws. Foreface.

Neck well set-on: Good neckline, merging gradually with withers, forming a pleasing transition into topline.

Nose: Organ of olfaction; also, the ability to detect by means of scent.

Occiput: Dorsal, posterior point of the skull.

Out at elbows: Elbows turning out from the body as opposed to being held close.

Out at shoulders: With shoulder blades loosely attached to the body, leaving the shoulders jutting out in relief and increasing the breadth of the front.

Overreaching: Fault in the trot caused by more angulation and drive from behind than in front, so that the rear feet are forced to step to one side of the forefeet to avoid interfering or clipping.

Overshot: The incisors of the upper jaw projecting beyond the incisors of the lower jaw, thus resulting in a space between the respective inner and outer surfaces.

Pace: A lateral gait which tends to promote a rolling motion of the body. The left foreleg and left hind leg advance in unison, then the right foreleg and right hind leg.

Padding: A compensating action to offset constant concussion when a straight front is subjected to overdrive from the rear; the front feet flip upward in a split-second delaying action to coordinate stride of forelegs with longer stride from behind.

Paddling: A gaiting fault, so named for it similarity to the swing and dip of a canoeist’s paddle. Pinching in at the elbows and shoulder joints causes the front legs to swing forward on a stiff outward arc.

Pads: Tough, shock-absorbing projections on the underside of the feet. Soles.

Pairs: Two specimens (male and female) of the same breed presented as a pair; couple.

Pastern: Commonly recognized as the region of the foreleg between the carpus or wrist and the digits, i.e., the metacarpus; rear – between hock (tarsus) and digits..

Pelvis: Hip bones, each consisting of three fused bones: an anterior illium, a ventral pubis, and a posterior ischium; combined with sacrum forming the pelvic girdle.

Pigeon-breasted: A narrow chest with a protruding breastbone.

Pigeon-toed: Toes pointing in toward the mid-line.

Pig Eyes: Eyes set too close.

Points: Color on face, ears, legs and tail when correlated – usually white, black or tan.

Posterior: The portion of the dog carried hindmost (or toward the rear) during normal locomotion.

Post-legged: Lack of rear angulation.

Pounding: Gaiting fault resultant of dog’s stride being shorter in front than in the rear; forefeet strike the ground hard before the rear stride is expended.

Quality: Refinement, fineness, a degree of excellence.

Rangy: Tall, long in body, high on leg, often lightly framed.

Rat tail: The root thick; at the tip devoid of hair, or having the appearance of being clipped.

Reach of front: Length of forward stride taken by forelegs.

Rear Pastern: The metatarsus, the region of the hindquarters between the hock (tarsus) and the foot (digits).

Rib cage: The collection of paired ribs, cartilage, sternum, and associated tissue that define the thoracic region.

Roach back: A convex curvature of the back involving thoracic and lumbar regions.

Rolling gait: Swaying, ambling action of the hindquarters when moving.

Roman nose: A nose whose bridge is so comparatively high as to form a slightly convex line from forehead to nose tip.

Saber tail: Carried in a semi-circle.

Saddle: A black marking over the back, like a saddle.

Scissors bite: A bite in which the outer side (anterior portion) of the lower incisors touches the inner side (posterior portion) of the upper incisors.

Second thigh: That part of the hindquarter from the stifle to the hock, corresponding to the human shin and calf. Lower thigh, including the tibia and fibula.

Set up: Posed so as to make the most of the dog’s appearance for the show ring.

Sickle hocked: Inability to straighten the hock joint on the back reach of the hind leg.

Shoulder: Shoulder blade (scapula) sometimes referred to as the angle articulated by the shoulder blade and the humerus (upper arm).

Sire: The male parent.

Skeleton: Descriptively divided into axial (skull, vertebrae column, chest) and appendicular (forequarters, hindquarters) portions.

Slab sided: Flat ribs with too little spring from the spinal column.

Sloping shoulder: The shoulder blade set obliquely or “laid back.”

Snipy: A pointed, weak muzzle, lacking breadth and depth.

Soundness: True, efficient movement.

Splayfoot: A flat foot with toes spreading. Open foot, open-toed.

Spring of ribs: Curvature of ribs for heart and lung capacity.

Square body: A dog whose measurements from withers to the ground equals that from forechest to the buttocks.

Stance: Manner of standing.

Standard: A description of the ideal dog of each recognized breed, to serve as a word pattern by which dogs are judged at shows.

Steep: Used to denote incorrect angles of articulation. For example, a steep front describes a more upright shoulder placement than is preferred.

Stern: Tail.

Sternum: Breastbone.

Stifle: The joint of the hind leg between the thigh (femur) and the second thigh (tibia). The dog’s knee.

Stop: The step up from muzzle to back skull; indentation between the eyes where the nasal bones and cranium meet.

Straight-hocked: Lacking appreciable angulation at the hock joints.

Straight in pastern: Little or no bend at the wrist.

Straight shoulders: The shoulder blades rather straight up and down, as opposed to sloping or “well laid back.”

Substance: Bone.

Swayback: Concave curvature of the vertebrae column between the withers and the hipbones.

Symmetry: Pleasing balance between all parts of the dog.

Tail set: How the base of the tail sets on the rump.

Testicles: The male gonad which produces spermatozoa.

Thigh: The hindquarter from hip to stifle.

Throatiness: An excess of loose skin under the throat. Sometimes referred to as dewlappy.

Ticked: Small, isolated areas of black or colored hairs on a white ground.

Tongue: The barking or baying of hounds on the trail, as to give tongue, to open or speak.

Topline: The dog’s outline from just behind the withers to the tail set.

Trail: To hunt by following ground scent.

Tri-color: Three-color; white, black and tan.

Trot: A rhythmic two-beat diagonal gait in which the feet at diagonally opposite ends of the body strike the ground together; i.e., right hind with left front and left hind with right front.

Tuck-up: Characterized by markedly shallower body depth at the loin.

Type: The characteristic qualities distinguishing a breed; the embodiment of a standard’s essentials.

Underline: The combined contours of the brisket and the abdominal floor.

Undershot: The front teeth (incisors) of the lower jaw overlapping or projecting beyond the front teeth of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed.

Unsound: A dog incapable of performing the functions for which it was bred. Or, poor movement.

Upper arm: The humerus or bone of the foreleg, between the shoulder blade and the forearm and associated tissues.

Walk: Gaiting pattern in which three legs are in support of the body at all times, each foot lifting from the ground one at a time in regular sequence.

Weedy: An insufficient amount of bone; light-boned.

Well let down: Having short hocks; refers to short metatarsals.

Wet neck: Loose or superfluous skin; with dewlap.

Whiskers: Vibrissae or sensory organs (hairs) on the sides of the muzzle.

Withers: The region defined by the dorsal portions of the spinous processes of the first two thoracic vertebrae and flanked by the dorsal (uppermost) portions of the scapulae.

Wry mouth: Asymmetrical alignment of upper and lower jaws; cross bite.


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