In defense of official breed standards

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HJ van der Merwe

"Then they crowded sail, and beat the old sea, and forth they went with a forward gale." (The Adventures of Ulysses, p 114).

If there is one battle which no dedicated breeder of pedigreed dogs is fighting alone, it is the staving off of the onslaught of nature against the better qualities of our breeds. To produce a litter is no great accomplishment, but to be able to improve on the sire and the dam – therein lies the challenge. We, who classify ourselves as dedicated breeders, have therefore set our minds to a purpose – and a noble purpose it is indeed.

To my mind, two of the most important ingredients for the successful breeding of dogs worthy of being labeled "pedigreed", are: (i) the absence of kennel-blindness, and (ii) an honest commitment to improve the breed. This constitutes the price to be calculated before venturing to become seriously involved in the planned reproduction of pedigreed dogs.

From my observations through the years it would seem imperative that each breeder be possessed of a master plan, some blueprint, a well-defined mental image of the ideal specimen of the particular breed – as it is described in the official standard for that breed. Without such a plan, what is the use of breeding "pedigreed" dogs? Surely, and of this I am convinced, a pedigree should not be goal in itself? Surely it should also serve as testimony that the specimen is a product of an honest attempt at reincarnating the verbal image described in the said Standard? If not, then I believe we should rather refrain from breeding at all...

Therefore, when those who want to pick bones about the official standards cross ones path, there is no need to get ones monkey up, for one has this consolation: there are many fine examples, both living and dead, of what the correct dog/bitch for each breed should look like and there are many arduous creators of such specimens hard at work at keeping up that high standard.

Long live the official breed standards and the true-bred dogs and bitches that resulted from it!

In parting, Jonathan Swift said: "I hope the gentle reader will excuse me for dwelling on these and the like particulars, which however insignificant they may appear to grovelling vulgar minds, yet will certainly help a philosopher to enlarge his thoughts and imagination, and apply them to the benefit of the public as well as private life, which was my sole design in presenting this and other accounts." (Gulliver’s Travels, p 133).

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