Showsight September 2021


Figure 3. Chest Shapes

The oval-tapered, or egg-shaped, chest provides the same flat surface for the shoulder blade movement, and the narrow- ing of the bottom of the oval helps to permit leg convergence under the body of the dog, which is especially important in the dwarf breeds. (See Figure 5.) From the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Standard: “Body—Rib cage should be well sprung, slightly egg- shaped and moderately long. Deep chest, well let down between the forelegs.” The round chest of the Bulldog gives maximum volume for the heart and lungs, and this wider chest spreads the front legs farther apart, providing for more stability in the stance. (See Figure 6.) From the Bulldog Standard: “Body—The brisket and body should be very capacious, with full sides, well-rounded ribs and very deep from the shoulders down to its lowest part, where it joins the chest. It should be well let down between the shoulders and forelegs, giving the dog a broad, low, short-legged appearance. Chest—The chest should be very broad, deep and full.” In contrast to the Bulldog, the narrower oval chest of many dogs varies from breed to breed, and also varies in the breadth of the chest. It is particularly found in Sighthounds such as the Grey- hound, as it allows the shoulder blade to oscillate more efficiently on their narrower, more flat-sided chest. (See Figure 7.) The shape of the Sighthound is more aerodynamic, which helps to ensure that they can reach and maintain their high running speeds. From the Greyhound Standard: “Chest—Deep, and as wide as consistent with speed, fairly well-sprung ribs.” From the Whippet Standard: “Bris- ket very deep, reaching as nearly as possible to the point of the elbow. Ribs well sprung but with no suggestion of barrel shape. The space between the forelegs is filled in so that there is no appearance of a hol- low between them.”

This entire structure is referred to as the thorax or chest, and often more simply as the rib cage. It serves several functions, including the protection of the vital organs contained within its bounds (most notably the heart and lungs) and the initiation of a bellows-like action necessary for breathing. It also acts as a sup- porting structure upon which the forequarters are “hung.” The chest also determines the width of the dog. Let’s take a closer look at the terminology used when describ- ing the chest, and how its make and shape can influence the dog’s movement. There are basically four shapes of the canine chest; the oval, the oval-tapered (egg-shaped), the round or barrel, and the narrow chest. (See Figure 3.) The round chest has the greatest volume of any shape and the least surface area. Plus, the ribs are structurally stronger. The other shapes have a decrease in the volume of the chest cavity as the chest narrows, but it also deepens to allow room for the heart and lungs. The oval chest provides a flat surface for the oscillation of the shoulder blade and is the most commonly found shape of the chest in the dog. An oval chest is one that is deeper than wide. (See Figure 4.) From the German Shepherd Dog Standard: “Chest— Commencing at the prosternum, it is well filled and carried well down between the legs. It is deep and capacious, never shallow, with ample room for lungs and heart, carried well forward, with the pro- sternum showing ahead of the shoulder in profile. Ribs well sprung and long, neither barrel-shaped nor too flat, and carried down to a sternum which reaches to the elbows. Correct ribbing allows the elbows to move back freely when the dog is at a trot. Too round causes interference and throws the elbows out; too flat or short causes pinched elbows.”

Figure 4. Oval

Figure 5. Egg Shape

Figure 6. Round

Figure 7. Narrow


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