Showsight Presents The Rhodesian Ridgeback

RIDGEBACK: A BREED Q & A

1. As a breeder/judge, you have a warehouse of knowledge that the average person doesn’t possess. What do you believe is most misunderstood about the breed? What do novice judges fail to grasp? JA: I still believe that weight and “heavy in bone in the foreleg” are the least understood features of the Rhode- sian Ridgeback. I’m somewhat encouraged to see lately that height is starting to come back more towards the breed standard requirements. However, I’m convinced that between both breeders and judges, the emphasis on heavy bone (and the way overemphasized reach and drive) has disregarded the breed’s weight requirements. One must always keep in mind that this breed’s primary trait is great endurance, coupled with balance and decent speed. Do not be fooled by excessive reach and drive and pay close attention to how this breed moves on the down and back. Movement is to be balanced and effortless. SF: The overall correct silhouette of the Ridgeback; the correct ratio of height to length and body depth to length of leg. Once RRs were allowed to lure course, we began seeing too much leg and too short bodies, i.e. taller than long. A Ridgeback, although fairly square, should give the impression of length. Most novice judges I’ve mentored start asking about cosmetic things: wrinkles on the head, white, etc—those things should be way down the list in their decisions. DF: While it sounds like a cliché, many novice judges have difficulty getting their arms around correct Ridgeback type. This is understandable, because the central concept of the Ridgeback is the tension between opposing forces: between power and elegance; between strength and agility; between endurance and speed. It’s the canine version of Goldilocks—you want it just right. But striking this balance is not easy, in the whelping box as much as in the ring, and most times judges are left to choose among exhibits who fall to one side of this dividing line or the other. The key is to know and reward that perfect balance when you find it. Another challenge with judging the Ridgeback is that it is a relatively young breed and these “drags” bubble up peri- odically. There are Bullmastiff-influenced Ridgebacks. (I bred one who was the spitting image of Roger of the Fenns, who is in every Bullmastiff pedigree as a founda- tion sire.) There are Greyhound-influenced Ridgebacks, with exaggerated tuck-ups, weedy bone and pinheads. And of late, we seem to be having a reversion to Great Dane type. Recent studies show that the Ridgeback is

more generically related to the Dane than any other breed, and we see this manifesting in the Ridgeback ring in dogs who are oversized but relatively narrow for their height, with square not rectangular silhouettes, atypi- cal heads with excessive flews and, even, black masking extending over the eyes and overdone, hocky rear quar- ters that start in Manhattan and end in Montauk. This is not Ridgeback type. 2. What’s our best route to getting this done? JA: We pay a fair amount of attention to educating judges; I’d like to see our parent club take a more active role in trying to improve the education of breeders. SF: Good question! My suggestion would be more emphasis on correct proportions by mentors. 3. Are you taking advantage of the recent break- throughs in DNA markers for DM, deafness and ridgelessness? JA: I’ve tested for DM for a number of years; I’ve also BAER tested a number of my dogs as well. I tested all of my dogs for EOAD (Early Onset Adult Deafness) but I don’t person- ally believe the test is 100% proven at this time. I’m saying that even though all of my dogs tested clear. As far as ridge- less testing—no, I see no reason to perform that test. Any ridgeless my bitches have produced in the past went to pet home on spay/neuter contracts. The research for RRIVA (RR inherited ventricular arrhythmia) and JME (Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy), I consider far more important to overall breed health than ridgelessness. SF: Yes, I do DNA for DM and EAOD, but not ridgeless. It’s not a disease, merely cosmetic. The RRCUS encourages members to test. 4. Would you breed a ridgeless dog if it were a superior animal? JA: No. There are a sufficient number of superior ridged dogs around the world that can be considered for inclu- sion into any breeding program. SF: Yes. You can easily find a dominant ridge dog, so all pups would be ridged. This is a case where testing for ridge dominance would be wise. DF: Currently, the code of ethics of the Rhodesian Ridge- back Club of the United States prevents members from selling ridgeless Ridgebacks for breeding purposes, though the code of ethics technically does not preclude a breeder from keeping a ridgeless and breeding it herself.

288 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2017

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