the Ridgeback should be a loyal guardian. I guess I don’t see only a single purpose for this breed (and I also know that they can play a fine couch potato role). 8. When judging RRs a judge should put the follow- ing attributes in what order: Temperament; Agility; Side movement; Feet; Ridge; Head; Color. JA: Clearly the above list is missing some more important characteristics; Strong, muscular and active. Symmetrical and balanced in outline. Slightly longer than tall but well balanced Height, weight and correct angulation separate functional dogs from those who are too large or who may be over/under angulated for the breed and, therefore, lack breed type. “Looks good standing still” is not in our standard. Compact feet with well-arched toes are a must in this breed. Flat feet or long toes are not correct for this breed. Remember the breed must have great endurance and all of the running gear must be there for the dog to function. Look at heads to further separate; head of a fair length and a flat skull that’s rather broad between the ears. The RR should have strong jaws. Side movement: Correct footfall is to the end of the nose when fully extended. That’s as far as the efficient, long, free and unrestricted movement in this breed needs to go. The feet remain close to the ground when trotting (both front and rear). The back should remain level. Yes, the dog must have a ridge and, ideally, it starts immediately behind the shoulder blades and end at the hip with two crowns (whorls) that are directly across from each other and no further than 1 / 3 down the length of the ridge. Until the AKC decides to put weave poles in the confor- mation ring, the judge will have to use the rest of the breed characteristics to judge agility. Sadly, the word does not appear in our standard, although, “At the chase, the Ridgeback demonstrates great coursing ability…” Maybe, sort of covers that, although, when one imagines Ridgebacks baying the “King of Beasts”, does one really picture the lion trying to hightail it out of Dodge? Neither do I. Agility is what kept the Ridgebacks alive at the end of the day. SF: Silhouette, (agility) height/weight, overall movement (not just side!), feet, head, ridge and, lastly, color. DF: In a breed whose byword is balance, an ordered list like this can only serve to misguide new judges. Instead, I’ll comment on each to give some perspective. Temperament. Ridgebacks are aloof and reserved with strangers and latitude should be given to puppies or young dogs that may be green and unfamiliar with the show ring; Ridgebacks are, after all, suspicious of the unfamiliar. But adult, ringwise dogs that slink, cower and spook are not displaying the typical, stable temperament required of the breed.
Agility. Athleticism and the ability to get out of its own way are a fundamental requirement in a Ridgeback, but they must be balanced by correct substance. Side movement. One looks for smooth, easy, collected, ground-covering movement, with the head and tail elevat- ed slightly above the backline and no wasted motion. But one must also expect soundness on the down and back: There are far too many Ridgebacks wobbling on weak hocks as they come and go. Feet. As in any hound, splayed, weak feet are a serious fault. We want strong toes and never any flatness. Ridge. The ridge is of course the hallmark of the breed, and its presence marks the Ridgeback as descending from the ridged Khoi dog of southern Africa. That said, judges should avoid becoming “ridge freaks”: It is far harder to breed a good Ridgeback under that ridge. Head. Hounds do not run on their heads, but of late find- ing a good, handsome Ridgeback head with the correct dark, round (not almond!) Eye is becoming frighteningly difficult. We are losing our heads and if you ascribe to the theory that head styles follow body styles, perhaps it is not coincidental that we are simultaneously losing cor- rect body proportions. Color. Ridgeback breeders do not breed for color, so in the U.S. we are not hobbled by the fascination for ever-redder, verging on mahogany dogs that has taken hold on the other side of the Atlantic. We acknowledge, even celebrate, the fact that the light wheaten dogs are just as correct as their arguably flashier, dark red wheaten counterparts, just as black noses aren’t any “more correct” than browns. As a rule we tolerate even more white than the standard outlines (a short sock on an otherwise typey dog won’t bother most breeder- judges). You get the idea: We don’t obsess about color— unless someone brings a black-and-tan in the ring. (Yes, they exist, and, yes, it’s been done before.) Then watch the fireworks. LM: Given my previous answers it should be no surprise that I rank a stable, confident temperament very highly. There is no room with a strong, powerful dog for an untrustworthy, timid nature. Since the Ridgeback could be called upon to perform some demanding tasks, everything having to do with physical ability (movement, agility, feet all get lumped in here) is important. A strong, handsome head, masculine or feminine, with bright intelligent eyes and ears framing the face is very desir- able. A Ridgeback must have a ridge, but as an “outsider”, I find I do not place great emphasis on excellence in that area. For me, it’s more likely to possibly be a deciding factor between good dogs. And as for color, if it’s in the standard, it works for me. I’m sure others may well prioritize things a bit differently and I believe that varying opinions help keep the balance in any breed.
294 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2017
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