Showsight Presents The Rhodesian Ridgeback

THE RIDGEBACK CLASSIFICATION CONUNDRUM—STILL...

by NANCY FAVILLE Diablo Rhodesian Ridgebacks

W e recently attended the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City. Although the breed competition has moved to the West side piers, the Groups are still held at Madison Square Garden; the same capacious area, purple and gold furnishings on green car- pet. Yet, even here, even in this ample sized venue some Groups appear crowded. With the 31 entries present for Hound, Terrier and Sporting Groups, each, dogs seemed nearly nose to tail in the ring. It doesn’t take long to connect the dots. You have to think back to the fairly recent dog show past. Given the continuous growth of the seven Groups due to recogni- tion of breeds from the Miscellaneous class, how long will it be before the AKC resur- rects the concept of breed realignment? In October 2007, the AKC formed a committee to explore ways to change the group structure and the breeds assigned to each group to better manage group size. An interesting, initial proposal was made in 2009, but sent back to a reformed to com- mittee to be redrafted based on new infor- mation. In November 2011 a new proposal was accepted by the AKC Board of Direc- tors. In March 2012, however, AKC dele- gates defeated the Realignment Committee recommendation to split the existing seven groups into 11, even though the majority of delegates supported the concept. If an addi- tional 16 delegates had voted in favor of the recommendation—a two-thirds vote is required; this last proposal would be a done deal. And Ridgebacks, based on input from the national club supported by a polling of its members, would have been categorized as Sight Hounds. At the time (2009-2011), I was one of the more than willing American (this is key) Ridgeback fanciers willing to whole- heartedly support the notion that a Ridge- back was indeed a Sight Hound. It was the popular position and the classification was supported by many, if not all, of the

American Ridgeback mentors who have been associated with the breed since the Ridgeback was introduced in the United States in 1950, or thereabouts. Prior to the introduction of the world- wide web in 1991—some 24 years ago— Ridgeback breeders and owners relied on limited resources for information about their dogs. Just about everyone you knew had two books: Th e Complete Rhodesian Ridgeback by Peter Nicholson and Janet Parker and the less common Th e Rhodesian Ridgeback— Th e Origin, History and Stan- dard by T. C. Hawley. Th ese two books were commonly used by Ridgeback breed- ers to develop historic breed information articles that they could share with Ridge- back owners and prospective puppy owners on their newly developed websites. Many of us relied on those concise summaries for our basic education of the Ridgeback’s developmental history. Once home computers became com- mon place, the web took over as the go- to source for newly published Ridgeback information. One of the best, most com- prehensive sites for the Ridgeback has become Wikipedia, a collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it. Th is wiki is heav- ily influenced by information from the Lamarade Perro website (possibly reliant on Hawley and Nicholson/Parker), Ken- nel Clubs from various nations, scientific studies and inclusive of current Ridgeback author Denise Flaim. Information from Wikipedia does not bear a “contested information” warning in its header and has been copied, verbatim, by at least one regional Ridgeback club on the history

Bull Dog, Pointer, Irish Terrier, Airedale Terrier, Collie, Great Dane, Masti ff and maybe some Deerhound, Bloodhound and Saluki, if everything you read is true. While Ridgebacks were first admitted to the AKC as part of the Hound Group in 1955, they were first registered with the South African Kennel Union (SAKU) by Ridgeback pioneers, Francis Barnes in par- ticular, as a “gundog, with a breed stan- dard based on the Dalmatian, the ultimate endurance “trotter”. Th e Ridgeback wiki includes a section entitled “Classification Conundrum”. Here you can learn that the rationale behind that “gundog classification; it was the choice that made sense at the time given the definition of labels available. Th en, it reads, “Over time the culturally perceived meanings of the group labels had changed to those closer to their modern meanings and the Union (SAKU) eventually became a federated member of the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)—the largest canine organization in the world, then and now—and therefore adopted its group categorization system. By 1940, Barnes had resigned from the Rhodesian Parent Club and prompted by the lobby- ing of a newer generation of leadership within the Rhodesian Parent Club, in the 1950s, the breed’s group classification was changed from “Gundog” to “Hound”. 1 Most generally, Hounds are defined as dogs bred to hunt animals. Th e short ver- sion of the five theories identified in this wiki are as follows: • Scent Hound — Th is theory arises from form and ability of Ridgebacks as athletic hunting dogs who traveled great distances over the varied southern African landscape guided primarily by scent. Th is functionality required an e ffi cient gait, endurance and body sub- stance not found in the Sight Hounds of northern Africa. 1. The Rhodesian Ridgeback – Wiki, http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodesian_Ridgeback

page of their website. CLASSIFICATION

Ridgebacks have a complex origin. Th ey are a 19th century mash-up of a semi-domesticated Hottentot African dog (most likely the Ridged Africanis) with a variety of European breeds: Greyhound,

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