Showsight Presents The Bulldog

Judge Priorities, Not Point Scales

BY ANNE M. HIER, JD MFA

T he AKC Bulldog breed standard was penned by the Bulldog Club of America (BCA) in 1890 and has survived with only two changes. At the request of AKC, the nose disqualification for “Dudley nose” was clarified as “liver or flesh colored nose.” More recently, in 2016, disqualifications were added for non-standard colors, and blue or green eyes, to eliminate so-called “rare colors” from competition (and preferably from breeding stock), even though most of these colors (particularly merle) had never occurred in the breed. The Bulldog breed standard has always had a scale of points appended to it, even as far back as 1860, in England, when Dr. John Walsh (one of the earliest promoters of organized dog shows) of The Field started putting various standards into print. When the Bulldog Club (England) was founded in 1875, point scales were commonly in use in conjunction with the written standards. Indeed, many of the early Bulldog shows were judged “on points,” which did not always lead to a satisfactory outcome. The current AKC Bulldog breed standard still carries a point scale. THE RISE AND FALL OF POINT SCALES If a written standard adequately describes the “ideal” or “per- fect” specimen of the breed, what is the purpose of a point scale? For the breeder and fancier, a correctly comprised point scale defines the priorities of type in the breed. Characteristics that are essential to breed type in various breeds are given the highest value. For example, the point scale for the French Bulldog was dropped from the standard in 1991. However, at one time, the point scale gave 8 points to ears (lack of the correct bat ear being a disqualification), 6 points to skull, and 6 points to jaws. Even without a point scale, anyone judging this breed today should be aware that these elements are high value areas of focus for assess- ing correct type in the ring. Point scales came into vogue with the increased popular- ity of dog shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As the spectator gate grew, point scales were distributed so that the audience could follow along with the decisions made in the ring. Newspapers even printed point scales for various breeds, with the statement that their readers would be able to recognize a quality specimen. During much of the 20th Century, most new breeds recognized by AKC originally came in with point scales appended to the written breed standard. In the AKC breed standard book published in 1935 (then titled Pure-Bred Dog s), 58% of the 102 breeds then recognized had point scales.

When AKC mandated standard formatting of all breed stan- dards some 40 years ago, parent clubs were pressured to drop the point scales from their breed standards. This was strongly suggested even if there were no changes to the standards other than simple reformatting. When it came time for BCA to reformat, AKC was advised that the club would only do so under the condition that the point scale be kept as part of the breed standard. Despite objections, BCA, with Bulldog-like tenacity, held its ground. This was possible because, unlike The Kennel Club or FCI, which control the content of the breed standards, Article IV, Section 4 of the AKC Charter and Bylaws is clear that it is the Parent Clubs—not the AKC Board of Directors—that have the sole power to define the “true type” and that no modifications can be made to breed standards of the various breeds without the express permission of the parent clubs. So, what is the big deal about keeping the scale of points for Bulldogs? Well, Bulldoggers have a long tradition and history, and that is the way it has always been. If it ain’t broke, we won’t be fix- ing it. More importantly, the point scale clearly shows the unique priorities of the breed. Those wishing to judge Bulldogs, who do not come from our breed, may assume that the head, as a whole, is a big priority. It is. On the point scale it is worth a grand total of 39 points. But which element do you think we consider the most important? Who would guess nose at 6 points? And it is not that the dog must have one—that’s a given. But historically, the nose was the key element for the Bulldog to be able to breathe while hanging onto the bull. The nose is large, broad, well laid back with a specific maximum length, and it must have large, black nostrils. The fact that the nose must be black is important, too, as brown or liver disqualify. Are judges really taking all this in when examining the breed? Next on the head we have 5 points each for skull, ears, wrinkle, and jaws. Additionally, there are 4 points for the stop, as the breed’s unique furrow is a key landmark of the skull. Whether or not you are aware of the point scale, judging the head by simply asking the exhibitor to show the bite and not actually physically examining any of these important features of type is not a breed-specific exam. Two other elements with 5 points each are proportion and symmetry, and shoulders, aptly described in writing in the standard proper. Unfor- tunately, looking at the numerous Bulldogs in the ring with incor- rect tight shoulders, one might not realize that the 5 points for this feature of anatomy are for the unique contributors to an essential stance—muscular, very heavy, widespread, and slanting outward.

SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2021 | 199

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