Showsight Presents The Russell Terrier

INTERPRETING THE RUSSELL TERRIER BREED STANDARD

Figure 2

Figure 3

head/expression, movement, and coat. Anna Katherine Nicholas in her book, The Nicholas Guide to Dog Judging, refers to type as a combination of distinguishing features that add up to give each breed its stamp of individuality. Variations within a breed do not change type, however, and so I would argue for an even simpler view of “type.” Dogs of the same breed are basically the same type, per Dr. Harry Spira in Canine Terminology . There are good ones and bad ones, but if you can tell what breed it is, the dog has enough breed type to make it onto the scale. When you order a T-shirt online and choose a solid color silhouette of a dog of your breed to be imprinted on it, you have chosen a breed type. You can tell a Scottie from a Wire Fox Terrier from a Sealyham. Can you identify a Russell Terrier? We need to at least get to that minimal point in defining breed type for the Russell Terrier so that we have a recognizable silhouette. The silhouettes of Russell Terriers that have earned AKC championships are far too varied (Fig 2). Obvi- ously, we have a lot of work to do before we can establish basic breed type and get breeders and judges to agree. Proportion of height-to-length is one of the most important factors in drawing that breed silhouette in our mind. Most breed standards describe height as that which is measured at the with- ers. (Are the withers the top of the first thoracic vertebral spine or is it the tip of the scapula… that’s a whole different discussion.) So, let’s discuss length. Breed standards often vary with respect to how length is measured; is it from the withers to the base of the tail or from the point of shoulder to the point of hip? Let us look at some examples. (I’ve rephrased some from the standards in order to create parallel comparisons.) For the Wire Fox Terrier (WFT), the length from the point of shoulder to the buttock should approximately equal the height.

For both the Parson Russell Terrier and the Border Terrier, the distance from the withers to the tail should be slightly less than the height. Interpreting these descriptions suggests that the WFT has a square silhouette overall, with that square encompassing the forequarters and hindquarters, and so the back itself must be quite short to allow for a decent shoulder and a moderate length to the pelvis. A straight-shouldered WFT with a steep tilt of a short pelvis could have a longer back and still remain square overall in its silhouette. The PRT and Border Terrier are not square overall because the length-to-height parameters do not encompass the forequarters and hindquarters. This means that a PRT with a good shoulder and hip will appear slightly rectangular in its overall silhouette. Some call it off-square. Now we come to the Russell Terrier. The Russell Terrier stan- dard states that the measurement from the withers to the tail should be slightly longer than the dog is tall, but then it also says that the point of shoulder to the buttocks should be propor- tioned marginally longer than the height. This is a conundrum. If the length from the withers to the tail is slightly longer than the height, when you add in the forequarters and hindquarters, the overall silhouette becomes very rectangular (Fig 3), so much so that the dog’s proportions would exceed even that of a Cesky Terrier that has a ratio of length-to-height of 1.5 to 1. The Rus- sell Terrier breed standard gives no numbers or ratios. It simply uses the adjectives “marginally,” “moderate,” and “slightly,” and each refers to different measurement points. Because length-to- height measurements can be greatly affected by the set-on of the neck, lay of the shoulder, set of the tail, and pelvic length and tilt, it is probably best not to measure when looking at overall

208 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2021

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