The Tawny Briard’s Coat: The Challenge of Getting it Right By Ellen Jo Myers
color is uniform, and “char- bonné”, which, as just said, refers to a light overlay of black or charcoal-gray. European Briard fanciers have favored the former since the end of World War I, when the breed built itself back up again after sustaining heavy losses on the battlefield (the dogs served in the war as sen- tries. Before that time, the breed was dominated by blacks.) In any event, the French standard has long stat- ed that dogs with heavy black or gray mantles are not acceptable. It’s not that the French don’t produce clunk- ers. They do – it’s just that they’re not considered show dog material. They’re placed in good homes and the breed- er tries again. The truth is, good breed- ers on both sides of the Atlantic regard these dogs at the polar ends of the color spectrum as a source of embarrassment. Those who send a dog into the ring who isn’t true to type are convey- ing the dispiriting message that he’s their best effort. Even worse is when a breed- er mates two dogs with bad coats to each other, creating a situation from which there is no escape. And yet this practice is all too common in the American Briard world. No dog is perfect and no breeder is expected to pro-
duce a perfect dog. But the best breeders demonstrate a readiness to correct defects as they arise and to approach such challenges with patience, even if that means working in the dark for years. They give equal weight to all aspects of the standard, not just the ones that will lead to a blue rib- bon at the fair or by pump- ing up limited correctness. Like Francis Maquin, they will pass up the easy plea- sure of the crowd-pleaser, or marketed neglect, in favor of the deeper satisfaction of a dog whose tawny coat and color they finally got right, along with everything else needed. There’s a bit of the poet in the process. After all, if one is saying he is going to write a poem in the form of a sonnet, which has very specific rules but the poet submits a poem that simply does not fit the requirements of a sonnet, although it might have lovely sound and rhythm and even some meaning, if the poem does not comply with the requirements of a sonnet, it isn’t one. Ellen Jo Myers is an award- winning breeder of Briards. She is the author of a com- pilation of interviews with noted breeders that will be published in 2011.
missible. In Europe, howev- er, ivory and extremely light tawnies are rejected. According to the Oxford English dictionary, tawny comes from the French word, tan. The au arose from simply pronunciation. It goes on to say that tawny “is the name of a composite color, consisting of brown, with a preponderance of yellow or orange, but for- merly applied to other shades of brown.” Webster’s Dictionary says that tawny means “...a warm sandy color like that of a well- tanned skin, (as in a lion)” or “a brownish orange to light brown color.” Similarly, the French word for tawny is “fauve”, meaning “like a fawn”. To my mind, that says it all. The charbonné coat has a very specific boundary of acceptance of meaning, and has never allowed for a heavy overlay of black or grey, and is never permitted except with a true tawny color apparent in the coat. The grey or black hairs are allowed as a woven hair color into the tawny coat or simply a light overlay. In the spectrum of tawny Briards, there are coats that are known in breeder par- lance as “clear”, meaning the
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