ShowSight Presents The Bearded Collie

follow and understand nature’s answers to problems of natural construction and temperament. Th e standard represents an attempt to quantify that which the eyes and hands have seen and felt to be true in any breed. However, anyone who attempts to judge a breed solely on the basis of a written stan- dard will inevitably fall short. What the standard helps do is to summarize and, to a certain extent, prioritize the impor- tant aspects of a breed. What it does not do is adequately address all the individual nuances of a given breed that define type. Th e best judges are those who system- atically study and learn the intricacies of the breeds they will be judging—by read- ing, by being mentored, by observing in and out of the ring, and by countless hours of discussion and debate with other knowl- edgeable people, breeders and other judges alike. Remember, too, that a di ff erence of opinion is not necessarily a di ff erence of principle. You can agree to disagree, and everyone may be perfectly correct. Beardies present a conundrum: the breed is an ancient one, with an ancient heritage, no doubt about that. But the Bearded Collie that we all know and love has essentially evolved from dogs in the late ’40s and early ’50s. When we discuss the integrity of the breed, we are not necessar- ily speaking solely about those unknown Highland workers for whom a very di ff erent set of problems was reality. Th e earliest written standards—and they may well precede even the 1805 Scottish version many of us have read—reflected the dogs of the time, just as our does—or should do—today. In our breed, as for most breeds, the standard was created to define dogs in existence in an attempt to fix type.

It is the original, inherent character quali- ties that define not only the true essence of the breed, but the physical makeup as well. It should be remembered, moreover, that we have, and society has, for the most part, essentially changed the job for which the breed was developed. For in spite of our sincere e ff orts to maintain the working abil- ity of which we can justifiably be proud, it is that show ring with its specific require- ments, that has become the natural “work- ing” arena for the Bearded Collie today. And though change is inevitable—and not always an evil thing—the dogs in the ring today do not define the essence of the breed. Rather, they should be considered reflections of the breed’s original intent. Consequently, to put up a dog with pic- ture-perfect structural qualities, but inap- propriate expression of temperament for the breed, does a disservice to both the breed and the standard. Mental stability goes with physical abil- ity. I know many of us perceive and like to promote our breed as carefree, loveable clowns. While there is surely that aspect to a good Beardie’s temperament, there must be much more to it than that. Going back to our historical job description, what was required by the herdsmen and drovers was considerably di ff erent than the canine equivalent of the proverbial dumb blonde. So, while pretty much anybody, given enough time and perseverance, can read and re-read our standard, and quote it back ver- batim, to correctly understand and appraise a breed requires more than a good memory. Most good dog judges would agree that they carry a clearly defined mental picture of the ideal breed dog in their heads. Any dog can gait soundly. And there is a great tendency to define breeds only within the

limited scope of basic structure. To be sure, you must know basic dog structure and its conformation in relation to all the moving parts. But even though the old type versus soundness debate still rears its ugly head from time to time, I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. Pitting the essence of the breed against the generalized biological requisites neces- sary to define the breed’s overall balance and general appearance is counterproduc- tive to good judging. You must examine the breed in breed-specific ways, and that means, as Anne Rogers Clark so succinctly puts it, “make your first cut on type and then reward the soundness of your typical specimens.” Th at makes type and sound- ness a continuum. Balance and proportion are probably the most important aspects to be defined by any standard. Dogs must be considered as a whole and not as a large assortment of various parts. A dog can score well on individual points and still not be balanced. Our standard spells out a number of cru- cial points on balance and proportion, and your general education and dog knowledge fills in others. A Beardie considered to be within the guidelines set down in the standard is an acceptable animal to do the work for which he was intended. When you examine a Bearded Collie in profile, you should immediately discern on a medium-sized frame the 5:4 proportion called for in our standard which contributes to the suppleness and movement of a tireless herding dog. Th at the length of back should come from the ribcage and not the loin helps insure a firm, level topline, with no wasted energy expended on twisting or roll- ing. Such a topline connotes both strength and agility. An incorrect croup may cause or exacerbate the exaggerated rear kickup we see all too frequently in our breed. Or it may bring the rear foot too far under the body to allow the necessary balance front to rear to show good typical sidegait. Excessive hock action is undesirable and keeping the hocks well let down avoids this problem. Th e correct slope of pastern is necessary for the quick turns of the herd- er and acts as an e ff ective shock absorber. Legs and feet that turn neither in nor out, but remain straight even when flexed in movement mean maximum thrust, unweakened by joints being out of line. But don’t confuse the relative narrowness of correct movement in a lean body with either hockiness or overcloseness.

With the exception of the short-legged corgis, the Beardie is the longest-bodies of the herding breeds in proportion: 5 to 4, length to height. A Beardie should be rectangular, never square or cobby.

Angulation of the hindquarters, ideally, is equal to that of the shoulders, requiring necessary length of stifle.

Continued on pg. 238


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