Collie Breed Magazine - Showsight

and become popular among the exhibi- tors, and more importantly among the breeders. In describing the head itself, it refers to it as a “well-blunted lean wedge”— and those words are important. We do not seek a head this heavy or overdone, nor do we want a long skinny head that is the same width in front as in back. Sometimes people forget the term “wedge”. The head profile is one of two straight parallel planes of equal length, divided by a very slight, but perceptible stop. In other words a moderate transi- tion from one plane to the other. But one of the hallmark qualities of the breed is the expression, and as the standard states, “Expression is one of the most important points in consider- ing the relative value of Collies. Expres- sion, like the term character is difficult to define in words”. That last sentence makes it clear that in order to really understand it, one must learn through optical illustration, looking at as many Collies as they possibly can. When one gets to see a good expression, they rarely forget it, and that image becomes the mental template against which all others are compared. The shape of the head, the finishing details, and very importantly the color, size, shape and placement of the eye are all linked together. And again, balance and mod- eration come into play. There were periods where most Collies had a larg- er, lighter eye—the result most likely, of breeding for other important head char- acteristics at the time. But that period was followed by breeders concentrating on creating a smaller, darker eye. Unfor- tunately, in some cases it was carried to the extreme and the breed suffered a period of Collies with small, hard eyes resulting in hard expression appeared. The pendulum swung back, and as eyes were coming to a good place, a race for faster maturing heads evolved, and thus there was a shortening of the head with eyes that were too wide set to give the correct forward outlook that is so important to a beautiful Collie. So the modern master breeder sets a pattern of balance and moderation, to keep the dogs on an even keel. They stay away from the extremes and breed as closely to the standard as possible. Judges need to evaluate these dogs in much the same way, as it helps to keep a breed on track, and keeps those judges popular as well!


and judge accordingly, and become popular among the serious breeders. Having presented many years of Judges Education, I also realize the importance of moderation in making selections, and moderation in present- ing the standard itself to those who want to judge our breed. In the section dealing with head qualities in our stan- dard, it is sometimes the adjectives and adverbs that dictate the proper way to assess certain aspects. Having been involved with this breed through six decades, it has been interesting to note the various fads and trends that come and go. Some will appear as a fleeting glance; others will become strongly ingrained and take several years to eradicate or rebalance. What one must remember is that the Collie as we know it today, has under- gone great evolution since the begin- ning, transitioning from a shorter-head- ed, shorter-legged dog with a lower ear and a larger eye into the Collie as we know it today. Through well over a cen- tury of breeding, breeders have fought the odds to create a Collie with a head and body style quite different from their original ancestors. Over the years, master breeders have learned what the truly “hard to get” virtues of the breed are, and often times that are “hard to keep” as well. There have been times when breed- ers have gone to the extreme in breeding for the show ring, and ignoring the hard to get virtues. In an effort to “improve” their breeding stock, or “improve” the overall quality of the breed, they have carried things to extremes and instead of “improving” they are actually “chang- ing”. The result can sometimes cre- ate a winning, but oftentimes generic

show dog, full of qualities that are “win- nable” but lacking in qualities which are more desirable. For anyone interested in judging our breed, it is important to keep in mind what most of these hard to get vir- tues are. Structural excellence can be summed up in the fact that we want a dogs whose movement is effortless and fluid—a dog that can quickly change direction when necessary. The descrip- tion of the body and outline were writ- ten to create such a dog, whose herd- ing heritage is obvious because of the necessary gait. We want to stay away from the extremes which sometimes hamper this. Too much of a good thing often leads to serious consequences… too much length of leg (and often lack of chest), or not enough length of leg (often giving the appearance of a longer back) can hamper the picture that is desirable and certainly take away from the effortless movement. In looking at a dog in profile, if one notices a head that set behind the front legs, you will also notice a movement that is ham- pered because of the lack of angulation of the shoulder, or the shortness of the upper arm. The head of the Collie distinguishes it from all other breeds. Without good head qualities we would not have a good Collie. Then again, a beautiful head alone is not qualified to compete in the herding group with a dog who was bred for that purpose. So we come here to a place of balance. And it is up to the judge to look for that balance. It not a question of which is more important— correct head or correct structure—but instead, a balance of the two. Judges who come to that understanding usual- ly hone their skills in selecting winners,


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