ShowSight Presents The Miniature Bull Terrier

Judging The Miniature Bull Terrier By Michael E. Flaugh, PhD Miniature BullTerrier

At most all breed shows you will see no more than one or two Miniature Bull Terriers (or more simply, Minis), if that. It is only at those occasional shows where the entry is supported that you will have the opportunity to see several Minis in the ring at the same time. When that happens a judge will no doubt notice the unusually large range of size and type that exists in this breed. Being able to keep the image of the “Standard Bull Terrier* in mind is an indispensable aid in keeping track of what’s correct and what isn’t. The only aspect in which these two breeds differ is size. The range of size and type in the Mini ring is more understandable if one takes into consideration the relatively recent ori- gin of the “present day” Miniature Bull Terrier. Although abundance during the 19th century, the smaller Bull Terrier (i.e., under 14”) gradually gave way to larger specimens. By the early part of the 20th the small Bull Terrier was facing extinc- tion. A concerted effort to bring back the smaller variety was initiated in the 1960’s. Not until 1991 did the population of these smaller dogs reach the point that the Mini could qualify for recognition as a breed by the AKC. With possibly a few exceptions, these newly recognized Minis were still seriously lacking in the breed type expect- ed in a Bull Terrier. Twenty years have now passed, and over that time the improvement in the overall quality of the Mini has been astonishing. To a large degree this rate of recovery must be attrib- uted to the ability of American breeders to import Minis from countries that permit interbreeding of the Mini with the Standard Bull Terrier. This indirect contri- bution from the standard-sized breed has been of incalculable value in the restora- tion of type to the Mini, but it has come at the inevitable price: Size. *I am using the term “Standard” in this article solely for clarity in reference to the larger breed. Some purists will be quick to point out that the correct name for the larger breed is “Bull Terrier”. Duly noted; but make no mistake, although rec-

ognized as a separate breed in the US, the Miniature Bull Terrier is a Bull Terrier in every sense but size. Today, as the struggle to deal with size continues, a high percentage of Minis still exceed the height limit prescribed in the breed standard, sometimes by as much as two inches. Because to a large extent the attributes of type and size are being intro- duced from a common source, it is not sur- prising that the larger Minis also tend to be the ones that are stronger in type. A person judging the Mini is frequently faced with a dilemma: Do I put up the Mini that is larger, but stronger in type, or do I reward the smaller Mini principally because of its size? There is no simple answer. Each case must be decided on its own merits. Judges who find it troubling to put up the oversized dog must remind themselves that being over the measure is only a fault, not a disqualification. On the other hand, if size is not penalized, a strong incentive for breeders to continue the effort to deal with the problem will have been lost. There is s silver lining behind this cloud. Overall Mini quality is continuing to improve at an impressive pace, and occa- sions where the judge will be obliged to defer to the larger dog will occur less often. As the percentage of Minis having both cor- rect size and type grows, the ability of the larger dogs to compete will be reduced. There are two rather contentious issues relating to Mini conformation. We have just covered the first. The second one is bite. Present day breeders do not like to think about the ugly past of the Bull Terrier as a fighting dog. Still, when con- templating that despicable purpose, the absurdity of a bad bite in the Bull Terrier becomes obvious. Of course today’s responsible breeder doesn’t have to worry about the competitiveness of the Bull Terrier as a fighter, however, pointing out that a dog with a bad bite can still eat is a weak apology for that condition. A number of breeders sincerely feel that an under- shot bite is inseparable from the extreme

down face that is the Bull Terrier’s defin- ing feature. This notion has been proven to be a myth many times over in countries that have zero tolerance for bad dentition. Sadly, for the present, there remains a strong likelihood that the Minis in the ring with the most impressive head will have an undershot bite as well. As with the dilem- ma over height, judges will often have to choose between a Mini with a head lacking in type but having a good bite or a Mini with more correct head but a bad bite – again, a fault, not a disqualification. It is important that judges not come to accept a bad bite as a natural characteristic of the Mini. Sensing that a Mini will be penalized for a bad bite provides an incentive for breeders to continue the effort to combine correct head type with proper dentition. The Mini breed standard contains the expression “egg shaped” in reference to the general appearance of the head. If one looks at pictures of Bull Terriers taken back when this expression was introduced, it becomes quite obvious that the term was meant to be taken figuratively. It was intended to convey the impression of a head without a stop or depressions and with a general oval shape. As long as this intention is understood, the expression has some value. Taken too literally, however, it can become problematic. An often seen consequence of the misguided quest for the truly egg shaped head is a shortening of the muzzle. Shortening the muzzle is guar- anteed to give the appearance of a more rounded head, but it exacerbates the already difficult problem of dentition. More

152 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • J UNE 2011

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