Showsight Presents the Whippet

whippet Q&A WITH EUGENE BLAKE, KATHLEEN DAVENPORT, ESPEN ENGH, RUSSELL MCFADDEN, DAVID R. MILLER, TODD MILLER, CHRISTY NELSON & SHARON SAKSON

DM: The most important conformation points I consider in my decisions are balanced front and rear angulations, front fill and a graceful, natural arch of the backline. All parts fitting gracefully without exaggeration! If their proportions are correct, adhering to the wording of the standard, then you have a credible specimen. Correct proportions are the most important element in my judg- ing of this breed, followed by movement and expression. TM: As a judge in the ring, I would prioritize them differ- ently than those aspects I need in my breeding program. 1) Breed type—which includes the overall smoothness and balance that creates a beautiful silhouette without exaggeration anywhere, which includes fitness and smooth muscling, characteristic of our Whippets. 2) Gait—maximum motion, minimal effort; and I emphasize the minimal effort and look for that free, easy mover with placement of feet that makes them appear to float across the ring. 3) Details—the rest of the evaluation is details, such as eyes, ears, tails and showmanship/temperament. In my breeding program, temperament is paramount! CN: Only 3 traits? That is very difficult; however, I ask is the dog built to course, does it have the lovely S curves and have effortless movement? SS: The Whippet standard lays it out for the judge, stating what to look for: “Symmetry of outline, muscular devel- opment and powerful gait are the main considerations…” That says it all. The people who wrote our standard were pretty smart. “BREEDERS HAVE WORKED DILIGENTLY TO IMPROVE SOUNDNESS IN THE BREED WHILE MAINTAINING THE ELEGANT OUTLINE FOR WHICH THE BREED IS KNOWN.” 5. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? EB: The breeders have done an outstanding job of producing excellent Whippets. The Whippet is always a strong con- tender in the Hound Group. Although I will say, there are several dogs that come to mind that were shown many years ago, and how I would put it “before their time”, and could be competitive in today’s competition. Whippets have great breeders that have been breeding for many years, and some for much less, and they have continued to improve their dogs. KD: I think our breed has come a long way, not only since I starting judging, but since I first started in Whippets in 1982. I think the breed has improved in a number of ways. I do not see nearly as much hackney movement and steep wheeled croups like we had in early days. I think size is now more consistent than in the past. I rarely see extremely small or overly large Whippets in the ring

nowadays. I think more breeders are recognizing correct type and breeding accordingly. EE: Yes, the average Whippet is much better now than when I started to judge. RF: Yes. Breeders have worked diligently to improve sound- ness in the breed while maintaining the elegant outline for which the breed is known. For instance, when I first started judging there were a lot of Whippets with hack- ney (high-stepping) front movement. This is something one rarely sees in the ring today. DM: When I first started judging, the entries were large and there was more depth in the exhibits. Nowadays, with waning entries, the depth is not always there; however, a good Whippet remains a good Whippet in a small or large entry. In larger entries on the coasts, there is that rewarding depth of quality in the entries. Anywhere where there is a sizable entry, chances are credible breed- ing programs will be there supporting the entry. This has been the case at my shows, Cuyahoga Valley Hound Association and the Grand River Regatta Classic where the entries are supported by the American Whippet Club. TM: I have been judging merely 2 years as an AKC judge in conformation. But in my almost 20 years in the breed, I think that the quality of the Whippet breed is quite cyclic. There may be years that go by where everything you see is quite mediocre. Then, all of a sudden, every show you go to, the quality is fantastic! I definitely feel that the American Whippet breed has evolved for the bet- ter over the past 40 years. CN: Whippets have become extremely popular. I feel that breeders are breeding for the market and that there are more mediocre dogs being sold and shown. I have been fortunate to see, in person, our top dogs for over 40 years. When I think back on those dogs I would say we continue to have very high quality dogs. If I think back on the classes, I would say the breed is not in as good shape as it was 20 years ago. (My mother, Isabell, raised me to think quality not quantity.) SS: Yes, I definitely think they are better now than when I first started judging, because years ago the breed was plagued with an exaggerated topline that was awful in every way. Dogs with a high, curved topline couldn’t flex into a fully concave, convex gallop. The topline inhibited speed, and the faults that inhibit speed should be judged most severely, because speed is what the Whippet is all about. Nowadays, I hear people mutter that toplines are too flat. Well, some are a bit flat, but a little flatness does not restrict the Whippet’s flexibility. He can still achieve top speed. So it is not as serious a fault to me as a high, inflexible topline. Ears also worry me; we are seeing some big ears with thick cartilage that are not correct. Whippet breeders don’t concentrate on ears, but my experience is that bad ears last in your line for a long time. Correct Whippet ears are so lovely, “small, fine in texture; in repose, thrown back and folded along neck.” The Whippet tunes his small ears this way and that when listening to sounds; it is heartbreakingly pretty. Big, heavy ears don’t have that elegance.

282 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2017

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