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

Whippets in the past. Moreover, I showed a Whippet puppy bitch at the World Dog Show in Helsinki, Finland and was for- tunate to win best Whippet puppy. My picture also appears in the international section of the book The Whippet , by J. P. Moran-Healy while judging in Italy. The American Whippet I believe is relatively strong on the east coast, Florida and parts of the west coast. There are indeed areas scattered through- out the United States, anywhere there are main, established breeders who have maintained consistency and quality throughout their breeding programs. This seems to be the same criteria around the world. There are pockets of very credible breeders in the Scandinavian countries and England as well as on the continent (i.e France, Holland, Italy, Hun- gary, Russia and Romania to mention a few). The Europeans generally believe and often state that the American Whippet is too big. At times, going into the Whippet ring to judge in the United States, a few specimens appear to be larger, rang- ier and bulkier than their European counterparts. However, having had extensive experience with overseas entries, I per- sonally believe that the American Whippet does not generally differ greatly in size to their European counterparts. A gener- alization always remains a generalization. A few exhibits in the American rings have created this European impression complicated by a stated size disqualification in the American standard that is significantly taller than the FCI stated size. A size range is offered in the FCI standard but is not a disqualifi- cation; left to the discretion of the judge as to weigh upon the gravity of the fault. (18 ½ to 20 inches for males, 17 ½ to 18 ½ inches for bitches in the FCI standard, a differential of 2 ½ inches higher in males and three inches higher in bitches in the American standard where there is a definitive and delin- eated height disqualification.) You witness a gamut of sizes as well as shapes on either continent. Just attend a world dog show and this becomes very apparent. CN: Foreign vs. US—I’ve judged/watched Whippets in 6 oth- er countries. My mother imported from Australia (who won multiple groups and specialties for us), we both have sold to South Africa and I currently own a Whippet with foreign bloodlines. In Whippets, importing and exporting has been occurring successfully for decades. SS: One of the most exciting trends in Whippets to me has been the “internationalization” of the breed. It used to be that the English and European Whippets had great shape but did not move out. American Whippets had “low, free moving and smooth” side gait but tended towards tubular shape like Lab- rador Retrievers. The Scandinavians led the way in import- ing Whippets from both areas and getting great shape with great movement. Australia started to have Whippets we all admired. With the end of quarantine, the English lines have benefitted by mixing American, Scandinavian, Australian and European blood. Modern social media has been a huge help to all of us to understand more about dogs from other coun- tries. When I lived in England, show exhibitors would look at photos of American Whippets and critique the photos, saying, “American Whippets are all straight shouldered” or “Their toplines aren’t right.” I’d look at the photos and know that in some cases, the cause was our obsession with profes- sional show photographs in which we throw a toy and get the ears pricked and the dog leans forward, pulls up his muscles,

straightens his pasterns, and tightens his hindquarters. Amer- ican Whippet exhibitors are used to the deceptions caused by these photograph techniques but they looked all wrong to other eyes. Now with social media people see photos of the dogs standing naturally and moving. We watch the entry at dog shows on YouTube or Facebook. We all get a better look at everyone’s dogs. 2. Exhibitors often complain that too many judges just look at showmanship and the pretty picture. How do you reconcile the AKC Breed Standard’s admoni- tion to consider both elegance AND the athleticism to perform at the traditional sporting purposes of the breed? EB: Judging should begin with breed type. I don’t feel that the AKC breed standard is “warning” me to judge a Whip- pet, by calling for elegance and athleticism, because a correct Whippet is just that. I don’t believe that is a contradiction; they can and do go together, in a correct Whippet. When I think of a Whippet, several words come to mind to describe the breed: elegant, grace, curves and power. The one thing I find most often is people get confused with where the cor- rect placement of the curve for the topline should be, it is not a hump in the back, but should be a gentle curve, all parts flowing together. The standard also uses the words, “grace of outline” and “symmetry of outline”—this is key, as it denotes balance and should evoke an image in your mind. As far as showmanship, in my opinion, exhibitors, breeders and judg- es put too much emphasis on ears. Handlers and exhibitors baiting dogs all the time in the ring and expecting them to stand with their ears up all the time. In my opinion, that is not necessary. Whippets are supposed to have a rose ear, and when I judge Whippets, I am looking for expression and the correct ear. So that one time I asked for ears and expression is all that is necessary for me personally. I don’t have to have a dog stand there the whole time they are in the ring with their ears up. Showing of dogs has evolved to the point where a lesser quality animal will prevail just because it can stand there, self-stacking and with its ears up. Yes, it is impressive, but people are distracted by the showmanship and not evalu- ating the dog for its quality, they are not able to get beyond the showmanship, in my opinion. KD: This has been a huge subject of controversy within the Whippet fancy for many years. For those that are active in performance venues, their focus seems to be on succeeding in the field, track, agility and any other athletic event out- side of the conformation ring. It appears that there is little or no regard to the guidelines of the Whippet Standard. I’ve heard it said that, “A great running Whippet should win in any show ring.” Of course this is not true. I believe there are several different “types” of Whippets and everyone has the right to pick and chose which suits them best. It is the obli- gation of every judge to study and learn what the Whippet Standard demands. EE: I am sorry to say that I agree that far too much emphasis is put on showmanship and the “pretty” picture, but more so in the US than elsewhere. The breed is actually much more about functional qualities which include the ideal combination of substance with elegance, proportions and

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