THE ‘OTHER’ PERFORMANCE EVENT?
BY DAN SAYERS
T he sport of Conformation is all about the evaluation of breeding stock, right? Well, at least that’s what we’ve all been told ever since the first benched shows were held in the mid-nineteenth century. But is it still true today that the typical all-breed show is a place where breed authorities assess the merits of purebred dogs according to a Breed Standard? Or has Confor- mation become just another Performance event? According to the American Kennel Club, dog shows are about “pro- ducing conformity.” (This is a clear nod to the purebred dog breeder.) The AKC website has this to say about the purpose of Conformation shows: “Dogs are not being compared to each other; they’re being mea- sured by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed.” Of course, this statement is true in theory, and judges with an in-depth knowledge of a breed have always done their very best to sort through the entry of dogs they have in front of them. However, with today’s increased number of Conformation events—with their typically decreased entries overall—the modern American dog show must often rely on “paper adjudicators” who have satisfied the requirements neces- sary to judge a particular breed but have no “real world” experience with it. This shortcoming in the system encourages a shift in focus from one of conformity to a Breed Standard to one of conforming to a level of presentation; hence, the Conformance show as Performance event. Let’s be honest. There has always been something of a “performance” element to dog shows in America. Although the very first competitions in this country were organized by sporting gentlemen who gathered their Pointers and Setters together to be evaluated by a trio of their contemporaries, these same men soon established kennel clubs which, ultimately, held all-breed shows in most major cities for the benefit of the general public. This incorporation coincided with the Industrial Revolution and The Gilded Age, and brought together people from all walks of life who shared a common interest (and a growing affection) for the purebred dog. In those early days of the sport, working men and women could rub shoulders with ladies and gentlemen of means who
“THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOMETHING OF A ‘PERFORMANCE’ ELEMENT TO DOG SHOWS IN AMERICA.”
224 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2022
Powered by FlippingBook