Showsight May 2021



T his series is a discussion about the natural tension that exists between how we view show dogs, field/working dogs, and dual-purpose (show and work/ field) dogs. This month, we will continue exploring the AKC Sporting Group. How does the evolved morphological form relate to past and/or cur- rent function? How and why is it that some breeds have developed different types for field/ work and show? What are the actual or perceived similarities and differences between the purebred show dog and field/work dog? What have breeders done to breed dogs that can do the job for which they were intended, if it still exists, and if not, what simulations exist that are as close to the original intent as possible? Before standards were written for the breeds in the Sporting Group that we recognize today, dogs were already being used and selectively bred to perform certain work. Multiple factors impacted the development of these breeds and their continued evolution, including geography, climate and terrain, culture and customs, as well as the type of work to be per- formed. Within this Group, we find breeds that traditionally served as pointers, retrievers, flushers, setters, and water dogs. In many cases, the original purpose of the breed no longer exists or has been supplanted by technology and machinery, enabling man to do the dogs’ work faster and more efficiently at times. Still, there are dedicated breeders who continue to breed quality specimens that demonstrate the individual breed’s working abilities where the actual work, or a simulation, exists. That many breeds in the Sporting Group exist in almost three different genres is a given. Within this Group, we find those that are bred solely for competition purposes, be it show or field trial, and those that are passively bred for the purposes that each breed was developed; and that is, to accompany and assist a gunner on a day’s hunt of various species of game fowl. It is among this last sort that one finds those Sporting dogs that are generally non- competitive. Where competition has become an overriding impetus to breed—be it show or field trial—a divergence from non-competitive type has emerged. Some would say that this divergence in types, physically and/or mentally, has been to the detriment of the breed(s) as a whole, with neither displaying the collective, moderate traits relied upon by the sportsman/ sportswoman hunter. Where breeders have made a very conscientious effort to preserve mod- eration in the breed traits of competitive specimens, the breed has been served well. There are several specific Sporting breeds that come to my mind, each displaying no difference between the general hunter’s dog, the competitive show dog or the competitive field trial dog. Then there are those few Sporting breeds where competition of any type is secondary to their purpose as a general game fowl hunter’s dog. These particular breeds are not often found in competitive venues, but are seen in certain regions of the country where they are popular as game fowl gundogs. This is even moreso the case in the European countries where many


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