Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Blind Leading the Deaf to PetSmart and Back

This post from April, 2005

The following verbiage
comes from the the web site of the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America (PRTAA) whose membership can best be described as having learned all they know about working terriers by talking to each other at ring side -- a kind of "blind leading the deaf" to PetSmart and back.

"The PRTAA is the Parent Club for the Parson Russell Terrier in America. Members of the club maintain the breed standard and in doing so protect the future of their terrier. Membership in the Association is open to those who support its goals and its ideal for the breed, and who honor the important height disqualifications incorporated in the Breed Standard to preserve the working abilities of the Parson. Those who feel that the Parson is primarily a small terrier suitable for hunting woodchuck in the United States should seek membership elsewhere. The PRTAA operates in full acknowledgment of the original purpose of the traditional Parson Russell Terrier as it was in Rev. Russell's day: to hunt red fox above and below ground; and to promote the distinctive type terrier bred by Rev. Russell."

Ah! So the AKC folks must be real fox hunters, eh? Well no, actually. No one in the AKC Club seems to have actually worked a red fox last winter.

So much for theory!

What makes the nonsense on the AKC web site particularly funny is that anyone who have ever worked fox, raccoon or groundhog in the United States can tell you that an adult groundhog is likely to have a larger chest than a fox. The table below is from Ken James' excellent book on working terriers in North America.

Anyone who had ever dug on red fox in the Eastern U.S. or Midwest knows that most fox dens are old groundhog burrows. It is almost impossible to find a sette that is not a groundhog burrow, and many burrows are entirely unimproved, leading to occasional accidental digs on fox settes in late March, April and into May.

To not know that groundhog settes and fox settes are interchangeable is to "out" yourself as having never done much -- if any -- work in the field.

Welcome to the AKC! If you want to know about pet toys and ribbons, retractable string leashes, circus-like agility courses, and doggie costumes, the AKC is the Club for you.

If you're interested in the type of dog the Reverend Jack Russell worked, you will find that dog in the field and not in the show ring. Since no in the AKC hunts groundhogs (according to the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America's own web site), and since no one actually hunts fox either, you are sh*t out of luck if you are looking for a genuine Jack Russell Terrier in that forum.

This fellow was released unharmed.



Sean said...

What is amazing is how quickly the same folks from the show circle will jump in field trialing or any other competition offering ribbons or trophies. Although less insidious than conformation showing, breeding for these non-working special traits is a different set of criteria than those used in the creation of the breeds. It is too bad that we do not have a widely used working dog registry that seeks to register proven working dogs rather than competition winners and grist for the puppy mills.

It would be great if a stud book existed in which a dog would be proven in the field and registered as a result. Work X number of earths, or have 25 birds shot over the dog and it is registered as a "proven hunter". No competitions, no inbreeding. I wrote an article that was published in Spaniels in the Field about just this.


Anonymous said...

I really "digged" how Mr. Burns started with a picture of a groundhog and ended with a fox. A really clever in-your-face blow.

Craig Koshyk said...

Clearly the best dog-blog on the net!!!