Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Kennel Club's Transvestite Terriers, Counterfeit Collies, and Bogus Bulldogs

It's 3 am and Katie in the UK sends me a note.  It seems some nitwit named Geoff Corish has just posted to Facebook:

I am thrilled to inform everyone that my application to have Jack Russell's recognised in the UK has been approved by the General Committee of the Kennel Club. There is a process and dogs will not be eligible for exhibition until the date of the publication of the interim breed standard, which should be April 2016. I wish to thank all those who helped me along the way with the application, you know who you are, a huge thank you. I could not have done it without you. So we will now see this great little English breed back in the UK rings next year.

I have never heard of Geoff Corish, and neither has anyone else in the world of working terriers or real Jack Russell terriers, so far as I can tell.

It seems he is a Kennel Club French Bulldog breeder and ribbon chaser who has flitted from one breed to another over the course of the last 50 years. No doubt he imagines an ego-boosting scheme for himself in the world of Jack Russell Terriers. Good luck with that!

It will be fascinating to hear the breed history the Kennel Club will spin for the Jack Russell terrier. After all, the Rev. John Russell himself walked away from the Kennel Club after his first show, one in which he himself was asked to judge.  He would not register his own dogs, sniffing that the whole thing was artifice and pretense.

What will the "interim breed standard" say, and who will actually write it?  No one who has dug on a fox, or owns a locator collar, I am sure!

No doubt "the standard" will note that "form follows function."  It's a wonderful rhetorical chestnut -- and complete nonsense, of course.

Think about it. A working dachshund is a great little animal in the field and does the same work as a terrier, but it does not look like a terrier, does it?

By the same token, a Jack Russell Terrier does not look too much like a Border Terrier.

Smooth coats and rough do equally well in the field, as do coats of black, brown, white, or any combination in between. A folded ear is the same as a prick ear, a black nose the same as a liver-colored nose.

And is it any different for running dogs, molosser breeds, herding dogs, pointers, or retrievers? Does color of the coat matter? The "expression" in the eyes? No!

A working dog is defined by its work, not by its form. A retriever retrieves, a herding dog herds, a pointer points, a molosser guards, a pulling dog pulls.

"Form follows function?"

That's not even true in that sentence!

Form is about form. Function is about function. At best there is a relationship when it come to gross body shape or size, but that's not what they are judging at the dog shows is it? Instead, the most minute and insignificant detail is elevated to importance by preening pretenders and a handful of people doing contrived "work."

And what is the result?

It can be seen in breed after show-ring breed: transvestite terriers, counterfeit collies, and bogus bulldogs. The dogs may look the part, but they cannot do the job.

The Saint Bernard has been reduced to such dysplastic dysfunction that the dog cannot hope to rescue anything. In fact, it is an animal that needs to be rescued!

And let's not even start with the show-line German Shepherd, with hocks so sprung it looks like a dog sired by a frog.

Here is a simple truth: you cannot protect and preserve working dogs without working them.

You cannot breed quality retrievers or pointers when your own dogs have never heard a shotgun.

You cannot gauge the sheep-sense and holding power of a good Border Collie by tossing a Frisbee.

You cannot judge the true grit of a Jack Russell Terrier with a rubber ball.

A one-hour cart pull around a farm does not a sled dog make.

People who think otherwise are kidding themselves. They are the reason every working dog breed dragged into the Kennel Club has been ruined there.

These people sincerely believe that if they breed a dog that looks the part, it can do the part. But this misguided belief underscores their ignorance. What makes working breeds special is not what is on their outside, but what is on their inside.

"But why do we need that today," says the matronly show dog breeder. "No one works dogs today."

Really? Well, maybe not in their suburban world of shake shops and one-minute rice. It is true that in their world, there are no hunters, cowboys, Eskimos, or gamekeepers. In their world there are no rats, fox, bear, sheep, cattle, duck, geese, or pheasant.

But these creatures exist outside the suburbs, and these people exist there as well.

In America, Australia, and parts of mainland Europe, dogs are still used to bust, hold and drive wild cattle and hogs.

Retrievers and Pointers are used as bird dogs the world over.

Terriers are still used for pest control, not only in the U.K., but also in America, Canada, South Africa and mainland Europe.

Dogs are still used for transportation in the Arctic, and rabbits are still brought to hand by running dogs the world over.

Is this work being done with Kennel Club dogs?

No. Not usually. And no wonder; form is not function.

No matter how attractive a man in a dress might be, no one who has a clue is going to take that "girl" to the prom.

And yet Kennel Club breeders will tell you, straight faced, that they are sincere in wanting to protect their breed.

And who are they trying to protect it from? Why unscrupulous people who are not show-ring breeders, of course!

And what do they intend to protect the dog with? A scrap of paper!

It is all laughable nonsense. And it becomes nonsense on stilts when people begin to talk about "the standard" as if it were a sacred text delivered to Moses on the Mount.

In fact, is there anything standard about "the standard?" I defy you to find a single canine standard that is more than 20 years old that has not been changed at least once.

And then there is the little matter that the standard is not the same from one country to another, or one registry to another. So what is so "standard" about the standard?

Ironically, what is NOT part of any standard in the U.K. or the U.S., is a requirement that the dog actually be a proven worker in the field. That, apparently is not "the standard." That function is not required for the rosette. A black nose, is a "Yes," but working a dog to the task it was bred for is a "No."

And so we come back to the real meaning of "form follows function" as used by academics in the dog world.

For these folks the "form" being referred to seems to be a paper form showing the pedigree of the animal being displayed.

And "the function" these people are referring to is either the rosette from a show judge, or the cash to be gotten from a prospective dog-buyer.

Form follows function, indeed!

Brachycephalic, achondroplastic, inbred. 


S.K.Y. said...

I posted in PDE, but nobody has replied yet there. I was wondering if you know the difference between what the UK Kennel Club just accepted (the JRT) and the dog they have registered for a couple of decades (the PRT)?

My dog was born in America in 1995. He was dual-registered JRTCA/UKC, hunted in JRTCA and was #1 conformation JRT in the UKC.

We moved to the UK in 1999, and was registered in the UK Kennel Club as a PRT. We mainly did obedience and working trials (Schutzhund) there, but competed in conformation once and came in #2 out of 130 PRTs.

This shows that a JRTCA-registered JRT from working lines looks identical to the breed standard for the PRT in the UK Kennel Club.

So what is the dog that just got registered today with the UK Kennel Club? Is it one of the short-legged little non-hunting dogs that they have in Australia as pets? If so, why is everybody up in arms about the KC accepting them? It seems to me that they accepted the true working terrier decades ago. (Which I'm against, but it's not "news" at this point).

jeffrey thurston said...

"Form follows Function" is an architectural phrase coined in the first days of modern architecture. Ironically it was meant to denigrate ornamentation and unnecessary gee-gaws- the exact opposite of what the phrase means to the AKC! (A ridgeback? A mashed in face and super-curly tail? Wrinkly floppy skin?) However- in horse breeding the term "form TO function" is used and makes sense- From Wikipedia: " Thus "form to function" is one of the first set of traits considered in judging conformation. A horse with poor form for a Grand Prix show jumper could have excellent conformation for a World Champion cutting horse, or to be a champion draft horse. Every horse has good and bad points of its conformation and many horses (including Olympic caliber horses) excel even with conformation faults" I think this also follows in the world of working dogs- a small dog with spindly legs and a tiny head with needle teeth ( a miniature poodle eg.) would NOT make a good terrier- too delicate...

PBurns said...

S.K.Y., I think I answered your question over on Jemima's blog. That said, the answer you are looking for, I believe, is that the Kennel Club will most likely embrace the FCI definition of a Jack Russell, which is a dog that is longer in the body then it is tall. The Parson Russell people seem to think their dog should be perfectly square. Of course, no one is requiring that the dog actually do work, or be healthy. Nor are they disqualifying any dogs with chests that are too big. Whether the dog is square or longer in the back than tall, matters not a whit to the fox in the field. No doubt bullshit rationalizations and histories will be made to rationalize the morphologies, but it will all be nonsense.