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Archive for March 15th, 2016

Crufts 2016: Another choice of scandals

Just like last year, Crufts offered up a choice for discerning scandal mongers as the world’s most prestigious dog show came to a close in the UK over the weekend.

Before the dog hair had been cleared away from the NEC in Birmingham, charges of nepotism were swirling after it was revealed judge Di Arrowsmith awarded best gundog to a Gordon setter partly owned and bred by her sister, Josie Baddely.

And animal advocates and others were raising a stink about the Kennel Club judges awarding best in breed to a German shepherd who would have been a walking exemplar of the direction breeders had long been trying to take the breed in — that slinky appearance, with a sloped back and hind legs that seem to trail far behind the rest of the animal.

He would have been an exemplar of that, at least, had the dog had been able to walk.

First, because it’s a little more clear-cut, we’ll deal with the nepotism.

Arrowsmith insisted she awarded the prize on the dog’s merits.

“When I adjudicate, I do so without fear or favor,” she told the Daily Mail. “The Gordon setter was the best dog in the ring on that night. It would have been dishonest not to give the award to him.”

The Telegraph reported that criticism was running rampant on dog breeder forums on the Internet.

“Most exhibitors who adhere to decent standards of behavior don’t enter under judges who are related to them,” one said. “The decent thing to do is withdraw from the group judging,” said another. A third said: “This is yet another Crufts controversy that will only harm the competition.”

The Kennel Club, which runs the show, insisted no rules were broken.

Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club, insisted the winning gundog won the prize on his merits. In a statement, she said: “It is important to clarify that no rules were broken here. Any dog that is chosen as a winner is done so because of the judge’s honest opinion on the day and is judged with integrity.”

The statement goes on, at length, with trademark bluster, to defend the decision — even though that’s really not the point.

Whether it’s Miss America pageants, Nobel Prizes or dog shows, you just don’t allow people to serve as judges in competitions in which their family members are entered. Fathers shouldn’t be judging sons. Sisters shouldn’t be judging sisters — even sisters who don’t get along (as is reportedly the case here.)

But does the Kennel Club say, “Yeah, you’re right, that was pretty stupid of us?” No, they spin and defend, manipulating the truth much like breeders and breed standards have manipulated dog breeds.

Which brings us back to the deformed, mutant German shepherd.

Sure, it could have been a case of nerves, or health problems unrelated to genetics that led her to stumble her way through the spotlight at Crufts.

But I suspect it has something to do with a limited gene pool. Design a human whose feet aren’t under his butt and he’d have trouble going through the paces, too.

Just as close relatives shouldn’t be judging each other in contests, they shouldn’t be breeding with each other — especially when the sole goal of those overseeing the breeding is to produce an offspring that accentuates some silly, and often unhealthy, physical characteristic that the latest breed standards deem “desirable.”

As seen in the video at the top of this post, the dog named best in breed, Cruaghaire Catoria, is barely able to trot across the arena floor. It’s as if her front legs and rear legs are operating independently of each other.

Why then award her best in breed? For one thing, her shape conforms to what, until recent years, was considered the ideal (when in reality it was unhealthy, prone to causing hip problems, and gave the breed the appearance of a skulking, runaway felon).

Correcting that, just like achieving it, takes some time — and that’s if there’s consensus among the breeders and all those smug kennel club types who have trouble ever admitting they were wrong.

If Cruaghaire Catoria is any indication, that consensus doesn’t exist.

(Photo: James, the Gordon setter chosen best gun dog; ASC/ZDS/Anthony Stanley / WENN.com)