Discussions that special breeding of show-quality dogs leads to degeneration of breeds, has been taking place as long as dog-shows are held. Some specialists insist upon concentrating on working qualities in the breeding programs. Others divide breeds into show and working groups; if you would like a working dog, then you should buy a puppy from the working line, if you prefer a show quality Ė you should find a suitable breeder that breeds dogs for shows. 

Several years ago a Greyhound male coming from racing bloodlines was shown at the largest Russian Dog Show. We could not understand what this dog of racing origin was doing in the show ring. The owners of this male were really surprised that he has got only a "very good". They were sure if they imported a greyhound from the UK, from a very famous racing kennel and out of famous racing dogs, it will be a guarantee of success in the ring. They were not informed beforehand by their local advisors that the kennel was famous for their racing achievements and that show quality dogs are different in their conformation, appearance and temperament from their racing relatives.
I have to say that by that time several excellent show quality greyhounds from the famous kennels had been already imported to Moscow. The quality and soundness of the above mentioned were so much better than of the greyhounds bred in Russia.

The owners of the locally bred greyhounds understood that the quality of their dogs were very different from the imported ones and also the registration costs for shows increased after the default, so from now on if the owners of Russian-bred greyhounds attended the shows they attended them as spectators without showing their dogs. In England it goes without saying that a future buyer is well aware of the division of the Greyhound Breed representatives into coursing, racing and show lines and he understands pretty well what kind of dog he is looking for. 
In Russia most of Greyhound-owners and Greyhound-breeders are also aware about these differences (at least in theory), but a newcomer in the breed in most cases is unaware of this aspect and the breeders do not usually inform him.

We know that first Dog shows took place in England 150 years ago. At the beginning only the passionate hunters were taking part in these shows with their Setters, Pointers, Greyhounds from the best working lines. But the situation has changed long time ago. Priority in the estimation of dogs was removed to adding more elegance, style and switching to soundness of dogs and general balance in proportions. Naturally, the owners of field favorites were often disappointed by the fact that their dogs lost to their rivals while they easily won in the coursing fields and even to those who never participated in the coursing events.

Besides that at the end of XIX, most of hunting breeds in England became pure sporting, not hunting a wild game. But as it is known that every kind of sport is a fancy. And sporting rules, subjective of sporting judges and sporting squabbles donít suit everybody. No wonder that when dog-owners and breeders got the chance of a new way of spending their free time (new hobby), they preferred that one. On the other hand, the show judges are also subjective.

The set up of Greyhound racing events also added to further division of our breed. Then people who wished to earn some money on racing became Greyhound-owners. They were not overwhelmed by the Beauty of the breed, itís history and characteristics. Money was their primary concern.
I think that isolation of the breed from its cultural context leads to more deplorable results than disregard of itís hunting abilities and functions. After all, dogs at the current dog-shows are judged by the standard that had been written with regard to the above mentioned functions.

The case is somewhat different in Germany and some other European countries. Dogs of many breeds must be examined for the working qualities to be allowed in the breeding programs. For many breeds examinations of hips and elbows are also obligatory. So breeding in German as well as in some middle European countries is breeding for beauty, health and performance. 
But every medal has another side. It must be noted that additional criteria of selection such as working examinations were introduced not only for preservation of the working qualities. Second, but may be the main reason is to limit quantity of litters in the breeds going through boom.

In this case people in the leaderships of these breeds seek for keeping of overproduction and commerce of dog-breeding. (We know that many German breeds such as German Shepard, Rottweiler, Doberman, Dachshund are the most popular all over the world). I think that these steps have been undertaken to prove their value because fashion often leads to degradation of a breed. 
But what is good for popular and numerous breeds, is not so good for non-commercial breeds. Additional criteria of selection lead to narrowing the limited breeding population and gene pool. Mating of dogs which have outstanding working qualities but mediocre conformation with beautiful sound bitches which have mediocre working qualities lead to sad results.

Acting this way you often get dogs which are mediocre from both sides. It is clear that itís difficult but possible to get dogs with excellent conformation and performance at the same in popular breeds, but in non-commercial breeds such as greyhound this idea is an utopia. 
Besides I would like to note that now not everything is well in Germany regarding their own numerous breeds. Now you rarely see Dobermans, Boxers and Schnauzers bred in Germany among winners at large competitive shows. 
History of Russian dog breeding is first of all the history of Russian Borzoi. Approaches to dogs and their breeding were different. Practical method of approach was favoured Ė a dog MUST chase and kill a wild game and if it doesnít do this work well, it must be killed. 
On the other hand, there were many really enthusiastic breeders. They were not only concentrating on working qualities but were concerned about soundness as well. At the end of XIX dog shows and public working examinations were started. Also public discussions in dogís and hunterís magazines were started. It is difficult to say now to what results these discussions could lead. After reading German philosophers such as Karl Marx, Russia chose itís own way.

Dog-breeding in the Soviet Union was centralized. Own opinions of dogís owner were left out of account. Breeding programs were made by the Dog Clubís leaders. 
Working diplomas were an absolut must for a dog to be allowed in the breeding program as well as conformation diplomas. During dog-shows after conformation rings all-round point examinations took place. Champion titles were awarded for those dogs who had got the highest points for their own conformation, working qualities as well as progenyís qualities. Unfortunately champion titles often gained by dogs of mediocre qualities, because the presence of working diploma was of main concern. On the other hand wins on show-rings and in working competitions were separated. Exams of progenyís qualities were also very formal. Dogís stud qualities, prepotent, uniformity of their offspring were also set aside. The changes in Russia during last 15 years had an effect on Russian dog breeding. These changes are major and not all people could accept these changes. Breederís choice and freedom in breeding their dogs often stir up irritation and nostalgia.

I think that it isnít worth making an ideal plan of dog breeding. It is worth breeding excellent dogs. 
Show-breeding hardly misrepresents main points of the most breeds, and division of the breeds into different lines doesnít lead to their degradation. First of all this division reflects difference of human interests. But if you want to breed the dog which is ideal in all respects, why not. There are always admirers if there are great talents present.

Natalie Osvenskaya
December, 2003

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