Russian Black Terrier Seminar for Judges

The Russian Black Terrier Club again selected the impressive Wentworth Castle near Barnsley, this time for its Seminar for Judges. Hon Secretary, Janet Huxley, had put her all energy into planning the day’s event, and likened it to the organisation of a wedding celebration, relieved when it was all over!

Some visitors were just there for the general seminar, others of us with an opportunity to go over Russian Black Terriers. For me this was the highlight of the day. I was not alone in being rather disappointed to find that the ‘hands on’ session was the first item on the day’s agenda, for I was hoping to have had some initial input from the guest speakers. In my mind I had a number of points concerning the breed standard that I would have liked clarified, but these had to wait until later in the day. Had my queries been qualified beforehand, I would have been wiser about certain aspects when observing the breed at close quarters.

Master of ceremonies was Chairman, Ralph Holmes, who was anxious that we should all enjoy ourselves with a smile on our faces, and there is no doubting that we did. The dogs to be gone over were wonderfully patient, and even a seven-month-old puppy lasted the course like a real trouper. We must all be grateful to them, and to their owners and handlers, for allowing us the valuable experience of getting our hands on seven representatives of this numerically small breed. Afterwards the weather was good enough for the dogs to be taken outside, for our assessment of their movement.

The Russian Black Terrier has made very rapid progress in its short time in Britain, and certainly there were some high quality specimens there for us to assess. But, as is the case with all breeds in their formative years of establishment in a country, there was a wide variation in quality.

We then all watched an absorbing video of the RBTs in the Mersiyanov’s Malahovskiy Kennel. Mrs Elena Mersiyanova was one of the intended speakers, but sadly she was unable to get a visa, so Russian-born Svetlana Dervyn, who lives in France, kindly came along in her stead.

The video portrayed the breed in all its glory, and we were treated not only to show shots, but also the breed interacting with loved ones and children, as well as with ‘thieves’ that were well-padded for protection! The latter was really an eye opener, and I still have a vivid image of one RBT hanging on to a man’s arm reaching over a wall. The dog would simply not let go, its feet suspended in mid-air, until it eventually ran off with the padding in its mouth. Certainly this is a breed that can readily distinguish friend from foe! There were also some lovely snow shots of RBTs pulling a person on a toboggan and another on skis.

Finally Italian breed expert, Marco Galli of the famed Lisander prefix, and Svetlana Dervyn took centre stage, a moment we had all been waiting for. Now there was an opportunity for those burning questions to be answered. Something that had confused several of us was coat quality and texture, for it had become apparent that few of the coats we had observed in the breed seemed to fit the standard. Svetlana told the audience that the Russians are now taking steps to change the breed standard to suit accordingly, and Marco said that the coat is ‘not the same harsh coat as in the first standard’.

Part of my own mental confusion, was that for personal research I had read not only the English, but also the FCI and Russian breed standards, and found several discrepancies. I put my point to the chair and was glad to find that those in authority recognised this was indeed so. It is to be hoped that for the sake of the breed they can all work together to bring these into line.

Movement was something else that clearly differs greatly within the breed, and only when watching the video of top winners in Europe was I able to weigh up in my mind quite how much hind extension is apparently desired.

The discussion moved on to the pros and cons of hip scoring at this early stage in the breed’s history. This is not done in Russia as there seems to be a problem there with anaesthesia, and owners are understandably not prepared to risk this. Marco also mentioned that he felt the breed in Britain needed more exercise, and that owners should not allow their RBTs to get too fat. This also applied to puppies, he said, for if they were overweight this would affect their developmental structure. The speakers recommended feeding puppies three small meals each day, up to the age of six months.

On the subject of food, there had been several human ‘tummy rumbles’ over the final hour or so, but the day closed with an informal buffet ‘lunch’, a chance to enjoy good company and to discuss the issues of the day. A few of us later went back to Janet and Tom Huxleys’ home, for more ‘dog talk’ and more ‘eats’, a warm and enjoyable end to a thoroughly informative day’s events.

Photo by Juliette Cunliffe
Movement was assessed on the castle lawns

Photo by Juliette Cunliffe
Master of ceremonies was Chairman Ralph Holmes (right) pictured with
Italian breed expert, Marco Galli (Lisander) and Svetlana Dervyn

Photo by Juliette Cunliffe
Bryn cadogan examines one the ‘live models’ on the day
which was presented by club President Mr Tom Huxley


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