Report by Trish Wells
The recent annual Humberside Hound Association Teach In was most interesting and informative. Always held on a weekday evening, and always a popular event, this year was no exception, attracting a number of people - some of whom travelled quite some distance - who are generally interested in the Hound Breeds.
Three breeds were scheduled, the Finnish Spitz, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and the Basset Fauve de Bretagne. Each breed standard - briefly discussed and demonstrated by a breed specialist - was followed by a lively period of questions.
All three breeds had coat colours described as being the in shades of Red Wheaten and, interestingly, black hairs within the coat are not liked. There were no ‘hands-on’ sessions scheduled, the whole evening being geared towards a social event rather than the in-depth seminars expected of the various breed clubs. Supper was included in the modest entry fee and the ladies of the Humberside Hound Association put out a wonderful spread - even catering for those who required Gluten-free cakes!
John Blaber was the first speaker and demonstrated the standard of the Finnish Spitz with a charming bitch who ‘visited’ with the audience from time to time. As the name suggests, this is a typical Spitz breed with its pointed prick ears and curled tail. This compact, eager, red coated dog is used in Finland to hunt birds, about the size of a turkey, but they can also be used to track elk or bear. The hunter will only hunt with a single dog. The dog, by his barking, alerts the hunter to the bird in the tree; the barking of the dog and the raised, waving plumed tail appears to mesmerise the bird sufficiently for it to remain in the tree for the hunter to get sufficiently in position to shoot it! Potential new owners in this country must be made aware that a major function of the breed is to bark and, in fact, they do have barking competitions/trials in Finland.
Finnish forests are dense and there may be many fallen trees so the dog has to be agile to be able to get through the terrain and then carry a fallen bird back to the hunter - they are, however, a cautious dog and do not lend themselves to agility competitions.
The overall impression is of a medium boned dog which fits into an almost square outline - with an obvious distinction between male and female. There should be a liveliness apparent in the eyes and an expression of ‘eagerness’ shown by the tail, head and ear carriage. The neck is not long but it should be muscular - and certainly strong enough to pick up and carry a large bird some distance. The coat colour is important as the hunting season is autumn and so the dog should blend in with the changing foliage.
Coat colour was described by Mr Blaber as shades of Red Wheaten and comes in shades of dark red to red/gold but should never be so pale as to almost look yellowing, it is a double coat with a dense soft undercoat; short on the head and limbs, slightly longer on the shoulders and back and more profuse on the neck (particularly in the male), it is long and dense on the tail and the back of the hindquarters. The coat is straight - never wavy. There may be black hairs apparent in the coat of young dogs but this usually disappears by the time they are two. A small amount of white on chest and feet is permitted here - though it is not really acceptable - white is not tolerated in Finland.
The head appears wedge shaped from both above and from the side, there is a moderate stop, the muzzle is narrow and a little longer than the skull. Pigmentation on the nose, round the eyes and of the lips is black; eyes, too, are dark.
This breed is shown naturally and is not ‘stacked’ in any way, the judge is expected to use hand and eye to measure the conformation. A dog standing four-square and alert will not necessarily present a level topline, it is more likely to appear to slope down very slightly towards the rear as the dog tends to stand with paws slightly wider than the width of the hips.
Judges should be aware that the coat under the tail can be rather thick and it can stand up to give the optical illusion of a dippy back; the tail is set high and curls forward immediately where it can lay to either side; it should not be kinked or have a double curl - judges are not expected to uncurl the tail nor to measure it. Angulation of the hindquarters should be moderate and this should be balanced with the forequarter angulation. Movement should show good drive, be light and springy, quick and graceful.
The second speaker of the evening was Brian Firth who demonstrated the standard of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. The Ridgeback carries a unique ridge of hair along the back which lays in the opposite direction to that of the rest of the coat. Judges were asked to pay particular attention to the ridge when judging as it is important to keep it correct. The first recorded knowledge of a ridged dog dates from the year 1505, these were the dogs of the Hottentots in South Africa.
Historically the Ridgeback evolved from a combination of the early settlers dogs and the ridged Hottentot dogs into the fine breed we see today. They were not just used for tracking lions and holding them at bay until the hunter could be in a position to shoot, they were also good at rounding up other large game. A cautious and intelligent breed and their qualities have been found to be ideal for use by the South African and the Canada Police forces. They are not an aggressive breed - however they do not suffer fools gladly and would prefer to move away - yet it must be borne in mind that they are a big strong breed and it is quite possible that a novice dog - having had no training and in the care of a novice owner who does not exercise any control - could, quite literally, be a health hazard!
In the early 1900s the ‘type’ was becoming fairly well fixed and in 1922 the first breed standard was agreed. What you see is very much what you get, nothing can be hidden in this breed. There must be a definite difference between the sexes, dogs should look masculine and the bitches should look feminine. From the withers down to the elbow should be about as equal as from the elbow down to the foot - the length of the body is just slightly longer than the dog is high.
When examining the head, judges were advised that not all Ridgebacks have a black nose. However a black nose must be accompanied by a dark eye and a liver nose must be accompanied by an amber eye. The eye is round; an almond eye gives an alien look. The head should be equally proportioned, i.e. the length of the muzzle should equal that of the skull and the skull should be as broad as it is long. Ears are carried close to the head and set neither above or below the line of the skull otherwise they detract from the beauty of the animal; however it should be born in mind that in the early stages, a puppy which is still teething will tend to hold the ears wrong.
Once the teeth are through, mouth faults are very much the exception. The neck is elegant, muscular and of good length with a slight arch. ‘Ewe’ necks or ‘bull’ necks are not acceptable in this breed. A correct front has some fill and the sternum can be easily seen from the side; shoulders are clean and the legs perfectly straight - the bone appearing oval rather than round and heavy. The brisket comes down to the elbow and the underline shows a good tuckup. The ribs extending well back give the length to the body and the loin must be strong and slightly arched.
The hindquarters should reflect the angulation of the forequarters and the muscling must be clean and well defined. Judges can see what they have here - it is totally unacceptable and thoughtless judging to grab the back end and/or press down on the hindquarters - it tells the judge nothing except that the dog resists! The tail is ‘strong’ at the insertion point - set neither high or low - it tapers towards the end and is carried in a slight upwards curve. Sometimes tails can be kinked this is not good. There is no firm measurement to the length of the tail - but in length to the hock is about average.
The feet of a Ridgeback, as with any hound, need to be tight - however a cat foot does tend to be associated with upright pasterns - which are not acceptable. Often the foot will appear very loose when puppies are teething - but tighten up again when full dentition is through. Exercising on stony ground can tighten the feet but owners should be aware that too much exercise in the growing period can spoil the feet and ‘load’ muscle. Dogs which are only exercised freely, by galloping, tend to be loaded in muscle and never seem to get into the proper stride. The dog must be moved at a moderate speed in the ring - many novice handlers seem to think that the faster they move the dog in the ring the better - they need to practice the correct gait for the ring in order to get their dogs into the correct stride to show the extension on movement and fine balance of the Ridgeback (though, on the other hand, moving the dog too fast can hide a number of faults from an inexperience judge!).
The colour range is from light to red wheaten reflecting the various shades of red of the grasses of the South African Veldt. White is sparingly permissible on the chest and on the toes, black hairs in the coat are undesirable. Judges should never penalise height above other lesser qualities. Overall balance and in-proportion is more important.
Following the excellent supper, Shirley Rawlings spoke about the Basset Fauve de Bretagne. this breed has now been awarded CC status by the Kennel Club with 6 sets and two single CCs on offer - though not next year! The Basset Fauve De Bretagne standard does not have any difference in the height requirement for dogs or bitches; it is a rough coated dog of moderate length and is the shortest backed of the basset breeds. They are impassioned hunters being able to adapt to different terrain and quarry, and are very much used - through ‘scrubby’ rough terrain in France - as hunting hounds where small packs are set to quarry as diverse as rabbits and/or wild boar (which they hold at bay rather than go in for the kill). Many French packs have won ‚Hunting Cups‚ for their prowess in the field. Fauves are very amenable and, individually, will come back when called - though not ‘en mass’ - and most certainly not when hunting. There is, presently, a big variation in height; overall balance is more important - roughly, they should be in the proportion of height to length of 1 to 1.4 - being 1 of height to 1.4 of length (rather than one to one and a half).
The skull and foreface are medium in length and about equal - there is a definite occiput and moderate stop. One could imagine an inverted saucer to describe the amount of dome required to the skull. A slight ‘Roman nose’ is not uncommon and is, in fact, very attractive. The eye is hazel to dark, slightly oval with no haw showing. The eyes must not be deep set and certainly must never give the appearance of bulging - a prominent/bulging eye could be dangerously vulnerable through rough terrain. There should be not too much on the face as regards furnishing - hounds active in the field are naturally stripped. The leathers are fine and dark, set in line with the eyes and reaching, in length, to the nose when pulled forward, they hang in a graceful curve, folding inwards and ending in a point. A strong underjaw is a requirement - as is a short muscular neck for this hunting hound - in order for it to dispatch the prey. Looking at the front assembly, there needs to be a good prosternum, the forelegs are straight (a crook is acceptable at a pinch but not an uneven crook) and the feet should turn neither in nor out - the feet are compact with firm pads, toes are arched and tightly together and the nails are short.
In profile the fore pastern is somewhat sloping, the thigh is long and well muscled with hocks well let down and moderately bent. This breed does not require excessive angulation. The ribcage needs to be well sprung and carried well back - giving enough heart and lung room - there is not much tuck-up and the loin is quite broad and muscular.
The colour was described as ‘red wheaten’ of various shades; the French prefer a brick red. There may be a little white ‘star’ on the chest - this is acceptable but not ‘sought after’. The French will accept black hairs - whilst in the UK it is not acceptable - yet the French will use a black mating to keep the pigment. Fauves should have a black nose; a dark brown eye is preferable but not obligatory.
Movement is a quick striding out movement, an agile light movement - and they move fast. The tail is held up on the move in a ‘sickle’ shape - it is set on high, a low set tail just cannot be carried up properly. The Fauve has to be agile enough to hunt its prey through any terrain and to get over fallen tree trunks in densely wooded areas and thick brush and bush. The coat is harsh dense, thick and flat with a thick undercoat - never curly or woolly. Hounds which are regularly hunted in France never need stripping - they are naturally stripped as they go through the thick brush. In this country, however, they do need a certain amount of tidying.
A most enjoyable social and instructive evening with many people standing around talking in groups afterwards - all seemingly reluctant to depart!
Trish Wells - Secretary HHA