Jim Broadberry gave a most informative talk on the Alaskan Malamute
St Peter’s Hall at Bickenhill near the NEC was packed full with an enthusiastic audience when the National Working and Pastoral Breeds Society (NWPBS) hosted the third in its series of four seminars on Rare and Import Register breeds within these Groups.
The idea of these seminars came about via the Group Judges programme, because the NWPBS felt that Import and Rare Breeds were not being catered for. They were aware that some of the Rare Breeds would soon be attaining CC status and felt that education for all these breeds was important. They did not deserve to be left out!
Organisation of the seminars is done jointly by Ann Arch and Carole Smedley, usually with three or four committee members helping out. Jim Peach is ‘Master Chef’ and does a grand job catering for an audience that is not only thirsty for knowledge but also hungry for food when lunchtime comes around, after a 9.30am start.
The seminar, held on December 5th, covered five breeds. First, speaking on Alaskan Malamutes, was Jim Broadberry who conveyed his knowledge of this breed in a very matter of fact way, clearly from the heart. I made a personal note that he paid great attention to the quality of the feet on this breed, using the visual picture of a canine ‘snow shoe’ which of course is so important. Another point mentioned, and one that is not touched on in the breed standard, is that the testicles need plenty of protection for a breed that works in such adverse climatic conditions. The Alaskan Malamute is a breed that is not fully mature until around four years of age.
Indeed lots of information was imparted in what was, of necessity, a talk limited to a maximum of an hour and it was a natural progression that the next breed to be discussed was the Greenland Dog.
The speaker for this breed was Peter Atkins, assisted by Nicola Singh. Peter spoke with such inside information about this breed that I could mentally visualise him in Greenland with these remarkable canines. I later learned that he has not travelled to the breed’s homeland, but I certainly wouldn’t have been surprised if he had done so. He opened by telling the audience something of the breed’s history, saying that carbon dating had traced the Greenland Dog back to 7,000 years BC. He emphasised how huge the thigh muscles are for the size of the dog, and stressed the importance of thick pads and thick, strong toenails. Everything this breed does it does to the extreme even scaling 6 foot fences, so that perimeter fencing needs to by seven feet for a Greenland Dog!
Before lunch it was the turn of Mrs E Nicholls-Miller to talk about the Australian Cattle Dog. She elected to use an overhead projector, so hers was a different style of presentation with less opportunity for questions. She considers that the breed has changed little since the early 1800s, and told the audience that the Australian Cattle Dog, recognised by the UKC of NSW in 1903, was earlier described as a "small, thick set dingo". This is a breed that controls cattle in wide open and confined areas and some interesting points were put forward including mention that the outer coat acts like a sun-cream, returning the sun’s rays.
At the close of the morning session we all repaired outside to watch the three breeds move, then fed plentifully until it was time for Stuart Band to take the floor to enlighten us about the Bergamasco. And what an enlightening speaker this was, his descriptive talents conjuring up vivid images with little effort on the part of the audience. Did you know, for example, that the long eyelashes on the breed, which keep the flocks of hair out of the eyes, make these dogs look "almost like pantomime drag queens"? Another gem was that the big black nose looks almost like a ‘Mr Potato nose’. Oh, how I appreciated your parlance, Mr Band!
The Bergamasco actually has three coats, a very tight undercoat, a second coat of ‘goat hair’ and an outer-coat. It is friction that creates the flocks which are so distinctive. Colour can be deceptive, for the speaker showed clearly how a genetic black can actually look paler than a genetic grey. Indeed were so many fascinating aspects of this breed that it would be impossible to do justice to them all.
And so we move on to the final breed of the day, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the speakers for which were Andrew Bicknell and Steve Luff. Although the breed was active in the UK showring as early as the late nineteenth century, it only came onto the scene again in recent years in 1997, when it was admitted to the Import Register. Again the speakers used the OHP and talked with the aid of a dark mahogany male, a colour not usually seen. I had only been to one Dogue de Bordeaux seminar previously, with a French speaker, so it was interesting to absorb some of the points put forward at the NWPBS seminar.
Something I found particularly alarming is the phenomenal number of puppies that have been registered since the breed first came back into this country 11 years ago. There have been in the region of 3,000, many of them bred this year presumably as a direct result of a film that came featuring the breed out about a year ago. How sad this is, and it is only to be hoped that the delightful Dogue de Bordeaux will not suffer long-term as a result.
And so the day ended, with an opportunity to see the afternoon’s breeds moving, and the talented ‘catering staff’ made sure we were all warm and well fed again to wend our various ways home. This was indeed a thought-provoking seminar and enormously well worthwhile.
Congratulations to all concerned.