What Constitutes Greatness in a Producing Dog?
by Patrick Ormos
Let me begin by suggestion that sheer numbers is not a major criterion for greatness. I believe that the measure of greatness must be a dog's (or bitch's) positive influence on the breed. When that influence is recognized during his/her lifetime, then numbers tend to increase due to use. But, there are dogs whose influence is not recognized until later, and therefore they do not receive appropriate recognition during their lifetime.
In my opinion, one such is Ch. I Am Chandler's Moses. A dog who was ahead of his time in terms of "long and low," good neck length, and extreme rear angulation. His influence began to be widely felt when his daughters were crossed to Ch. Kennebec Ice Anchor. Moses began to change the look of the breed.
Another such is Ch. Brymore's Taliesin. Again, a dog well ahead of his time. The heavy concentration of Taliesin blood found in the early Pluperfect's suddenly blossomed when crossed with Ch. Kennebec Ice Anchor.
Obviously "Link" has been one of the most influential stud dogs of recent years in the USA. His progeny are easily identifiable by their length, ribbing, rear angulation, topline and lowness to the ground. Recognized and appreciated during his lifetime, Link has been a popular stud to a variety of bloodlines. He now appears behind a great many modern winners.
Perhaps the first criterion for greatness is recognizable positive influence on the breed. Can the dog's influence be easily seen? When we look at a modern show ring, can we see the visual impact of a stud? In other words, has this dog/bitch affected breed type?
That is the most visible measure of greatness - the effect on breed type. As I have argued before, 1) breed type is indisputably the goal of every responsible breeder. Each and every dog must exude breed type to be considered a worthy representative. A champion without breed type is worthless to the furtherance of the breed. Again, I have written before about the difference between type and style. Certainly there are acceptable differences of style within the limits of breed type. Nonetheless, a dog's influence is seen primarily as s/he affects breed type.
While one can argue that many dogs influence type in terms of a few characteristics, it is the overall influence which must be taken into account. Ch. Salvenik Sea Treasure (Rupert) produces a head style which is significantly different from that produced by Link or by Eng. Ch. Joseter Joson (Sonny). Rupert also produces significantly shorter hocks. While Rupert has positively influenced breed type through hock length improvement, it can not be argued that the difference in head style is an improvement, only that it is an acceptable variation of style.
I dearly love Rupert, and would happily classify him as a significant and influential stud - but not a great one. Truly great producers are few and far between!
In some senses, perhaps greatness can only be assessed in hindsight. Eng. Ch. Joseter Joson influenced the breed in England, and has certainly had an impact over here. His recent importation and stud work suggests that his influence can only be assessed in the future. Breeders who went to him upon his arrival took a risk. The future will judge whether that risk was worthwhile.
Assessing a bitch's influence is even more difficult. The sheer difference in number of progeny makes the task more difficult. Our Ch. Kentwood Lyneth and Ch. Phi's Amazing Grace Ap Ronel each produced enough champion progeny to merit recognition. But greatness will depend in their lasting influence on the breed through their descendants. Again, Ch. Davenitch Shiloh Luca is recognized as a "great" show bitch. Whether she will become a great producing bitch will depend not on the number of her champion progeny, but on the quality of her descendants.
My first criterion for greatness was the positive influence on breed type. My second criterion is the lasting influence of the dog/bitch through their descendants. A great dog/bitch becomes one on whom we will line-breed. Realize that often we line-breed on a dog and, after a few litters and generations decide to stop doing so. That is an important decision in terms of assessing a dog's greatness.
Does the dog breed on? No dog is completely free of genetic junk. Every dog carries something! Our North American penchant for indulging in very, very close line-breeding, to the exclusion of everything else, has often led us into genetic problems. Rather than blame the dog, we need to review our breeding procedures. Nonetheless, a dog which, when line-bred, seems to give consistent genetic problems, even when used with different bloodlines, will be regarded with suspicion.
Certain dogs so heavily influence breed type that they can still be "seen" in dogs many generations down the road. Think of the Salilyn English Springer Spaniel, or the influence of Ch. Lance of Fran-Jo (German Shepherds), or Ch. Ttarb the Brat (Smooth Fox Terrier). These dogs changed the whole "look" of a breed, and their influence is still obvious many years later.
It can be argued that some dogs positively influences the breed in terms of movement. I would suggest that this is for the most part impossible to do without affecting physical structure, and therefore breed type. I am ambivalent about how this factor should be assessed in terms of greatness.
In this article I have tried to avoid actually nominating any dogs for the title "great," while using example of currently influential animals. Others will evaluate the breed and put forth their own candidates. My real question to us all is which dogs do you think should be designated for greatness, and why?
Published in the CWCCA 1994 Handbook and reproduced with the kind permission of the author.