by Patrick Ormos
our two previous articles, I have talked about how to understand the difference between
type and style, and given some suggestions for learning about type. In this article I will
try to give some suggestions for learning about style.
Breed type is that collection of specific characteristics which when taken together
separate one breed from another. Style describes the different ways in which those
specific defining characteristics of breed type are expressed.
Which are the specific characteristics which define breed type?
Several authors have written about the categories which can be used to understand breed
type in various breeds. Borrowing from all of them, I would suggest the following:
While there are other categories which could be used (e.g. color, coat, etc.), I do feel
that they are neither distinctive enough nor under enough control to qualify as elements
of style. They do qualify as elements of breed type which differentiate Cardigans from
other breeds, most notably Pembrokes. In other words, while blue merles are distinctive in
Cardigans as opposed to Pembrokes, we cannot say that one kennel produces a certain
color/shade of blue merles while another bloodline produces a different color/shade of
blue merles, nor can we say that for brindles, or reds, or any other color. Similarly, we
cannot point to one particular kennel or bloodline which produces one specific kind of
The same cannot be said however for the three characteristics which I have identified
above. We can point to a bloodline and identify it by their heads, and we can point out a
bloodline based on their temperaments, and we can certainly identify bloodlines based on
When looking at heads, try to identify the parts and pieces, as well as the whole
impression. Look at (1) ears (shape, set, and size), look at eyes (shape, set, size), (2)
the width of the backskull, (3) the shape of the bone which makes up the zygomatic arch,
and the chiselling (or lack) underneath the eye [in other words, does the dog have
prominent cheeks or not this, by the way, is also a breed type issue] (4) the depth
and placement of the stop, (5) the shape of the eyebrow ridge, (6) the shape of the
underjaw and the bite, and (7) the ratio of muzzle to skull (yes, I know its
supposed to be 3:5, but there is a lot of variation in just how that works out). It is the
combination of these seven characteristics which will give a certain look to a
headpiece in other words, style.
As you look at all these pieces, look again at the whole. Pick out heads which are
especially pleasing to you, and then dissect them so that you can understand how all the
pieces work together to give the whole. Once youve done that bit of work, go back to
the heads which especially please you and do a pedigree analysis. Can you discover a
common ancestor? Is there more than one? Look back into the history books and find
pictures of dogs heads which catch your attention. Again, do the pedigree analysis.
The outcome of all that work will give you a sense of what styles of heads you like, and
where to go to find them. Just as important as doing this work for the ones you like is
doing the same work for the ones you dislike. You will learn just as much from that kind
of careful analysis as the other.
For example, I loved the Kentwood heads, but found them a little too extreme for my taste.
As I tried to understand them better, I discovered that they were a bit narrow in the
backskull. I also loved the headpiece on a UK dog called Blewburton Buzzard, and
accidentally produced a beautiful head in one of my early litters on Phis Flower
Power and that is what sent me back to trying to figure out what I liked about it,
and how to go about getting it again. When I looked into the UK handbooks, I discovered
that I consistently chose the well-known Arnallt/Mudwin click for heads and for outlines.
This is one of the most complex gestalts or wholes to analyze and break down into pieces.
So much goes into it. First, we look at topline (from head, through neck, withers, back,
loin, proportional relationship between withers, back and loin, croup and tailset and
culminating in the tail), (2) underline from jaw through neck, prosternum, keel and
tuckup, (3) forequarters (angulation, set, placement of the front legs under the body,
etc.), (4) rearquarters (angulation, breadth of thigh, length of hock), (5) bone shape and
size, and (6) leg length. Note that while the
depth of ribbing can easily be seen in outline, shape of ribbing cannot, and that, too,
must be taken into account in determining style.
Once again, do NOT start with your own dog. It is very, very difficult to be objective
with your own favorite. Instead, start with the history books. Look for photos of dog who
appeal to your eye, and then try to dissect them. Go to the National or other regional
specialties and do the same thing. Look, look, look, until you can see your ideal in your
minds eye and have a good notion of what the parts are which need to go into your
ideal whole, your gestalt. Then go back and do the pedigree analysis. Which dogs look like
what you want? Which dogs produce what you want? Where can you go to get what you want?
Now go back and look at your own dog. How does s/he stack up? What qualities does s/he
have that you want to keep? What do you need to fix? Now you have some ideas about future
Parmel Dambuster was a stallion of a dog who fits my ideal. Blewburton Buzzard was another
dog who has the look I want. Now note that I have never seen those dogs in person. I know
them only from their photos. But that is the place to begin with a minds eye
picture of perfection. Cardigans come lots of different styles one persons
preference is anothers anathema. Breeding success will never come your way unless
you know what you are looking for.
It may seem strange to list temperament as a characteristic of style, yet it is one of the
most easily recongized elements. How often have you hear people say, Oh,
theyre all shy from that kennel. or Look at that extroverted silliness.
Thats typical of this kennel. or Yikes! I couldnt live with the
barkers from that kennel. We notice temperament right away, and the impression
sticks with us. We can influence temperament tremendously through the way we raise and
socialize our dogs, but there is certainly an inherited component to it. What kind of
temperament do you like or want? Who has it and how do you go about getting it? Do the
same kind of pedigree analysis to come up with the answers, and then go out and get it.
I hope that these brief introduction to the elements of style has helped you as you go
about planning your bloodline.