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At 1:52 PM -0500 1/30/01, Stephenson family wrote:
>     I'm new to this - what is  conformation showing, and what were they
>doing before that?

        Conformation showing are "dog shows" , you know, where people get
their dogs all pretty and cleaned up and parade them around a ring with a
judge in the center. The judge compares each dog (in his or her mind) to
the breed standard and decides which dog is the best example of the breed
in the ring that day and awards a ribbon and some points toward the dog
winning a "Championship".
        In theory this sounds like a good thing and it should be a good thing.
        But in practice people doctor their dogs to make them better meet
the standard, judges are human, and often the breed standard is ignored and
instead "fads" are rewarded.
        Take for example German Shepherd Dogs - their standard says GSD's
should have a "level topline" and yet every winning GSD in this country has
that radically sloping back to hind quarters that are basically resting on
the ground. That slope is popular and so is rewarded despite the standard
and the ill effects it has on the actual functionality of the breed.
        From the time Collies enter the show ring over 100 years ago their
noses have been getting longer and their eyes smaller - the standard wasn't
important, the fad was.
        Australian Shepherds in the show ring have practically doubled in
size, tripled in coat, and developed big domey heads (with apparently small
brains...).
        Many hunting breeds - Golden Retrivers, Labs, and Irish Setters
have either lost the working type of the breed (Irish Setters), are losing
it (Goldens) or have two radically different types of dogs in th breed -
working & show (Labs).

        For a diverse working breed with a small genepool like the English
Shepherd the threat of conformation shows is very very scary.

                        jan