Picture of Tatonka's Cuervo Gold courtesy of Tatonka
Now that's an American Pit Bull.
The Absolute Importance of Type
By: Diane Jessup
Read carefully the words of wisdom, written
nearly a century ago:
My main warning cry”concerns
itself with the direction of the breed, which many breeders,
many novices, still subscribe to, a direction that would lead
us off the beaten path, far off of our breed goal; toward
In all my articles, lectures, and judges reports of the last
few years, I have desperately tried to point out that we must
cling to the breed standard of the working dog, and I gave
reasons why we must do so, as it was once laid down, as a
model of the breed's design. I have emphasized over and over
again that we should not get overly engrossed in details of
outward characteristics, even if they are ever so attractive,
when, for the breeding value of the dog, he must be based
entirely and decisively upon the totality of hard constitution,
good health, endurance, authentic working structure and stable
The vision, the understanding of this standard, is thus sometimes
lost. Many young fanciers have unfortunately hardly ever
seen correct conformation in respect to these dogs. They
become intoxicated with appearance which so often has so little
in common with the working dog as he is supposed to be. In
this case, the only thing that helps is trusted faith in the
system, until one's pondering leads to eventual understanding.
The belief in what is well meant, the thoughtful suggestions
and guiding principles, are for the welfare of the breed's
These are words which any
serious student of our breed should study, and hang
on the refrigerator door! They are that important.
They were written in 1929 by Max von Stephanitz, the father”of
the German shepherd breed. This man is worth listening to; almost
single handedly, and with foresight, dedication and understanding
not equaled by any single breed founder before or since, he
brought the German shepherd from a homely, little known farm
dog to become the top utilitarian working breed of the past
several decades. That the German shepherd today is a breed divided
and most of its specimens a far cry from von Stephanitz vision
can be directly traced to modern breeders disregarding his
Von Stephanitz used his German
discipline and attention to detail, and, within the working
dog breeders (not breeders for the show ring) of today's
Germany, the same may be said to be true. And while Americans
will never embrace the discipline necessary to breed along the
successful European fashions, still, much can be learned from
a study of their successes and failures.
The "exhibition" or show German shepherd dog (GSD)
is a mess in both Germany and America. Bred along the system
warned about above, show ring GSDs are laughable caricatures
of what the German (working dog) system produces. Show bred
German shepherds are shunned by all in need of serious working
dogs. Police departments must import their dogs from working
kennels in Europe. Even after one hundred years of importing
the best Germany produced, America is still having to import
working dogs! The show bred German shepherd has been bred to
fad standards - not the enduring standard - and now stands as
the primary example of how poor breeding can split a breed.
What has this to do with our bulldogs? Everything.
Von Stephanitz was a wise man.
His primary concern was not only to preserve what he had worked
so hard to bring together but also to put in place steps intended
to continue to improve the breed far into the future. The German
system works, though it too, faces an eternal struggle with
faddist as well. Germany suffers as badly as America from the
"splitting of the breed", one type for show, the other
what von Stephanitz worked to produce. No system is perfect,
and the German one clearly is not - but at least in Germany
even show champions must earn a working title
to be considered for top honors.
Because character was seen by
von Stephanitz as as much a part of a dog's conformation”to
standard as physical appearance (as well it should) the German
system insists on working titles for all champions and breeding
dogs. There are classes for non-titled dogs, but those dogs
are given scant attention and can never obtain the highest honors.
But why the Germans produce superior GSD is so much more than
just this intelligent inclusion of character testing of show
dogs. The primary reason for its success is a strictly enforced
breed standard, and the insertion of breed wardens into the
Consider a world where our bulldogs
were judged in a similar fashion to how GSD are judged in America
by the United Schutzhund Clubs of American (USA) which, despite
its confusing name, is not primarily a schutzhund organization,
but rather a German shepherd breed club. USA clubs hold German
style shows, invite over respected European judges, and divide
the dogs up into groups never seen in an American show. At their
Seiger shows (Seiger and Seigerin are the top male and female
of the year and dogs which are destined to make an impact on
the breed for years to come) there are the usual classes for
young dogs, but with a twist. No young dog (under two years
of age!) may earn a V rating (the highest) only SG (second
best) for the simple reason the dog is not mature. Wins in this
class are considered only a way to present a promising young
dog to the world and say "watch for me in the future"!”
So, first off, consider the
improvement if no bulldog could obtain a breed championship
at the ludicrous age of 6, 7, or 8 months of age. Better yet,
no immature dog could be judged worthy of a Grand Championship.
How can one know what the final temperament and conformation
of the mature dog will be? You cannot. And to not address that
issue shows the lack of true understanding by those registries
which issue "champion" certificates to American pit
The OFA will not certify hips
on a dog before it is 24 months old so how do we reconcile that
with an 11 month old grand champion being used as a stud? The
Germans certify hips at one year of age, one reason they are
still struggling to eliminate dysplasia from their dogs, but
they do require good hips for a dog to become a champion.
In my opinion, the single best
feature of the European-fashion dog show is the written
critique. Each dog is given a report on what the judge
saw that day. It notes the dog's size, color, and remarks about
strong and weak points. These reports are listed by breeders
when advertising studs or puppies. It helps the serious breeder
chose a stud or future brood bitch which will compliment or
hopefully improve his animals. Not to mention, incompetent judges
are quickly exposed with this method.
Photo courtesy of
Imagine for a moment an American
pit bull show where each competitor is handed a paper upon which
is written the critique of an experienced, dedicated breed expert.
Not someone who has written a book, not someone who is an old
time dog fighter, not someone who owns a registry, but a person
who has proven themselves to be dedicated to understanding
soundness in their breed. Who has put in their time, studied
under other, experienced judges, and proven their worth. Imagine
those critiques are openly advertised. Hard to imagine, isn't
Why? Because as Americans, we
value our freedom more than our stewardship of dog breeds. Imagine
putting regulations in place to stop back yard breeders from
producing unsound, substandard animals? It has been tried, in
a very limited way, with resulting hysteria from everyone; including
those who should know better.
American's do not want to be
told what they may, or may not do. They do not want a breed
warden to tell them who to breed to, or which puppies to cull.
It is unimaginable. This is one reason among many that our dog's
type is in a crises state.
Imagine a world where the "Seiger"
pit bull must have a working title, hips rated Good or Excellent
by OFA, and a written critique from a legitimate judge handed
out. Imagine a show where the judge does not give out simply
first, second, third, and leave you wondering if perhaps she
thought these dogs the best of a bad lot. The German system
allows the judge to rate the dogs. VA is outstanding, above
excellent quality, V is excellent, SG is very good, and from
there is goes to satisfactory and unsatisfactory. And, better
yet, within these ratings, the judge can now rate her dogs VA1,
VA2, V1, V2, etc. What this allows is a complete rating which
shows the competitor and the fanciers exactly what she thinks
of this dog - regardless of where it placed in the winnings.
So, in a class of 8 animals, you might have results as follows:
VA1, V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, SG1, SG2. It is so much more than first
place and second place. It tells the competitor, hey, your dog
may have been in second place, but it was still a really worthy
animal, or, in some cases, where you might see only SG1, SG2,
hey, there were no really exceptional animals presented to me,
and even though you got second place, your dog is not V worthy.
Judging like that takes guts. And it produces results.
More from Von Stephanitz:
As with so many breeds, sport and fad breeding led to more severe
evidence of natural traits, and therefore to bad breeding situations
that had nothing more in common with working ability. This may
seem nice to the faddist, however, for the true lover of Nature,
who doesn't engage in matters based on eye appeal, it appears
as a strange caricature.
height, racing ability, straight front or tucked up racing
dog body would be for the shepherd an adverse perception leading
to the death of the breed. And actually, some of our dogs
and especially those who receive applause among the novices
resemble the racing dog type in his over-sized, narrowness,
tucked up appearance and effemination. The Borzoi, who hunts
the wolf on the Russian prairies does not look like this;
he is still a correct, rugged fellow. He who looks around
at dog shows, pages through dog magazines, will find often
enough that there are still a few other breed's destinies
which are threatened, that is, they are about to step out
of their breed type because they are not bred upon a breed
goal, but rather upon an imaginary beauty concept.
Wow. Written in 1929, these
words echo hauntingly in the ear of those who have watched the
breeding practices of the American pit bull over the past two
decades. How true that the show ring is all about fads. In the
1980's in response (conscious or not) to the ever increasing
size and bulk of the AKC and UKC dogs, the animals seen winning
conformation shows over at the ADBA took on the opposite look.
Skinny, tucked up, racy looking little dogs were the fad. The
cry was athleticism but the result was the same as von Stephanitz
predicted; the dogs diverged from breed type to satisfy a fad.
Twenty years later, the fad
has changed again - as fads always do. This is why it is imperative
that a breed standard stay unchanged through the fickle trickle
of time. To not do so leads a breed to be swayed back and forth,
ever changing, ever at the mercy of faddist breeders.
Today we see the "bigger
is better" and "more is better" fad. In part
due to the interest in weight pulling, in part due to the typical
American "bigger is better" mindset, the breed is
now threatened by those who breed massive, faulty structured
and over-built animals which more closely resemble an unsound
mastiff than a working bulldog. The standards call for a
medium dog not overdone in any area. But medium
is not exciting. It is not sexy. And it does not attract the
novice buyer. So, fad breeders advertise dogs with incorrect
extremes as if they were somehow better than dogs which meet
the standard. Widest!”Shortest! Biggest! Biggest head!”These
"breeder's" ads are shouting from the rooftops: "There
is nothing medium about my dogs! They are bred strictly for
fad. Their shoulders, rears, and size render them incapable
of any meaningful work, but I don't care; I am making money!"”
An example of a "fad bred" animal called "American
What is Type”
Type has two meanings. First, type is what makes an American
Staffordshire an American Staffordshire, and not a golden retriever.
That is breed type. Second, there is a more subtle type, that
which marks dogs of a well established line. For instance, the
dedicated fancier may well be able to look at a dog and say,
"She is from the White Rock line", or "That looks
like a Fraja dog". That would be identifying line type.
Animals bred for show generally exhibit more "type"
than those bred for performance. But in order to be included
as a member of a "breed", an animal must meet minimum
breed type - or else it might as well be a mutt.
In a world full of back yard breeders, breed type suffers, and
line type is almost impossible to find. Can a person who buys
two or three dogs, puts up a website, breeds three or four litters
be called a breeder? No. These folks are, almost without exception,
out of the breed and onto greener pastures within three to five
Dog World magazine used to be
an interesting place to keep tabs on long term breeders. From
it inception in the 1920's, through the seventies, you would
see consistent ads from breeders who were staying the course.
They were always there, month after month, year after year.
These were the breeders who, for the most part, developed dogs
with line type. Pick up Dog World today and you see a very different
picture. It has become a tragic showcase of fad breeders and
puppy mills. Each American pit bull ad screams louder than the
next "My dogs are not medium working dogs! My dogs are
cripples, but they look cool. I'm proud my dogs don't
meet the standard! I am here today to breed for fad size, fad
color, fad stockiness, and I don't care! I will do what I want
despite the damage to the breed."”
At a show today, be it AKC,
UKC or ADBA, you will see a huge variation of breed type. Many
people think this is fine, and that it represents a mythical
variety of type from which the breed was founded. They will
cite examples such as Colby's Pincher, who was a large dog at
a pit weight of 56 pounds, and Colby's Spring who fought at
22 pounds. (1) Variation in type is certainly
to be expected when a breed first comes to have a standard formulated.
And, the legitimate written standard of the day - and to this
day - give room to the fancier for variation in size, and line
type, but not in breed type.
For instance, a Sorrell line
pit bull placed beside a White Rock Am Staff, would both show
differences in breed type; they are, after all, two separate
breeds. However, they would both be recognizable as fitting
within the original written standard for the American pit bull.
They would both be medium in structure, showing an
athletic and supple body. They would both fit
within the minimum, maximum weight standard. Their forelegs
and hindlegs would fit the proportions outlined in both AKC
and UKC standards. Their necks would be strong and supple, not
overly short and thick. Both dogs would also display line type,
which is made up of both the good points and poor points that
any line will display. There would be no doubt in any educated
observer's mind which dog was which, and it is this variation
in type which is acceptable and even admirable to have within
purebred dogs. It keeps things interesting. And, the breeds
are not harmed.
Cute dog, like his head, but his front is
"eastie - westie" and his pasterns are weak.
There is need for the correctly
built 35 pound pit bull. There is need for the correctly built
65 pound pit bull. There is no need for dogs which are intentionally
bred with disregard for the standard. There is even less need
for a registry which changes its standards for the whim of fads,
or worse, for the sake of sucking in money from the very people
whose callous disregard for the stewardship of the breed damage
our dogs so.
Speaking of type in regards
to the judging of German shepherd dogs, Ricardo Carbajal, Chairman
of the USA Breed Advisory Committee stated: When referring
to breed type the main characteristics in question are harmony
and proportion. These must always follow the standard and be
in total balance. Anything that tends to be exaggeration violates
type and must be penalized. It is the emphasis on these exaggerations
such as excessive rear angulation or size that lead many top
German breeders to conclude that "American's don't know
what type is."
When breed and all breed magazines
carry ads displaying dogs which do not resemble breed type,
how can the novice learn what is correct? When registries change
their standards to include animals far larger than ever intended
by breed founders, how can the novice know what is correct?
When judges refuse to withhold ribbons, and worse, put up unsound,
shy, and untypey animals, how can the breed be saved?
There have been sporadic attempts
to come up with breed suitability tests, working registries,
and other ideas which would help. Sadly, all have failed. There
is not enough interest from breeders; not enough interest in
stewarding our breeds through to the next generation as we found
them. No one can work together. The current generation must
never assume they are wise enough, or experienced enough, to
change a breed standard. But each generation sure tries, always
to the detriment of the dogs.
A victim of a dog fight bust I rescued (long
before it was
a way to make money). Sweet dog, but horrible structure.
The biggest problem at this
time is unique to our breed and to our time. Fad breed overpopulation
is not unique, but coupled with breed specific legislation (BSL)
aimed at our dogs, it is. America is drowning in bulldogs. Once
considered rare, they are now the single most popular breed
in the U.S. Doubt that? Consider that there are three registries
for the pit bull/Am Staff. And that is not even counting Staffie
bulls, considered by the public as "pit bulls". Consider
further that most "pit bulls" are not registered.
Consider that just one registry registered more pit bulls in
2003 than the AKC did Labradors. When you add in the other registry,
the number is greater than AKC Labs and golden retrievers combined.
Take a look at Petfinder.com, or at your local shelter. The
highest number of abandoned animals are pit bulls types.
Because of this, the problem
becomes: ethical breeders are not going to be producing alot
of dogs for public resale at this time. They understand and
empathize with the sad fact of the daily killing of hundreds
of bulldogs in American shelters. And yet they know that responsible
breeding must go on to keep the breeds from extinction; more
so now than ever, since pretenders have almost taken over
the breed. If all responsible breeders shut down, in ten
years the pit bull would be extinct, and in its place a hybrid
animal no more like the athletic, medium”dog who earned
the name, than a dogue de Bourdeaux.
The answer to saving our breed
is three pronged. First, everything possible must be done to
discourage and halt novice, back yard breeders and big name
puppymills. Backyard breeding can never be stopped, but steps
to control it should be supported. For the ethical breeder it
is already a difficult and expensive project; a few hoops more,
which (again, if enforced) will help to stop back yard breeders,
should be welcomed. Note: NEVER support "breeding
bans" directed toward specific breeds.
This is breed specific legislation which no one who loves dogs
would ever support!
A dog in the local pound with decent structure
And a blue yet! Wonders never cease. As you can tell
by his tail carriage, however, his temperament was not good.
Second, every serious breeder
must study the AKC or UKC standard (dependent on their breed)
and understand it. If the standard is not to their
liking, then they must find a breed which fits their ideal,
and breed that. Added to this, they must understand
that a win at a dog show is hardly important enough to be criteria
when deciding if a dog is good enough to be bred. Hip and health
checks are a non-negotiable part of the ethical breeders
program. They do not make excuses about bad hips; they do not
blame an accident or the certifying registry. They suck up and
deal, and move on.
Ethical breeders understand
that sound and“typey temperament is just as important
as meeting the physical standard of the breed. For this reason,
they understand what bulldog temperament is about, and they
never breed a dog who fails to represent it. They do not make
excuses: "she is just a little shy," or "he doesn't
like men", or the most overused excuse, "she was abused".
Third, serious, ethical breeders
should work together to produce a system similar to the German
style. A system which gives merit to those animals who are outstanding.
That encourages the breeding of our medium”built dog with
its characteristic good temperament and heart.
Serious breeders must sacrifice
and work hard to come through this most devastating of times
in the history of the breed. This is done by stopping all but
minimum sales to the general public; serious buyers will find
ethical breeders. They always have, and they always will. To
produce a litter without a waiting list, offering pups for sale
in the paper, or over the internet is unethical and unacceptable
at this time. To breed without a full waiting list of well checked
homes is irresponsible and damaging to our breeds. To not cull
poor specimens - as hard as it is - is to give the breed another
The next ten years are probably
the most important in history, for our dogs. Will the real
American pit bull become extinct through breed bans, mass murders
by human groups and fad breeders? Or will they persevere, as
they have for so many hundreds of years? Each of us holds the
answer on the end of our leash, and in our heart.
(1) The American Pit Bull Terrier, by Joseph L Colby
Boldog Butcher's Dog, IWPA WDS, @ 11 years of age.
Sarona Special Forces x Boldog Grip, SchH I, IWPA WDS (Silver Medalist)