|JUDGING THE AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG:
Apparent breed faults
|by Carolwyn Beckett B.Ed(sec)|
|The agility, intelligence and strength so admired in our own Australian Cattle Dog is the result of his evolution in our arid environment. Survival in such harsh conditions has moulded his type. Within his roots is the true untamed Australia. Long revered among stockmen as a livelong companion and irreplaceable hand, worth many good men.
There are a number of apparent breed faults however, which todays judge and breeder must be aware of and discourage. The standard of the breed is a derivative of purpose. As a working dog he must be seen to be in moderation, any anotomical extremes are foreign. Correct effortless movement is of paramount importance, as is good boning, sound structure and a stable temperament. Except perhaps for colour, he has the form of a strongly built wild canine such as the Dingo.
The head, although showing strength, is in balance with the entire dog. A specimen with a superb head but poor angulation is for example, less able to perform his task than a balanced dog with an average head. Parallel skull and muzzle planes are called for in the standard. Many dogs are tending towards a domed skull. This is totally untypical of the true meso-cephallic or dingo-like head which is again clearly laid down in the standard. A shortening of the muzzle results in quickness of breath after being worked and thus limits endurance. A short muzzle is mistakenly thought to be a 'strong' muzzle. This is entirely false as the 'powerhouse' is in the muscle bulk attached to the skull and boning under the eyes. The correct skull to muzzle ratio is 3:2
Areas of concern in the body are many and usually become obvious when the dog is on the move. Overly long backs will reduce agility when turning. The correct length to height ratio is 10:9. (measured from the pro-sternum to behind the buttocks, compared to the height at the whithers. eg. a dog that is 18 inches high should be 20 inches long. This represents only 10% extra length which is almost negligable.
Poor angulation is the most apparent and serious problem that presents itself in today's population. Straight stifles will limit drive and together with poor slope of shoulder give a stilted gait. Both these FAULTS reduce ground coverage. It must be noted that the standard clearly calls for well-turned NOT moderate angulation of the stifle joint and well-laid shoulders. That is. not less that 90 degree angles between the bones.
Narrow chests with lack of prosternum(brestbone) development limit the area available for lung expansion and heart capacity. Narrow hindquarters reduce turning ability when the dog is pivoting on its hindquarters. Both faults limit endurance and should be discouraged.
The standard calls for a level topline. Some have misinterpreted this to mean a 'table-top'. The result has been an obvious reduction in the length and slope of croup and a consequent high tailset. The currect topline should be straight and firm, with a very slight rise over the loin area to allow for flexibility of the back. Together with a correct sloping croup the dog is better able to manouver its hindquarters under its body.
One increasing problem is the number of dogs that appear 'high in rump'. A topline sloping from loin to whithers is incorrect and can be the result of a number of faults including: Short forearms, straight stifles, overly long hocks or weak backs.
Colour faults include dogs that are too light or dark, not mid-blue. Blue and black in the coats of red dogs is incorrect as are black patches other than on the head in blue dogs. The white star or 'Bentley's mark' on the forehead is a hallmark of the breed and is described as a guide to purity. Lighter coat colour in the tail is also a distinct breed trait. Lighter tails were encouraged as they allow the dog to more clearly be seen at night by the drover/stockman following behind on horseback. Banded or'racoon' tails indicated that the dog carries the modifyer gene and so can produce speckled/mottled offspring. 'Speckling' and 'mottling' must be encouraged over the more solid blue and red due to the fact that cattle can only see in tones, a speckled dog is camouflaged and blends with the background. Thus making him invisible to the stock. Colour is however secondary to conformation and should be treated as such.
All things being equal, a correct balanced dog with typical Cattle Dog traits, will exhibit true effortless gait. Maximun ground coverage for minimum effort is essential, bouncy movement is incorrect. The Cattle Dog is a keen alert canine with colour markings uncommon to any other breed. He is our own TRUE unique Aussie, unequalled in his ability to move unruly cattle and deserving of our respect. The future direction of this breed lies in the hands of his breeders and judges, who must all make the effort to become as eduacated and experienced as we can!