I have a friend who has exclaimed that he never wants to show to the so-called all-rounder type of judges since these individuals are only interested in how the dog moves without giving adequate consideration for the more important things. By more important things my friend is of the opinion that the features of breed type are not being given adequate weight in the evaluation of the dog.
I thought that I would here argue against my friend’s position. I want to champion the position that Breed Type must contain as a major feature an athletic and sound body. Or to put it another way, I argue that proper locomotion is an integral part of breed type, and that any Saint Bernard that has inadequate locomotion fails to have one the more important features of type.
Let us take a small detour first so that we can agree upon the definition of breed type. I offer that “Breed Type” Is that set of features that make a Saint Bernard distinct from the generic dog; i.e., those features that make a Saint Bernard a Saint Bernard.
So what is a Saint Bernard? A Saint Bernard is a dog that was developed to perform a specific task. The dog fancy has long had a saying that goes, “Through work to type!” That then, is how we determine correct breed type – a dog that can perform its work! The Saint Bernard fancy has also added certain fashion statements about the dogs’ appearance, but let us not forget that first and foremost the dog must be able to perform its work!
Therefore, we Saint Bernard breeders and judges are tasked to preserve the ability to perform as a Mountain Rescue dog. Now we have all heard that the breed was originally developed to be a combination guard and farm dog. I claim that it was only the romance and glory of the breed’s mountain rescue work that made the breed into something that people wanted to preserve, and without these tales of heroism there would be no Saint Bernard breed.
If you stop to think about it, if we only want a farm or guard dog, then any head or body style will do so long as the dog has sound legs and a good set of teeth. In general, there was no breed of farm dog that was preserved after its development except as a breed able to perform a specific task – sheep herding or cattle droving for example.
There is a significant percentage of the Saint Bernard Fancy that feels that a good looking dog is all we need. I agree that we want an attractive Saint as our ideal, but I don’t agree that only being pleasing to the eye while standing still is sufficient. Rather, I would argue that while we all seek after beauty, we must all bear in mind that being an athlete is an integral part of being a beautiful Saint Bernard.
Now back to my point that lacking soundness destroys breed type.
Think for a moment that you are a judge and your job is to judge cars, that is, to pick the best car. In the ring in front of you are two brand new cars, shiny and bright and beautiful. One is a Chevrolet that normally sells for about $15,000, and the other is a Porsche that normally sells for about $100,000. The choice is obvious, except that I forgot to mention that the Porsche is missing a wheel. Now we can go around to the side of the Porsche that has both wheels and trust the exhibitor to hold the one corner up somehow to maintain the illusion of a functional vehicle so that we can make our evaluation of the static display. However, when we send the class around the ring we must conclude that one of the entries fails to be a car by anybody’s definition. You define a car anyway you want, and the Porsche does not meet the criteria. Beautiful to look at, Yes — but of no use as a car. You can moan to yourself and exclaim, “Oh, how I wish that the Porsche had four good wheels!” But, in the end, you must conclude that the Chevy is the best (and only) car in the ring.
So it is with our dogs; any animal that fails to be sound enough to perform its historic task has a very major shortcoming in breed type. Let us all keep in mind, whenever we are breeding or judging Saint Bernards, that being a sound and athletic dog is an essential part of correct breed type.