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ok I happend to be looking at the BCSA website, did not realize what it was at the time lol but I was reading this artical when I saw something that got my eye it said:


The goal of the breed ring should be to select dogs which appear to be well suited for working sheep all day. Dogs which have excessive coats, heavy bone, square/cobby body types, parallel hocks, level toplines, etc., are not well suited for this purpose.



uhhh then why are the exact dogs just described here being put up?


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Eileen summarizes it very well. There's a certain phenotype that wins in the show ring, regardless of the breed. Coated breeds must drip with coat, normal-headed dogs should have a forward expression. Body types that aren't extreme in some way end up with the structure that best delivers that flying trot required in the show ring - squarish, legs tending to the short side. Dark eyes are considered most attractive and every breed eventually justifies breeding exclusively for dark eyes in some way.

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AKC standards define the platonic ideal of the best structure for a

particular breed in manner which has always struck me as quite circular. Conformation breeders say they

are looking for the best structure. The standard calls for a dog that looks like it can work for a long time without getting tired. Everyone who has seen

a fair number of working border collies

knows how much they can vary in structure while still having tremendous



I read the standards for many of the herding breeds. Most of the

standards tended to say something about stamina or working all day at

diffcult tasks or something along those lines, so a

border collie should be okay if it looks like any of the following:


1. "The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built

working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task

however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard

muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and



2. "He...has the stamina to work all day."


3. "The [particular breed] is a compact, square appearing, well balanced dog

of medium size. He is vigorous, alert and active. Striking and highly

characteristic is the shaggy coat which, combined with his light-footed,

distinctive movement, has fitted him for the strenuous work of herding

flocks on the plains of [country]. Agility, combined with soundness of mind

and body, is of prime importance for the proper fulfillment of this

centuries-old task."


4. "The [particular breed] is a well balanced, medium-sized dog of athletic

appearance, displaying style and agility in equal measure with soundness and

strength. Its hard, muscular body conveys the impression of effortless

movement and endless endurance."


5. "The [particular breed] is hardy and active, with an aura of strength and

agility characteristic of a real working dog."


6. "The whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity

without bulkiness, exhibiting the strength, endurance and agility required

of the herding dog."


7. "Vigorous and alert, powerful without coarseness, strong in bone and

muscle, exhibiting the strength and agility required of the herding dog."


If the above breeds (one is in fact from the border collie standard) can be sound and healthy and work all day, it's fairly clear that no one breed ideal has a patent on structural goodness.


I know I'm preaching to the choir here. I posted because believing in some ideal structure for a particular breed that will make it best suited to carry out its appointed tasks has always struck me as both circular and disproven by the welter of breed standards.



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The AKC "defines the platonic ideal"? How hubristic can it get? Gee, I thought that Plato defined the ideal, not the AKC.


The Platonic (note the cap for the guy's name?) ideal is the perfect image of what fits the purpose.


So a scruffy, wire-haired, cow-hocked, all-white, mangy critter that can get a flock of ewes down to the village in time to lamb might not be as real a border collie as the puppy-faced blow-dried thing that won "best of breed"? No way.


As an old tech writer, I'll take function over form any day.

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