May 11, 2008
-- In a conformation show, judges familiar with specific dog breeds evaluate individual dogs for how well they conform to published breed standards. Conformation shows are also referred to as dog shows or breed shows. Conformation shows are typically held under the auspices of a national kennel club. At the highest levels are Championship or all-breed shows, which have separate classes for the majority of breeds. In addition, the show can be breed- or group-specific, usually organized by a breed club and often called a specialty show. The first conformation dog show was held in Newcastle-upon-
Tyne, England in 1859.
Dog-show judges attempt to identify dogs who epitomize the published standards for each breed. This can be challenging, because some judgements must necessarily be subjective. For example, what exactly entails a "full coat" or a "cheerful attitude", which are descriptions that could be found in the breed specifications.
Strictly speaking, a dog show is not exactly a comparison of one dog to another, it is a comparison of each dog to a judge's concept of the ideal specimen as dictated by the breed standard, containing the attributes of a given breed and a list of conformation points. Based on this, one dog is placed ahead of another. All-breed judges should therefore have a vast amount of knowledge, but the ability (or inability) of humans to retain all these details mentally for hundreds of breeds (and to maintain their objectivity despite their personal preferences)
is the subject of intense debate, particularly from the fanciers of working dogs. Politics in the purebred dog world can be as vicious as in any other arena; there have been charges of favoritism, nepotism, bribery and even drugging of competitors'animals.
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