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Re: Conformation

October Setters

    I think this is an important subject right now because there are people
    promoting the idea that crossing to current show dogs, or even crossing
    field trial dogs with them, would be similar to what Ryman did.

    The real issue with the standard is the fact that it is a “standard”.
    The intense focus on the one acceptable conformation, to the exclusion
    of everything else, is the problem. Ryman did not breed to a “standard”.
    He clearly had a preferred type in mind, but that type had a broad (and
    difficult to define) range of acceptable conformation. I would say that by definition, a
    Ryman, or a Ryman-type, is a dog that is not bred to fit into a standard
    imposed by any form of competition. They are not show dogs, they are not
    field trial dogs, they are hunting dogs.

    I respect what the show breeders accomplish, and think we can learn from
    their expertise regarding how conformation affects movement, etc, but
    for a number of reasons I don’t feel the standard is relevant to
    breeding Ryman-types, and breeding to it cannot produce them. There is a
    superficial similarity between the two types, but if you really look at
    them they are not close at all.

    Show dogs have changed dramatically since Ryman was using them. The
    great show winners of the past that were also known as good hunting dogs
    were mainly, if not all, born in the 1930s or earlier. All of the photos
    of hunting show dogs in Tuck’s book The Complete English Setter were
    from that era. Ryman didn’t use any new show lines after the mid 1940s-
    a very good indication of what happened to them after the English Setter
    Association gained complete control of the standard in 1931.

    Chuck- in answer to your question about aspects of the standard that
    might be detrimental for producing hunting dogs, here are a few thoughts
    I have.

    -I don’t find the movement of the show dogs desirable in a hunting dog.
    When gaiting a lot of them look to me like they are working hard but
    can’t quite get going. The back is smooth, but the action of the legs
    looks contrived and inefficient for covering ground. Is the reputation
    the show dogs have of plodding around right in front of you because they
    lack drive, or is it also structural? Movement is judged at the speed of
    a handler running around in the ring. What relevance does this have to a
    hunting dog? Does it make them run smoother, or does it make them so
    they don’t run? I got curious a couple days ago and spent some time
    trying to find an on-line video of a show setter hunting and running in
    the field but couldn’t. I didn’t spend all day, but I couldn’t find a
    single one, not even a hunt test or training session. All I could find
    is people gaiting them around on mowed grass. If someone knows where
    there is one I’d love to see it.

    -I suspect the extreme deep/narrow chest is not good. Are there any real
    working or performance types in any breed that are built with that chest?

    -The coat is stupid.

    -Favoring no patches has resulted in 12% of ES being deaf in at least
    one ear.

    I might turn it around and ask what is there in the standard that would
    be beneficial to a hunting dog? For instance, I don’t think a relatively straight
    topline, or one that slopes slightly down, is a problem, and might be
    good for movement. The dog with the most fluid movement in our kennel
    has a topline like that, and his stamina is really good. On the other
    hand his shoulder blades are further apart than they are “supposed” to
    be, and there are plenty of dogs (including some of ours) that are high
    in the rear and move effortlessly and gracefully with the back staying

    If anyone wants to read the standard here it is:

    Here are a couple of interesting perspectives on conformation from field
    trial people:

    We can learn from them too.
    Maybe we should be asking why there isn’t a single field trial dog
    anywhere that conforms to the standard that purports to make the most
    sound conformation for a hunting dog.


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