E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge, TheDogPlace.org
Exhibition Editor - January 2010
Are breed type and compromised breed standards affected by fad breeding and judging? This Breeder-Judge compares the dog show ring to the Arabian horse fancy.
The pure-bred horse is capitulating to changes much like
today’s dog world. Most changes reflect negatively
on breed type. Economics and the desire to win water
down standards set long ago by dedicated horse and
dog breeders. Pure bred Arabian breeders are
concerned about the direction of their breed, as are
dog breeders of today.
Attending the Arabian Horse
Nationals in Albuquerque in 1999 and 2009 in Tulsa, one can see visible changes
since acceptance of the half Arabian. Breed type is disappearing at a rapid
pace. Breeders of pure Arabians shake their heads.
has freedom of choice in their breeding programs but I give credence to breeders
pursuing the pure bred Arabian horse and pure bred dogs. My
observation is that few of today’s breed standard changes result in a positive
effect. Older Arabian breeders gnash their teeth at the disregard newcomers have
for the pure Arabian. Breeding something “different” simply to win or to cut
costs does no favors to purebred dogs or horses.
Consider this. Trotters and Pacers wear hobbles to
hold the desired gait. Park horses wear weights to
high encourage action. The Paso Fino is NOT born
“dancing” in the pasture. The desired beat produced
on the board comes from strenuous training.
Structure is adjusted to produce specific gaits and
we dog breeders are doing likewise in many breeds.
Quarter Horses demand tiny hooves and low head
carriage and 100 pound dogs walk on legs that
structurally cannot support the weight. Man invites
disaster in order to improve “perfection”.
The most breathtaking class of all is the “Arabian
Class.” A horse is turned loose in an arena to show
off its action to specially chosen music. The crowd
cheers and claps to encourage action. When the
allotted time is up, the owner signals to the horse
and to see the “wild one” lower his head to accept
the halter is a very emotional and rewarding moment.
The desert purebred has displayed style, action,
carriage, and beauty in a magical way.
So why breed half-Arabians? ECONOMICS! The stud fee on a
pure Arabian stallion is quite expensive for the
owner of a pure bred Arabian mare. The fee to breed
a half-Arabian mare to the same stud may be one
third the cost. Some say it’s to “improve” other
horse breeds. Excuse me, but we bred a filly that
won the Chicago International Stock show over 58
head. In our opinion, and that of the judge, she
represented the Quarter Horse breed standard and did
not need changes.
Some owners prefer their pure Arabians not be beaten
by a half-Arab. Some do not consider them worthy of
the competition. And how would pure Arabian stud
fees be affected if this happened? I draw
similarities between horses and dogs. Offering spay
and neuter classes for dogs (they have gelding
classes) would bring in extra revenue to the AKC and
proud pet owners with quality animals could enjoy
the competition. Many dogs and horses are
genetically not of “breeding quality”, yet they
please the eye.
Eons ago, a long time dog breeder allowed me the
privilege of owning one of her coveted bitches
simply because she saw our horses. She said “YOU
breed to standard”. Running her hands over our
horses reverently as if handling a beautiful
sculpture, she knew our hearts were “branded” by the
standard. She knew we would use her bitch wisely and
today that bitch remains in our pedigrees. Likewise,
our horse pedigrees come down from the mare that
produced the Chicago International winner. That’s a
true breeder honoring the standard, be it horses or
pure bred Arabian comes from the Middle East.
Developed for harsh desert survival, their
distinctive bulging forehead and concave dish face
is unique and allows for an additional sinus cavity.
The long arched neck, long wind pipe, and clean
throat aids endurance. Their “tea cup” nose, large
nostrils, and wide set eyes are for obvious purpose.
The high tail set and moderate bone allows speed and
endurance over the dunes. The pure Arabian is “one
with the wind.”
Arabians are considered hot-blooded. Not large
physically, their intelligence, speed, endurance,
and willingness to please allow Arabians to compete
in many venues. Collection and lightness of the
Arabian take precedence over a lower head carriage,
heavier body and bone. They are athletes of the
As the Arabian gained popularity, various types
surfaced. There are today true “Desert Arabians”.
There are Polish Arabians, Bedouin Arabians, Spanish
Arabians, Crabbet Arabians, European Arabians,
German Arabians, and Australian Arabians. Dedicated
breeders are extremely proud of their Arabians and
carry on with long established traditions. These
purebreds represent subtle differences within the
bloodline and breeders proudly concentrate on
One might compare the Arabian horse to the Belgian
dog known for its specific herding technique.
“Faculty of movement rather than reach and drive,
tends to move in a circle rather than a straight
line”. With a tireless trot, Belgians circle the
herd. Many dog standards use horse terminology in
Arabian horses do not have “Champion” before their
name. A spectacular horse is identified by the
following marks ++-++, indicating accomplishments.
In performance classes, three judges select a Top
Ten from which the coveted Reserve Grand Champion
and Grand Champion is awarded. The three judge
system assures less political influence, Scoring is
visible to on-lookers by a scoreboard. A “call
judge” makes the final decision in case of a tie.
Attending the Arabian Horse Nationals cements my
theory regarding dogs. Initially, old time breeders
were less susceptible to “different types:” They
took seriously the challenge of breeding to the
purity of a standard. Secondly, the similarity in
horse and dog breeding is basic. You might say it is
“a concentration of a fault that eventually evolves
into a new look.” When did faults become so common
place in both horses and purebred dogs that they are
considered “virtues?” This “desired look” wins for a
time until the “next big thing” comes along. In the
mean time, true type dissolves in both horses and
The Arabian shows offer wonderful art work,
costumes, and equipment with prices to “choke a
horse”. Arabian business cards are 8 X 10 glossy
photos of their animals with pedigrees on the back.
Stalls are decorated. Comfortable sitting rooms,
televisions, and refreshments are available in most
every set up. This extravaganza is a CLASS ACT!
But breed type is slipping in the pure-Arabian.
Cross breeding requires less investment, but it
dissolves breed type. Here’s a thought. If cross
breeding devalues the pure Arabian, why are
Labradoodles commanding exorbitant prices? It isn’t
so in horses. Respecting breed history and purpose,
true breeders continue the quest for the animal that
“fills the eye” and “excites the heart”.
June of next year brings the “World Show” to
Lexington. Save me a seat! That show should tide me
over until the next Arabian National Event. Try to
attend either show or even a smaller event in your
state. I guarantee it will be the “thrill of a
lifetime” and it might help you focus on what we’re
doing in breeding dogs.