|Mary Evans Picture Library/THOMAS FALL|
There's a good piece by judge and dog-show globetrotter Andrew Brace ("Air Miles Andy" as dubbed by the irreverent Gossip Hound) in this week's Dog World explaining the mechanics of how and why exaggerations occur in some show dogs. (See the whole article here.)
"Although the study by Thomas Fall, who photographed so many of the great Pekingese of the past, is of Ku Ku sitting down it is clear to see that he did not carry an unduly profuse body coat (other full body photographs of him confirm this fact)," writes Brace. "His coat is obviously clean and well groomed but is presented in a very moderate fashion, rather than having the hair on his ears brushed up in an exaggerated way to emphasise width.
"However it is the dog’s face that I feel is worthy of the most careful study, and bear in mind that this dog was born in 1952. Here we see a Pekingese head which complies perfectly with the requirements of the breed Standard yet in no way could be considered extreme.
"A seminar could be given on this head alone. Look at the width yet shallowness of the face, the naturally flat topskull, the position of the correctly fringed ears and then examine the facial features. Here are eyes that are set well apart, large and expressive, with no suggestion of being bolting. The position of the eyes relative to the nose is exemplary, the nose and nostrils being sufficiently large.
"The over-nose wrinkle is in no way exaggerated and sits perfectly on the nose while the muzzle is well padded, wide and in no way ‘lippy’. Most importantly the underjaw is wide, deep and strong, proving perfect lip-to-lip placement. I feel that so many of the Oriental breeds these days are lacking in chin and this is a vital ingredient when it comes to creating the essential arrogance of expression. All these individual features help to demonstrate the ‘openness’ of the face.
"I believe it is vitally important that breeders and exhibitors should occasionally browse through the old breed books and actually study the dogs of yesteryear. Doing so might give them a slightly different perspective on the dogs of today and pose some interesting questions."Indeed. But, actually, by the 1950s, the show-ring had already wrought considerable shape-shifting on the Pekingese. And I don't agree with Mr Brace that the dog above has nares wide enough to guarantee the free-flow of air. (Feel free to click on the above pic to enlarge - I've paid for a hi-res version from the Mary Evans Picture Library so you can have a good look.)
Here's a 1899-style Peke from the famous Goodwood Kennel to compare - no nose wrinkle at all (because the muzzle is much longer), a bigger nose and wider nares. See other vintage pekes here.
Of course this dog wouldn't really be recognised as a Peke today. Now that doesn't mean that the dog has to be returned to this phenotype. It might be possible for today's breeders to find the right balance between type and health (not of course that it should ever be a tug-o-war between the two).
And I would agree with Mr Brace in saying that the breed has, in part, been hauled back from the appalling excess of 2003 Crufts winner Danny, who looked like this:
This is the 2013 Crufts BOB, btw... a real improvement. Still w-a-a-y too much coat, though.