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Breed Priorities – Pointers

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442 – The Annual, 2014-15

By Nikki Riggsbee

Pointers are one of the earliest breeds recognized by AKC, one of which is part of the logo of the Westminster Kennel Club. I was confident that I could find many breeder-judges to participate in this survey on the breed’s priorities. I was surprised to identify only twenty-four to contact and invite. Twenty-one agreed to do the survey. Fourteen completed surveys were returned.

The breeder-judges come from all over the country. Some of the group judge a few breeds, while others are approved for one or more groups. They have been involved with Pointers for nearly thirty-three years on average and have judged them for almost sixteen years on average. Most have judged Pointer specialties, and some have judged their national specialty.

Pointer Virtues

The survey included a list of breed virtues from the Pointer standard for the breeder-judges to prioritize. The list below has the Pointer characteristics in sequence by the breeder-judges’ average ranking, from most important (1) to least important (16).

1. Balance and symmetry

2. Muscular body…hard-driving hunting dog

3. Skull approximately as wide as the length of the muzzle, resulting in an impression of length

4. Pronounced stop

5. Eyes of ample size, rounded and intense

6. Neck long, dry, muscular

7. Tail moving from side to side when moving

8. Nostrils well-developed and wide open

9. Muzzle deep, jaws ending square

10. Nose slightly higher at the tip than the muzzle at the stop (parallel planes equally acceptable)

11. Forelegs with oval bone

12. Tail tapering to a fine point

13. Dark eyes

14. Ears somewhat pointed at the tip—never rounded – and soft and thin in leather

15. Head carried high when moving

16. Bite even or scissors

The greatest agreement – everyone – was on first place “Balance and symmetry.” All but one placed “Muscular body…hard-driving hunting dog” (2nd) in the top quartile. More than seventy percent placed the last two at the bottom: “Head carried high when moving” (15th) and “Bite even or scissors” (16th).

The next greatest agreement was on “Skull approximately as wide as the length of the muzzle, resulting in an impression of length” (3rd), “Dark eyes” (13th), and “Ears somewhat pointed at the tip—never rounded – and soft and thin in leather” (14th). “Eyes of ample size, rounded and intense“ (5th) had the smallest majority.

“Neck long, dry, muscular” (6th) had six surveys place it third or fourth, but the rest ranged from eighth to fifteenth. Six surveys ranked “Nostrils well-developed and wide open” (8th) in the third quartile, with the others placing it all over. “Forelegs with oval bone” (11th) had more than forty percent value it fairly low, with the rest ranging from fourth to sixteenth.

“Muzzle deep, jaws ending square” (9th) had six put it in the second quartile, but four had it in the last quartile. “Nose slightly higher at the tip than the muzzle at the stop (parallel planes equally acceptable)” (10th) had clumped (new term) opinions: four ranked it third, five ranked it seventh to ninth, and four put it fourteenth to sixteenth. “Tail tapering to a fine point” (12th) was placed mostly in the bottom half, but without a more definite consensus.

Click here to read the complete article

442 – The Annual, 2014-15

The virtues “Pronounced stop” (4th) and “Tail moving from side to side when moving” (7th) were placed all over.

The first two priorities apply to the overall dog, which most judges look for when judging. More than four points separated the second and third virtues, emphasizing the importance of the first two. Six of the next eight apply to head, confirming that head is important to breed type. I expected “Tail tapering to a fine point” (12th) to rank higher, but the breeder-judges as a group were more interested in proper tail action (“Tail moving from side to side” (7th) when the dog is moving.

Some of the average rankings were very close to each other, and more input could change the relative rankings. “Pronounced stop” (4th) and “Eyes of ample size, rounded and intense” (5th) were about one-tenth of a point apart, with the next three (“Neck long, dry, muscular” (6th), “Tail moving from side to side when moving” (7th), and “Nostrils well-developed and wide open” (8th) close behind. Also close in their averages were “Nose slightly higher at the tip than the muzzle at the stop (parallel planes equally acceptable)” (10th) and “Forelegs with oval bone” (11th).

Ranking Faults

The judges also ranked a list of Pointer faults taken directly or indirectly from the standard. The following is the list of faults in sequence by the average rank, from most serious (1) to least serious.

1. Hound characteristics

2. Hackney gait

3. Showing timidity

4. Lacking a muscular body

5. Elbows not directly under the withers

6. Tail carried with curl

7. Short or heavy neck

8. Ears set on below eye level

9. Tail longer than to the hock

10 Croup falling more than slightly to base of tail

11. Pendulous flews

12. (tie) Catfoot

12. (tie) Short muzzle

14. Cheeks not cleanly chiseled

15. Tail carried more than 20 degrees above the line of the back

16. Folding ears

Click here to read the complete article

442 – The Annual, 2014-15

The greatest agreement, almost eighty-six percent, concurred on “Hound characteristics” (1st) and “Hackney gait” (2nd). “Hound characteristics” refers to scent hound features, such as long, low-set ears; lack of the pronounced stop; Foxhound muzzle (more tapering and not squared off at the front); excess skin on throat; excess skirt (the skin on the dog’s side that hides the tuck-up or belly area); pendulous upper lips; tail thick, long, and not tapering; lack of tuck-up; and straight pasterns.

The next greatest agreement was on “Lacking a muscular body” (4th) followed by “Showing timidity” (3rd). Nine of the group similarly valued “Elbows not directly under the withers” (5th) and “Folding ears” (16th). Minimum majorities had similar opinions on “Pendulous flews” (11th), “Short muzzle” (tied for 12th), and “Cheeks not cleanly chiseled” (14th).

Half of the group agreed on “Tail carried with curl” (6th), “Short or heavy neck” (7th), and “Tail carried more than 20 degrees above the line of the back” (15th). While half put “High tail carriage” in the last quartile, almost as many put it at about midpoint.

Some faults had skewed opinions. Six put “Ears set on below eye level” (8th) at mid-point or better, but the same number thought it much less serious. Six had “Tail longer than to the hock” (9th) in the last quartile, but the others varied from second to tenth. “Croup falling more than slightly to base of tail” (10th) was put it in the second quartile by six, but four put it fifteenth, lowering the average. “Catfoot” (tied at 12th) had six consider it not serious, but five others thought it more serious.

Some faults were ranked very close to each other, and their placements could easily change with more input. The first two faults (“Hound characteristics” and “Hackney gait”) were less than one-tenth point apart. The rankings for “Tail longer than to the hock” (9th), “Croup falling more than slightly to base of tail” (10th), and “Pendulous flews” (11th) varied little among the three. There was a tie for twelfth between “Catfoot” and “Short muzzle”, and “Cheeks not cleanly chiseled” (14th) was only fractionally behind.

Essential Characteristics

The survey asked the breeder-judges to name four to six characteristics that a good Pointer must have, the characteristics that they look for when they judge. Two features tied for first: balance and head. This was consistent with the Virtues list. Movement was next most frequently named, followed by a correct tail and tail action when the dog is moving. “Tail and carriage when moving” wasn’t ranked as highly on the Virtues list. The group also mentioned a strong, muscular, athletic body capable of great endurance. Temperament was important as well; a timid dog wasn’t acceptable.


The survey included outlines of six Pointer dogs and six Pointer bitches which the judges were asked to place based on outlines only. The outlines were made from photos of real dogs, and as such, none is perfect. When placing them, the judges place them based on only what they could see in the outlines. The judges’ placements of the outlines were averaged to determine their collective selections.

Before reading further, select your Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex from the Pointer outlines here.

The top male based on the best average placement was Pointer “D.” Those who selected him said he had “compact power, best head planes,” “good tail,” and “pleasant outline.” Pointer “F” was close behind in average placement. Those who selected dog “F” chose him because he had “flowing curves, square appearance,” “best outline,” “well balanced, nice bone, good layback, good rib cage,” and “compact power and agile grace, short tail, long neck, decent head.”

The bitch with the best average placement was Pointer “W.” Those that picked her said she had “overall type and balance,” “correct planes, angles, and tail,” and “symmetry; proper head outline.” The bitch with the next highest placement score was Pointer “Z.” Those who chose her commented that she was “balanced front and rear, nice outline” and had “good head planes, good angles, topline, and tailset.”

No Pointer was consistently selected Best of Breed. Three breeder-judges picked Pointer “F” as BOB; Pointer bitches “U,” “V,” and “W” were each chosen BOB by two surveys. Pointer dog “D” and Pointer bitch “W” were tied in their average placements. Pointer “F” was placed first six times, more than any other, although his average rank was lower than “D” or “W.” So, you decide which one is Best of Breed.

All but one of the twelve outlines were placed first at least once; only dog “B” never placed first. All twelve outlines were left out of the ribbons on at least one survey. Dog “F” placed first six times, more than any other. Dog “B” was out of the ribbons twelve times. Bitches “U” and “Y” were unplaced seven times each.

Additional Comments

Here are some of the comments offered by the Pointer breed-judges:

•?The General Description section of the breed standard is absolutely brilliant; read it ten times.

•?The dog must move as a properly made sporting dog, designed to hunt upland game for long periods of time. A proper front assembly is the most important skeletal structure.

•?Correct American head and stop are important. English standard calls for ears set on above eyes and a dish face.

•?The Pointer should be evaluated at the trot circling the ring and in a straight line up and back; both should be given equal weight.

•?A Pointer must not have hound characteristics: long thick ears; skirting; straight underline; thick long tails.

•?Temperament is a deal breaker for me. A Pointer that shows timidity should not win. Happy dogs that need more training or unsure puppies are okay. But a spooky dog with its tail down should not win.

•?Judge the Pointer on the move; choose the ones with sound movement and no hackney action. Looking for correct tail movement from side to side.

•?The Pointer should look like he can do a day’s work in the field; he should have economy of movement.

•?Basic make and shape are essential, a graceful series of curves. A Pointer should have “compact power and agile grace.” Classic chiseled Pointer head and expression and a straight tapered tail are important.

•?Most important is overall balance – no one aspect more important, but all parts are integral.

Thanks to all the Pointer breeder-judges who shared their knowledge of their breed.

This article is not intended to promote fault or part judging. Nor is it to imply that any characteristic called for in the standard is unimportant. Judging, and breeding, is about prioritizing and about what the judge or breeder must have and what will be forgiven. Discussing priorities can help in learning how to better evaluate a breed.

Click here to read the complete article

442 – The Annual, 2014-15

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Posted by on Jan 6 2015. Filed under Current Articles, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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