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Breed Priorities – The Brittany

Click here to read the full article in our digital edition.

by Nikki Riggsbee

Two thoughts were expressed over and over again by the Brittany experts. First, Brittanys cannot be evaluated unless you see them move. So understand that with the priorities listed below and especially with the placement of the outlines, the experts would reserve final judgment until they could see the dogs move.
Second, the Brittany folk are justifiably proud that their breed has more dual champions than any other. Many Brittanys earn both conformation and performance championships and titles. As a result, there is more uniformity in the Brittanys that excel in breed and in the field. In too many other breeds, the dogs that compete in conformation don’t resemble those that successfully compete in field events. Kudos to the Brittany breeders and owners and their dogs.

Twenty-nine Brittany experts were invited to participate in the survey on their breed, both breeder-judges and the parent club breed standard and judges education committee members. Twenty agreed to do the survey. Sixteen surveys were returned, and their input is the basis of this article. These experts have been in the breed for over thirty-four years on average. The judges have been approved for the breed for an average of more than thirteen years. More than half have judged at their national specialty, and most others have judged other Brittany specialties.

Prioritizing Virtues

The survey included a list of breed characteristics from the Brittany standard for the experts to prioritize from most important to least important. Following is the list in sequence by the average survey ranks.

1. Side gait smooth, efficient, ground covering
2. Body length approximately same as height
3. Leggy
4. Shoulder blade and upper arm form nearly ninety degree angle
5. Hindquarters broad, strong, muscular
6. Neck well-set into sloping shoulders
7. Medium-sized
8. Feet with close-fitting, well-arched toes, thick pads
9. Topline slight slope
10. Ruggedness, without clumsiness
11. Happy, alert
12. Coat dense, flat or wavy
13. Muzzle about two-thirds length of skull
14. Ears set high, short, triangular
15. Scissors bite
16. Soft expression

Consistent with the message on the importance of movement, all but one of the group put “Side gait smooth, efficient, ground covering” (1st) in the top quartile. Three-quarters of the experts ranked “Body length approximately same as height” (2nd) also in the top quartile, so the square proportion is also important.
Almost seventy percent agreed on “Muzzle about two-thirds length of skull” (13th), “Scissors bite” (15th), and “Soft expression” (16th). As in other surveys, the greatest concurrence was on the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked virtues.

The smallest majorities had similar opinions on “Leggy…” (tied for 3rd), “Neck well-set into sloping shoulders” (6th), “Feet with close-fitting, well-arched toes, thick pads” (tied at 8th), “Topline slight slope” (tied at 8th), and “Coat dense, flat or wavy” (12th).

Half the group agreed on “Shoulder blade and upper arm form nearly ninety degree angle” (tied for 3rd), “Hindquarters broad, strong, muscular” (5th), and “Ears set high, short, triangular” (14th). “Medium-sized” (8th) had half agreeing that it was fairly important, but the other half placed it all over, from top to bottom. “Ruggedness, without clumsiness” (10th) had a plurality placing it towards the bottom, but the rest considered it more important.

Several virtues had a bi-polar distribution. “Leggy” (tied for 3rd) had a small majority placing it near the top quartile, while nearly as many had it in the second quartile. “Neck well-set…” (6th) had a small majority rank it below average, while about a third placed it near the top. “Ears…” (14th) was near bottom on half of the surveys, but nearly as many put it just below average. So check with your mentor on how to value these features.

Several average ranks were close so that additional input could or would change the placement of some virtues in the list. There was a tie at third with “Leggy…” and “Shoulder blade/upper arm angulation.” “Feet…” and “Topline…” tied for eighth. “Coat…” (12th) and “Muzzle…” (13th) were less than a tenth of a point apart.

More than two points separated the averages of “Length same as height” (2nd) and “Leggy…” (3rd), reinforcing the placement of the top two virtues.

Ranking Faults

The experts also prioritized a set of faults from the standard. The list of faults below is in order from most serious to least serious.

1. Straight shoulders
2. Sway or roached back
3. Narrow or weak loins
4. Narrow or slab sided
5. Long body
6. Flat or splayed feet
7. Down in pasterns
8. Cowhock
9. Full or pop eye
10. Shy
11. Muzzle broad, heavy, or snipey
12. Tight nostrils
13. Long or profuse feathering
14. Apple headed
15. Pendulous ears
16. Tail substantially more than four inches

The biggest majority, fourteen, put “Tail substantially more than four inches” (16th) either last or next to last. Three-quarters of the experts agreed on “Apple headed” (14th) and “Pendulous ears” (15th) as not serious compared to the other listed faults.

The next greatest agreement was on “Straight shoulders” (1st). After that, the experts had similar opinions on “Down in pasterns” (7th), “Muzzle broad, heavy, or snipey” (11th), and “Long or profuse feathering” (13th). The following had the smallest majorities concurring: “Sway or roached back” (2nd), “Narrow or weak loins” (3rd), and “Full or pop eye” (9th).

“Tight nostrils” (12th) had a bi-polar result; seven put it just below mid-point, while the same number placed it in the last quartile. Several faults had a bit over forty percent in agreement, with the rest ranking the fault all over: “Long body” (5th), “Flat or splayed feet” (6th), “Cowhock” (8th), and “Shy” (10th).

Some of the faults had very close average rankings so that additional input could change their relative placement. “Narrow or slab sided” (4th), “Long body” (5th), and “Flat or splayed feet” (6th) were less than a tenth of a point apart. Improper “Muzzle…” (11th) and “Tight nostrils” (12th) were similarly close. More than two points separated long “Tail…” from the preceding fault, emphasizing its placement at the end of the list.

Overall, the judges were more consistent in the virtues that they valued, but they varied on which faults to penalize.

Essential Characteristics

The experts listed the four to six characteristics they felt were critical to a quality Brittany.

Consistent with other comments, ground covering side gait was mentioned most often. Next most often was that the dog be square. These two are the first- and second-ranked on the virtues list.

Also frequently mentioned were balanced, breed type, head, topline and feet.


The survey included two sets of outlines, six of Brittany dogs and six of Brittany bitches. The experts placed the outlines in each set first through fourth on outlines only. They then picked Best of Breed between the first place dog and first place bitch. Remember how important movement was in this breed, so several experts said that the placement could and would change based on the movement.

The experts’ placements of the outlines were averaged. The dog with the best average score was Brittany “B.” Those who liked him best said he was “well-angulated, had a good body, correct tail and topline” and “the standard, proper shoulder set, nice body length, correct neck flow into shoulder.”
Next best dog placement average was Brittany “A.” Comments on him included “well-balanced, good head, good topline,” “overall balance,” “moderate, good tail and stifle,” and “square.”

Normally, the dog with the best average also has the most first placements; not so this time. Dog “B” had only three first placements, but many second placements, and was never out of the ribbons. Dogs “A” and “F” (4th) had four first placements each, more than “B.” But other lower placements affected their averages. Third place dog Brittany “D” had the most first placements among the dogs: 5. So while “B” was best on average placements, “F” might be considered first based on the number of first placements.

The bitch with the best average was Brittany “Y.” Those who liked her said she had the “best silhouette,” “good shoulder angulation, balance,” “good proportions, nice angulation and bone,” “leggy, square body, good topline, good head,” and “topline, square.”

The next best bitch average placement was with Brittany “U.” Those who placed her first said “nicely balanced and proportioned,” “moderate angles, good depth of chest, good topline and tail set, good feet, correct head planes,,” “better underline, balance, tailset,” “beautiful front, cobby body, pretty picture,” and “most balanced.”

Again, “U” had one more first placements than bitch “Y.” But “U” was left out of the ribbons once, lowering her average. So they might change places.
Brittanys “A,” “B,” “D,” and “U” were named Best of breed three times each by the experts. Bitch “Y” had the best overall average placement of the twelve outlines. Bitch “U” had the most first placements (6) of all the outlines. So who is BOB? Your call.

Dogs “C” and “E” and bitches “X” and “Z” were not placed first by any expert and were most often not placed in the ribbons. Dog “B” and bitch “Y” were never out of the ribbons.

Comments from Brittany Experts

•The Brittany is a bird dog and must have the stamina to run in the field, with the neck to pick up and carry a bird.
•A Brittany moves the rear foot into or beyond the print left by the front foot.
•They must be judged on their ability to run all day long in the field, good balance, and sound structure.
•Breed type details are mostly functional: short back, well-protected eye, dense protective coat.
•The one thing that nearly every top field dog has is a strong rear.
•Find a balance between form and function; soundness is very important.
•Long, profuse feathering is the most severely penalized fault in our standard.
•Down and back gaiting is just as important as side gait.
•Color and markings do not affect how the dog performs in the field.
•Movement is essential to judging this breed, side gait in particular.
•The animal must fit the size standard; the same size limits apply to both sexes.
•Check muscle tone.
•Proper movement is efficient, not extreme; it is effortless with no wasted action, with balanced front and rear.
•Movement must show the dog to be a great ground coverer, energetic, and strong.
•Leggy with a square outline and a slightly sloping topline is distinctive to the Brittany.
•Remember three “M’s” – medium, moderate, movement.
•Head position when the dog is moving is never up high.
•A common problem is being too tall; when judging, wicket when necessary.
•#1 is movement!



Thanks to the Brittany experts for participating and sharing their expertise, and for being generous with their comments.

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Posted by on Apr 8 2014. Filed under Current Articles, 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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