The Final Word on Greyhound Registration
Patricia Gail Burnham
I would like to provide a different point of view to that of Maureen Lucas in your July issue, where she recommended yet again that the AKC studbook be closed to racing Greyhounds.
I was amused at Maureen's statement that the rescue population overshadows the show Greyhound population. I am afraid that Maureen does need a little help on her math. She compares the 12,000 racing Greyhounds that were adopted in 1999 to the 146 AKC bred Greyhounds registered in 1999. Then she concludes that the large number of adopted Greyhounds is a threat to the small number of AKC bred Greyhounds. But simple fact is that the vast majority of adopted racing Greyhounds will never be registered with the AKC, will never be shown, and will never be bred.
What she should compare to the number of AKC bred Greyhounds, is the number of racing Greyhounds that are registered with the AKC, and subsequently shown and bred. It is the occasional adopted Greyhound who joins the AKC ranks that she opposes. The number of those dogs is tiny even when compared with the small population of AKC bred Greyhounds. From the beginning of the AKC, up through 1999, the total number of AKC Champion Greyhounds is 1,860 Greyhounds. Of those 1,860 Champion Greyhounds only 13 of them have been racing bred Greyhounds. So less than one half of one percent of AKC Champion Greyhounds is racing bred. This is not a number that is going to overwhelm the totally AKC bred Greyhound population.
Last year there was a judging seminar at which the presenters said that racing Greyhounds should not be given awards in the show ring. That is entirely wrong. All show dogs are judged against the standard for their breed. If a racing Greyhound adheres more closely to the Greyhound standard than other exhibits in the ring then that dog should be the winner. Maureen says, "That the AKC's brief and generous standard sometimes coincidentally encompasses a track dog." I agree with Maureen that the racing dogs often fit within our standard. I disagree with her evaluation of the Greyhound standard as generous. The standard is extremely specific about one thing, and that is the desired size of the dogs. The standard says." Weight: Dogs 65 to 70 pounds, bitches 60-65 pounds." Those weights translate into a dog that is 27-28 inches tall and a bitch that is 26-27 inches tall.
It is not unusual to see male show Greyhounds that stand 30" at the shoulder and weigh 100 pounds. Some judges decide that a racing dog that is within the standard on size and that otherwise meets the standard, is a better match to the standard than an overly tall show bred dog. A racing bred dog is not only more likely to meet the sizes given in the standard, but it is more likely to also have the low a center of gravity that it needs to be able to turn with a hare. Can the 30-inch, 100-pound dogs turn? Not well. Raising the center of gravity on a dog has the same effect as raising the center of gravity on a car. Low center of gravity Ferraris turn a lot better than high center of gravity SUVs. Turning ability is the reason for the standard's narrow limits on desired Greyhound size.
What annoys the folks who want to close the studbook to racing dogs is the occasional judge who reads our standard and finds that some racing dog matches it more closely than some show bred dogs. If the racing dogs were far removed from our standard's description, then they would never win in the show ring. If only racing dogs were in the ring showing against other racing dogs, and they didn't meet our standard, then their placements would be withheld. The truth is that, with 30,000 racing puppies born each year, there are some that can be competitive in the show ring. And that is why the anti-group wants the studbook closed. It really grates on them to lose to a racing bred dog-or even to dogs with both racing and show ancestors. . If some breeders have drifted away from our standard and find themselves losing to racing bred dogs, they have an easy way out. My suggestion to them is to breed to our standard. It should surely be possible to breed a show-bred dog that matches our standard better than a dog bred for racing The only way that a racing dog can beat a show dog in the ring, is by conforming more closely to the Greyhound standard than the show bred dog does.
While only thirteen racing Greyhounds have finished Championships and very few of those have ever been bred, those few have produced a fair number of show Champions. What the mix of AKC and racing bloodlines does is produce a dog of moderate body type, moderate size, with less speed than a pure racing bred dog but with more endurance. It one method of getting back to what Greyhounds looked like when the standard was written in 1929. In June of 2001 Field Champion Laikillani Forever in Blue Jeans broke the all time record for points earned by a Greyhound in American Sighthound Field Association lure coursing and also won her 51st Best In Field. She is of combined show/racing breeding. A racing bred bitch previously held the record. In the same week Kathy Helmke's 15-month-old Golightly Brand New Day won her first group placement under Joe C. Tacker. She is also of combined show/racing breeding.
Since some judges seem to feel that "bigger is better," many show Greyhounds have gotten taller and thinner and lost shoulder angulation over the years. Some of us oppose the trend. I do it by breeding entirely show lines and selecting for shorter, wider dogs. Some people get the same effect by crossing racing and show-bred dogs. Folks who like this style of dog tend to be those who like to both show and lure course their dogs. The fanciers with the tall, narrow dogs don't like us to point out that the standard not only asks for a very specific size range (which their dogs don't meet) but it asks for a back that is muscular and broad, and a chest that is "deep, and as wide as consistent with speed, fairly well sprung ribs." A chest "as wide as consistent with speed" is fairly wide, with well-sprung ribs to give heart room at the bottom of the brisket. Greyhounds have larger hearts than non-greyhound dogs of their size. And as for muscular development, the Greyhound standard describes as "muscular" the neck, shoulders, back, loin and hindquarters of the ideal Greyhound. Nowhere does it ask for underdeveloped or flat muscles. And nowhere does the standard ask for the dog to be tall with a high center of gravity.
The reason that racing Greyhounds sometimes meet the show standard better than some show dogs do is that, when the standard was written in 1929 most of the Greyhounds then being shown were coursing dogs. The Greyhound breed was originally created by selecting dogs for coursing ability. Greyhounds were bred for thousands of years to a performance standard. And when the written show standard was finally adopted, it described a pretty coursing dog. At that time Greyhounds imported from England and bred specifically for show were only shown in the New York area. Everywhere else across the country, the Greyhounds being shown were coursing dogs. And it was these same coursing dogs that were enlisted to provide racing dogs when Greyhound racing started in 1926. Since that time the subjective quality of dog show judging has allowed show breeders to develop a wide variety in breed type and size. While the physical requirements of running successfully have kept the racing dogs closer to their roots and less changed than the show dogs. Since our standard is an old standard, that has fortunately not been changed to fit the new type of show Greyhounds that some breeders favor, it does tend to fit the more attractive racing dogs.
Maureen discounts the risk of health problems in Greyhounds. I am surprised that she is not aware that Sub Aortic Stenosis has turned up recently in show Greyhounds in several countries. I can't think of anything more serious than a condition that can make your young champion drop dead at your feet. There are so few show bred Greyhounds world-wide, and they are so inbred, that we would be foolish to eliminate the possibility of using a selected NGA dog as a future out cross to widen our very narrow gene pool.
Maureen advocates doing international breedings to avoid the problems of a narrow gene pool. The problem with international breedings is that foreign show Greyhounds are not an outcross. They go back to the same English dogs that are behind American dogs. England has been exporting Greyhounds to Europe and America for a century. And the 147 Greyhounds were registered in the USA in 1999 is a large number when compared to England's' show Greyhound production. In England an average of only 50 show Greyhounds are registered each year. Worse yet, the popular sires in England often produce a large number of any given year's puppies. That was true in the 1950's with Ch. Treetops Hawk. In the seventies it was Ch. Shalfleet Sir Lancelot and Ch. Solstrand Double Diamond. In the eighties it was Ch. Aroi Sea Hawk of Shalfleet, and in the nineties Ch. Ro Poth and Ch. Gayside White Christmas. With only 50 puppies born each year it is easy for the popular sires to dominate the gene pool. Fanciers have commented that English Greyhounds are more uniform in type than American Greyhounds. The English dogs SHOULD be more uniform because they are very closely related to each other. Narrow gene pools produce uniformity of type, but they are ultimately a threat to the survival of any species. Because a narrow gene pool limits a species' ability to adapt to new diseases.
One other point that Maureen neglects when she advocates international breeding is that Greyhounds in other countries are bred to a very different standard than they are in America. The English standard has been heavily revised since it was first written.. It started out advocating dogs the same size as the American standard, but, over the years, the recommended sizes in the English standard were increased. In 1935 the English standard recommended bitches 26"-27" and dogs 27"-28."Those are the heights that match the American standard's recommended weights. But the current English standard recommends heights of 27"-28" for bitches and 28"-30." for dogs. The American standard asks for feet "more hare than cat" The English standard asks for feet "of moderate length, with compact, well knuckled toes." The result is that many English dogs have cat feet, which are not correct on our standard. The English standard also specifies acceptable colors for Greyhounds while the American standard says simply, "Color immaterial." There are currently colors in American and European Greyhounds that are not on the English list of acceptable colors. If we are willing to import dogs from countries with standards that differ from the American standard then why are we quibbling about allowing racing dogs to be AKC registered? Remember, if they don't meet our standard, then they won't win in the ring.
Maureen compares the show and racing Greyhounds to show and field type English Setters that have separate breed registries. I prefer comparing them to show and field bred Labrador Retrievers. Labrador and Golden Retrievers are breeds that have their show and field bloodlines all registered by the AKC. If you want a show dog then you go to breeders with successful show bloodlines. If you want a hunting dog you go to field dog breeders. What you get is a pure bred, AKC-registered, Labrador or Golden Retriever. The strictly show bred dogs tend to be a lot larger and heavier than the field bred dogs. But nobody is trying to remove the working dogs of these breeds from the AKC studbook.
Maureen claims that racing Greyhounds are not being bred for health and longevity. She is wrong. What they are being bred for is the physical strength and the excellent heart and lung function needed to make them run fast. Good heart and lung function often results in longevity. Being bred for running ability for hundreds of years is what gives Greyhounds one of the lowest rates of hip displaysia among all dog breeds. In the Summer 2001 Celebrating Greyhound's magazine there were six racing Greyhounds in their In Memoriam page. Only one of them died at an age younger than twelve and that was a dog that died of kidney failure at seven. Two of the others lived to be 12. Two lived to be 13, and one lived to be 14.
As for Maureen's whining that a repeat of voting on the closing of the stud book would be the same as the two Greyhound Club of America (GCA) votes concerning the National Specialty, she is wrong again. The vote on the studbook is the identical vote that took place four years ago. The two votes concerning the National Specialty were separate and different proposals. The first vote designated the Eastern as the permanent National. The second vote designated that the National Specialty would rove between the Eastern, Southern and Western Specialties. That proposal had never been voted on before. The identical proposal to close the studbook to racing Greyhounds was defeated by a GCA vote barely four years ago. And since the proposal passed quite comfortably last time, I strongly doubt that Maureen's anti group now has a petition signed by more than fifty percent of the GCA membership. She might have seventy-five signatures but, when last heard from, non-members were being asked to sign the petition and members were being pressured to sign it. Pressure is the reason that these matters are resolved by a secret ballot among GCA members where people can vote their conscience, and not by public petitions which the stud book closers are trying to use to overturn the vote of the GCA.
I was amazed at Maureen's bemoaning the plight of shelter mongrels that are displaced from homes by adopted racing Greyhounds. She has her numbers wrong again. The number of adopted racing Greyhounds isn't large enough to make even a small dent in the hundreds of thousands of dogs destroyed by shelters each year. Wouldn't you rather adopt a purebred dog who has bloodlines that go back thousands of years, has been bred to be nonagressive, and that someone has paid at least $2,000 to raise to the age of two, over a shelter mixed-breed of unknown qualities? I would.
Maureen says any knowledgeable judge can see the difference between racing type and show type Greyhounds. And that those differences are pronounced and many.