The making of a Dogshow Judge
I realized that I had a passion for dogs but did not know where best I fitted in. I was doing very well as a Tea Auctioneer and Tea Taster. It was a gentlemanly profession and well paying. The dog-game was all outflow with no inflow, so it had to be a hobby and nothing more.
Mrs. Goldsmith and Baba Mathews were delighted to see a young man show interest in their sport. They introduced me to the KCI Chairman, Maharaja Jaideep Singh of Baria who was to become a lifelong friend and mentor! He invited me to seek election to the Board of the Kennel Club of India. I served on the committee from 1975 till 2010, with a couple of breaks in between.
The Maharaja was keen that I become a judge as he wanted young blood in the game. S. Pathy, the current Chairman of KCI, was the other young man starting out at the time. He did a lot for the Doberman breed and introduced Pyrmont Dobes from Canada to India.
In 1977 I qualified as an All Breeds judge. ‘All breeds’ was a fancy term because Indian shows only had 55 to 60 breeds and maybe only 20 of those in any good numbers. In the 70’s our show entries were around 120 to 150 dogs and we could not afford to have more than one judge to adjudicate at a show. So, we all ended up as All Breeds Judges – however the door was not kept ajar!
When I started, the procedure was for the student to understudy a senior judge in the ring and write a detailed critique on each exhibit. The student would discuss his report with the senior judge, who would assess the trainee’s aptitude, basic knowledge of the breed, ring manners and above all his eye for a dog. With these pre-requisites in place all that was necessary was deep breed knowledge and experience.
Once three senior judges ‘certified’ the trainee as eligible he was given a provisional license. After judging 25 shows the ‘all breeds’ status was confirmed.
This worked well at the time and some of our older judges were among the best anywhere with the limited number of breeds he was familiar with. This would largely be GSD from the Herding (Group 1), Boxer, Doberman, Great Dane, and Rottweiler from Working (Group 2), Dachshund (Group 4), Pomeranian (Group 5), Beagle and Dalmatian (Hounds – Group 6), Gundogs – Irish Setter (Group 7), and English Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Labrador (Groups 8), Lhasa Apso, Chihuahua and Pugs (Group 9) and Sight Hounds – Afghan Hound, and Whippet (Group 10).
These were the breeds which had some depth though there were several other breeds which were exhibited at the shows.
I had abandoned hopes of becoming a serious breeder of anything, but in order to enjoy and learn their characteristics, I started keeping and showing other breeds.
The big break!
Through providence I got a break to judge overseas five years after I got my all-breeds status. In 1981 the KCI Chairman, HH of Baria, arranged a big show in Delhi and invited his friend Bob Curtis from Australia to judge it. The Chairman asked me to steward for Bob. We got on very well and I learned a lot during the three days we were together. He was to become my Dogfather in this sport!
(The picture above of Bob Curtis with HH of Baria was taken at the 1981 Delhi show. Bob presented me with this picture when I visited him in 2018. He passed away a few months later.)
The next year I got a call from Bob Curtis, asking whether I could judge the Hound Group at North of the Harbour (NOTH) Silver Jubilee Show in Sydney!
An American couple had dropped out and the Club asked Bob to find replacements at short notice. NOTH signed me up to do the Hound Group and Richard Guevara from Argentina, was appointed to judge Toys.
At this Silver Jubilee Show I met some wonderful people, among them Dr. Harry Spira of Australia, and Betsy Litt from New Zealand and my international judging career was launched! Dr. Spira invited me to judge the Spring Fair in 1984. This was the No.1 show in New South Wales at the time and was run by him and Bob Curtis. Thanks to Betsy Litt I was invited to judge the Ladies Kennel Club Show run by Rosemary Hubrich also in 1984. I stayed on for the next couple of weeks to judge a few more shows in New Zealand.
Once you go to a new country and do a decent job, are kind to dogs in the ring and courteous to exhibitors, you will attract the attention of Show Secretaries who are always looking for new faces.
I realized that these overseas trips, particularly to Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia, were great opportunities for me to learn about breeds that we did not see at the Indian shows. I would arrange visits to well-known kennels and have the owner/breeder explain what to look for in the breed and what to avoid.
Once on a visit to Sydney, Bob Curtis sat me down and gave me a 90-minute presentation on judging his breed – the Poodle. I have never forgotten that lesson!
A Dogshow Judge needs to know more than the Breed Standard. Unless you see and handle a breed, the standard is not enough and can be misleading. The Judge must know the country of origin, the purpose why the dog was bred, the combination of dogs that were used to produce the breed (as in the case of the Doberman), and the history of the breed.
In an International judging career spanning 40 years I have judged in many countries and judged at the highest level. Since I was running a tea company I had to limit my time away from work, and so dog judging became my only hobby. I would use judging trips to do some sightseeing a couple of days before or after the show at my own cost. Since I didn’t have the luxury of time to go off somewhere for a holiday, my wife would accompany me on my judging trips. Many of my fellow judges have met her at these occasions. She has developed a good eye for a dog and quite often would ask me some awkward questions after a show!
To be continued…