AKC Gazette breed column, Whippets—For serious, dedicated, and ethical dog breeders, exhibition in numerous competitions devoted to purebred dogs is not a whim but a proving ground.
Historians like to claim that the manipulation and selective breeding of purebred dogs is a fairly recent phenomenon that began in the Victorian era. I suggest that they are wrong. I believe that once the earliest cave-dwellers saw the value of domesticating dogs, purposeful breeding began.
Whether for the most proficient hunting companion, the most loyal and protective guardian, or the most efficient vermin-killer, man has engaged in trying to perfect dogs, like the rest of his livestock, since earliest times.
What the Victorian fanciers did was to popularize the exhibition of purebred dogs and to promote the diversity of the breeds. Much has been written about the social aspect of their “idle pastime” of showing dogs, but the truth is, the Victorians “invented” very few breeds.
Instead, in that age of travel and discovery they found many of those existing breeds in their native lands, brought them to Europe and America, and popularized them. I submit that historians, geneticists, and we, as purebred dog lovers, owe the Victorian fanciers a debt of gratitude for celebrating and cementing the legacy of the diversity of our breeds.
Historians and geneticists also like to claim (as seen on several recent telecasts) that the preservation and advancement of our breeds has been done on a whim, or in the interest of “fashion.”
There is no doubt that over the last two centuries individual breeds have fallen in and out of fashion—some for arbitrary reasons such as being featured in popular books, movies, and commercials, and some for economic reasons. Certainly, there are “breeders” who have sought to take advantage of these fad breeds for purely financial gain. However, here I use the term breeder in the loosest definition. Anyone who mates two dogs regardless of purpose can technically be called a breeder, but in the context of doing the mating with only profit in mind, I define them as such with contempt.
For serious, dedicated, and ethical dog breeders, exhibition in numerous competitions devoted to purebred dogs is not a whim but a proving ground. It is not about fashion or fad, and it is surely not about money. It is an effort to preserve and protect the rich history of each breed.
The goal is to honor the past and look toward the future. It is to guard the type and temperament and improve the health and soundness of our dogs.
—Phoebe J. Booth, Shamasan@aol.com