CRUFTS will be a historic occasion for the Dogue de Bordeaux for its first set of challenge certificates will be awarded.
You can read about the breed’s interesting history in Adrian Bicknell’s article in our Crufts Special this week, including how the breed was introduced to the UK well over a century ago, but did not thrive more than a decade or so.
It was not for nearly a hundred years that British enthusiasts tried again, and recognition was achieved in 1997. This time the breed really took off, registrations peaking at 2,895 in 2013, such numbers not of course necessarily being a good thing.
Show entries have been excellent too at many shows, and in a way it’s perhaps strange that the breed has taken so long before the final accolade.
Unable until now to obtain UK titles, many British kennels have competed highly successfully on the Continent, one of the more prominent being Emberez of Nik Burnikell and Becky Swainston. Becky kindly replied to a questionnaire I sent out to mark the occasion:
SP: Of Dogues you have owned and bred, which has been the most outstanding specimen?
BS: Enferno van de Paterhoek at Emberez – he was the most successful Dogue de Bordeaux of all time. I doubt any Dogue in my lifetime can ever come close to achieving what he did.
Which was the best from another UK kennel?
Temple Felson – he wasn’t a huge Dogue but he was a dog we felt was a close to perfection as possible.
Which was the best from overseas?
Mistral de la Maison de Hollande, a World Winner female who deserved no lesser title.
Which Dogue had the most typical head?
This is a difficult question to answer because right now the breed in the UK seems to be going backwards with the true character of a Dogue de Bordeaux head type due to the push from the Kennel Club to breed healthier dogs. Before we were put onto the high profile list the head type across the board was substantially better, more correct and healthy too.
Which had the best conformation and movement?
Enferno, he was showman through and through.
Which was the best you have seen in photographs but not in the flesh?
A Dogue de Bordeaux is quite difficult to photograph so I can’t say a Dogue springs to mind. It’s often the opposite way around where the photos do not do the dog justice.
Which are the breed’s strong points in the UK?
When judging I have seen the topline and hindquarters improve in many, compared to recent years. We very rarely see the cow hocks we used to ten years ago.
Which points most need improvement?
The chest, absolutely. A Dogue de Bordeaux should have a deep and powerful chest; for me this is something many are lacking. A lot have the width but when I see photos of Dogues winning with no depth of chest it saddens me that the judges don’t understand it is a key characteristic of the breed and one we should be encouraging. A flat chested Dogue I would never consider at all for my breeding programme.
Which health issues to you test for or take into account when breeding?
We have had the Dogue de Bordeaux for 18 years now and we have had the privileged to watch and learn from our line as it develops. We take everything into account when we are breeding. There is not one health concern that would over rule another. We want to own this breed until we can no longer control them so health for us is paramount, although I’m not a fan of basing breeding decisions on certain screenings for publicity.
What effect do you think that gaining CC status will have on the progress of the breed?
I’m 50/50 when it comes to championship status. I still don’t understand why the Kennel Club promoted the breed when it still feels there is an issue with health. I always felt that the first logical step would be removal from the high profile list to show the KC that breeders/exhibitors/clubs were responsible enough to handle the huge leap for our breed. On the other side I was active as part of the Northern Dogue de Bordeaux in the application for CC status as it is indeed still a monumental step forward for our breed.
How can we persuade the public to buy only from serious, responsible breeders?
This is also hard because whenever we look into buying any breed for the first time the internet is generally the first port of call. However I’ve seen advertisements, websites and great selling techniques to lure people in.
My advice would be to stick to the long established breeders who have a reputation to uphold. Take some time to really understand how the kennels compare. Make sure your breeder takes a lot of time to find out more about you, be prepared to sign a contract with what you should expect from the breeder and what the breeder should expect from you, and at the very least the puppies should come with a vaccination, health check, microchip and KC papers of course.
How do you see the future of the breed in the UK?
In my kennel there will be no changes (I hope) but on the show scene in the UK I think a lot of changes will happen. I and Nik are not really sure if judging at CC level is for us but we do need more judges who appreciate the beauty of our breed and judge them in an unbiased way – judges who really study the Standard and understand the key features a Dogue must have to be awarded that honourable CC. Without this I believe the wrong dogs will be awarded championship status and used prolifically at stud (if in the wrong hands) which will inevitably lead to the downfall of our breed.
Thank you Becky.