for all Bobtail Fans N 12/2000
is a veterinary surgeon in Denmark,
exhibitor, international judge
and owner of Denmark's top kennel,
Many of you will have met Birgitte and Lisa;
at the National Specialty this year.
The following is a transcript of the talk Birgitte gave on the
eve of the Euro-OES-Show in France this year and is based on
her notes - Jilly.
Old English Sheepdog with tail.
the docking-ban in 1988, Sweden in 1989 and Denmark in 1993.
Suggested interim standard for the tail -
Tail long, well covered with hair with
upward swirl at tip, reaching just below hock. Carried rather high,
but never over back.
This is how about 90% of all the tails that I
have seen are "made". I would like to make a suggestion that no
mention be made, in the first interim standard, of how the tail
should be set. Many breed standards do not mention this anyway.
It's my feeling that it is extremely important
that the tail is very long and therefore heavier than a short one.
This will keep the tail lower because of weight. A short tail
tends to be carried very high and over the back like a wheel and
is also often very tight in its ligaments, whilst a long one is
more soft and elastic in the ligaments.
Any dog will carry the tail according to
temperament at the specific moment you see it. Just think of two
males trying to dominate each other - the tails will be very high
to impress the other. A nervous dog will carry the tail very low.
Because the OES is such a happy dog they normally carry the tail
rather high and waving, unless you shout at them, then they will
carry it low - and waving (to ask forgiveness).
The pelvis of
the dog can be level, the normal 30% or even more - this has
nothing to do with tail set and carriage. The croup can have
some influence on the tail set, and as the tail is sort of a
continuation of the croup, the angle of the croup can have
some influence. But how should the angle of the croup be in
The standard does not
mention angulation. I prefer a slight angulation but not as much
as the pelvis, for sure, therefore I find it strange that the tail
should be set low.
FCI rules for judging the usually docked
breeds, when presented with a tail in the ring:
As long as we do not have a standard for the tail, judges
are not allowed to take the tail into consideration nor describe
In practice we do find that
judges are beginning to take notice and even describe the tails,
very often putting up a docked OES of poorer quality in front of
one of good quality but with a tail. This is not good for the
breed and is one of the reasons that we now desperately need the
tail to be mentioned in the standard.
Some time back in the late
80s I first judged OES with tails. We were then (and now) taught
by the FCI and our own Kennel Club that we were not allowed to
actually judge the tail, nor to describe it, if judging one of the
usually docked breeds. I then managed to teach myself NOT to see
the tail when judging, and that has never been a problem for me.
In fact I now have to admit that it probably will be a problem for
me when the day comes when I HAVE TO JUDGE them, only because I
have been so used to "chopping off tails" for so many years. Yet
it is my feeling that the time has come for us to begin discussing
how the tail should look. In Denmark and also the other
Scandinavian countries we discuss how the tail should be and how
it is carried, but none of us has yet put any of this into
practice. We do not breed for any particular tail set or carriage
You can consider the tail
when judging to assess part of the temperament on the males and
when showing you can put the tail down when your male is getting
too excited over another male in the ring - it does help to
manually lower the tail and have fun with your male so that he
forgets the others.
the tail change the breed?
- NO, of course not. It's still
the same good humored Old English Sheepdog but now with a tail.
- YES, of course, it does alter the outline.
- YES it does alter the movement somewhat as well. Side
movement is more or less the same, but it's been my experience
through the years with tails that with this rudder, the
balance is changed somewhat, because they do use the tail a
lot when moving around.
It's without doubt better
and sounder for the dog with a tail, but it's extremely difficult
to get used to for those of us who have had the breed for so many
- Some claim that the tail takes away some of the energy from the
movement, that cannot be true. The tail is an appendix and used as
a rudder, not in forward moving action.
- Some claim that OES with tails have closer hind movement. This
is not true. If it were then all breeds with tails should be
closer behind and they are not.
For a short time I myself
considered giving up when we had the docking-ban introduced in
Denmark in '93, but I just couldn't find another breed I liked so
much. I have lived with, bred and shown OES with tails for 7 years
now and with success, contrary to what everybody told me. Today
I've gotten used to the tails. So much so, that I sometimes catch
myself thinking that the docked ones actually lack something - the
tail. I have fought hard in my country for permission to dock but
with no success at all. None of the arguments for docking holds
when you enter into a serious discussion.
Does the dog look longer
with a tail? Yes, I think it does, no matter how clever people
trim their dogs. Others may disagree with me. But I will admit
that one of the reasons for this is that we have lost the proper
front in OES and good angulation, and it's easier to trim an OES
to make it look short.
For a long time I believed
we had lost the proper roll because of the tails but recently I
had the great pleasure of judging a young male with a tail who had
the lovely roll we so seldom see today. It's NOT because of the
tail and of course shouldn't be when you think of the construction
of our breed.
Talking to other judges I
have found that those who have problems judging and putting up an
OES with a tail most often are those that don't have, should we
say, an extensive knowledge of the breed. It makes me sore to
sometimes see docked OES put up in front of a better one with a
tail. This sometimes take away one's enthusiasm for showing. It's
my opinion that breeder-judges have it easier when it comes to
judging OES with tail than do non-breeder judges. I don't really
know why, but I can guess.
I still envy the breeders
that have the daily joy of looking at a litter of docked little
bobtail running around the garden, but through the years one gets
used to it. One thing I don't miss is the actual procedure of
docking. In the beginning I thought it would be more difficult to
sell pups with tails than without, but it wasn't. People actually
like them with tails, even those that have had OES for many years.
So far we have
not had to think about how the tails should look, be set nor
carried, whether they have kinks - in other breeds a
hereditary fault - but breeding and judging them for years one
starts thinking how the right tail should look like. I know
the British OES breed clubs have been asked for their opinions
and have refused to take part in the decision. The fear is,
who, that the Kennel Club will make their own decision, over
the heads of us all, and I don't like that idea. My own
thoughts in that matter are as follows:
The tail should be a continuation of the back/croup. The croup
has a slight angle on a well angulated OES, so the tail should
neither be low set nor high set, but something in-between and
with an upward swirl.
The length is very
important in that it should reach at least to the hock. If it
doesn't it will be a tail with short vertebrae and one that rolls
more or less over the back. I think that an OES that carries the
tail straight out on a level plane looks strange and untypical,
one that carries the tail low looks even stranger, the most
correct/or me would be one that is carried straight out for the
first part and then bend up in a swirl or circle. Around 90% of
all the tails I have seen look like that.
won't go away just because we refuse to discuss it. Isn't it
therefore better to participate in discussions and decisions
rather than have some sort of a strange standard given to us
and one that we can not live up to for many years?
We are many
countries represented here to day, seven now have the docking
ban, more will come in the near future. None of us like it, I
believe, but some of us just have to live with it and make the
best of it or we lose the breed, and that, I hope, is
something none of us want.
These are some of my
thoughts. Thank you for listening.
(I am sorry that the short discussion we had after the seminar was
mostly about the docking/not-docking issue and mainly due to the
emotional involvement of some English participants who the seminar
leader was unable to control. None of us like the tails but some
of us have to live with the situation and more will come.)
This article was placed with
of publisher - Colette and Klaus Hornig.