An Independent Magazine
for all Bobtail Fans  N 12/2000

Dr. Birgitte Schjoth,
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.

Norway introduced the docking-ban in 1988, Sweden in 1989 and Denmark in 1993.

Suggested interim standard for the tail - For Discussion: 

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 OES?  

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 it.

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 - yet!

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.

Now, does 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 years.
- 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.

This problem 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 kind consent
of publisher - Colette and Klaus Hornig.

:: page up ::