IWADV 2009 Specialty Show Judge's Critique

Jay Phinizy

In the nearly thirty years that I have been judging, I do not believe that I have ever had a nicer or more balanced collection of dogs to judge. To say that I was greatly surprised and delighted is an understatement. Now before anyone gets offended, this statement does not mean that many of the wolfhounds and deerhounds that I have judged in the past have been any less good. Quite the contrary, I have had the privilege to judge entries that have gone on to do very well, such as Phillipa Crowe Neilson’s “Song”. If I remember correctly, I gave Song one if not her first major. She was one of my more favorite wolfhounds, exemplifying type and quality.

It’s just that this breed show had an amazing breadth and depth of quality that I have not seen for quite a long time. In the last several years, I have been very disappointed in the overall quality of exhibits in both the deerhound and wolfhound ring. Such faults as “light bones”, lack of depth of chest and a good brisket, and necessary breed traits (such as good ears, tails and tail set) practically have been the rule rather than the exception. I was beginning to become dismayed at the lack of quality in both breeds. Many of the wolfhounds and deerhounds I saw, either at ringside or in the ring, couldn’t trot easily after or have the substance to deal with a European wolf or, in the case of the deerhound, bring down an Highland stag. This certainly was not the case at the Delaware Valley show. Quality was the rule and not the exception, and by in large, placements down to fourth were well earned; often second and third placements were worthy of a major.

My overall impressions are that there was really good substance, good depth of chest and bone and that the majority of entries carried themselves well. Despite the perceptions that the public has about the wolfhound, sacrificing agility for mass, a wolfhound should be just as agile as any greyhound or deerhound. In fact, a preponderance of the exhibits extended fairly well and moved with proper drive in the hindquarters. There were a few wolfhounds that placed their hindquarters on the ground as an afterthought rather than drive. This lack of drive used to be an annoying fault that has been prevalent in the breed over the years but, at this show, was the exception rather than the rule. Some exhibits were “ cowhocked” moving away and some did “funny” things coming back, and there were some poor feet. By in large, most of the exhibits had a good second thigh and sweep of stifle. It was not too long ago that many wolfhounds had too straight a stifle that contributed to poor drive in the hindquarters.

There were very few “gay” tails. In fact, many of the entries had good thickly coated tails that were the proper length, set on correctly and fell to the ground properly. (I have always lived in fear of either getting too “gay tail” conscious and getting caught up in a downward spiral A scrawny tail is not only unsightly, but lack of coat on a tail leaves it unprotected, and it does no good to have a damaged tail. Quality of coat was fair to good with all too much grooming. This is a bad habit practiced in both the deerhound and wolfhound ring and seems to be a fashion that does a great disservice to the breed and collaterally a breeder’s program – and it really deceives the public. After all, a harsh coat of correct length is protection from the elements: weather, brush and prey. Some of the exhibits had underlines sharper than a razor. While I didn’t fault an exhibit for being groomed in this manner in the last analysis, it just really annoyed me to see this breed – like my own breed – fall prey to fashion. That type of grooming is best left to terriers. Eyes, eye-set, expression and general appearance was very high quality. Outline and proportion was very good.

While the bitch classes were every bit as good as bitch classes seem to be at most specialties, the dog classes really showed great improvement over dog entries at past shows and, as a result, very impressive. So my Best of Breed, being a bitch, had to work just that much harder for the win and deserved it all the more. Now, some notes and observations on the entries that placed:

6 to 9 Puppy Months dogs - 2 entered (1 absent)

1. NINE GATES DUBLIN AT BULLHEAD. A very good looking youngster, easy moving, good bone, and substance.

9 to 12 Months dogs - 6 entered

1. O'LUGH'S JAGERMEISTER OF AERIE. Nice sweep of stifle and good underline

2. ANSA MO BRASTIAS AURYN ROCKWELL. This youngster has a lovely expression and moves easily.

3. AOTEAROA SURO WHAKAHEKE. Proper type, good feet, and – when settled down – also quite a decent mover.

4. REDTOPS GRAEDY. This dog has a lovely sweep of stifle and outline.

12 to 18 Months dogs - 9 entered (1 absent)

1. EIRIAN'S COLTRANE RUNNING. This dog exhibits good proportion with not “too much light underneath” and has a lovely outline.

2. ARD RHI'S CONSTERNATION OF EAGLE. Proper outline good depth of chest and bend of stifle.

3. ZIGGY OF TIR NA N'OG. Also very good depth of chest and outline and sweep of stifle.

4. GLENAMADDA STARKEEPER BANNER: This guy had a nice expression, “covered territory well” and had good extension.

Novice dogs - 4 entered (2 absent)

1. STARKEEPER GLENAMADDA O'LYRE. Nice sweep of stifle, easy action and good expression.

2. VICAR OF AERIE. This dog is very solid and in good condition, very lovely ears.

Bred-by-Exhibitor dogs - 7 entered (4 absent)

1. TALIESIN'S WILLOW'S GLYMPSE. What a nice dog. Very sound, nice tail set lovely expression, ears, and feet.

2. SALUTARY AEAGLE OF CLARIDON. Good outline, spring of rib and underline. Again, lovely ears and expression.

3. R NOBLE MCEWANE OF EAGLE. This dog is a good “old type” with substance and sweep of stifle.

American Bred dogs - 9 entered ( 2 absent)

1. BER-D-MAR'S CLASSIC CRUISER. This dog has a good side gait, sweep of stifle and underline.

2. STARKEEPER MCENROE OF LIMERICK. Also a good underline, proper extension and sweep of stifle. Good substance.

3. R NOBLE FOR PETE'S SAKE OF EAGLE. Now this guy has a lovely “old time” expression. Good spring of rib and good tail set.

4. SIDHE'S DOMINO DANCER DE BURGH, RN, CGC. Good size, bone, ears and earset.

Open dogs - 11 entered (3 absent)

1. PITLOCHRY'S KEYSTONE. This was my “winners dog”. He covers ground with ease and economy of motion. He has a lovely sweep of stifle, good head, expression, and ears. I particularly liked his thick thigh and substance but with balance.

2. ERINWOOD BARITONE. This was my “reserve winners dog”. Again, an easy mover with good proportion size and substance and what a lovely neck.

3. KELLAMORE BRAEMAR OF FITZWICK. Lovely substance and underline with good spring of rib and depth of chest.

4. KELLCASTLE NESKOWIN. Good overall balance and proper underline. Excellent ears and expression.

As I have said above, the dog classes were very good. It was not just several good examples sprinkled throughout as a random act of kindness, but practically every class had an exhibit worth giving a major. Were there not an “Open” class, the American Bred class, often “dissed” at shows, had just as good overall quality and strength and could have been a decent replacement. The winners and reserve won on type and style but had strong competition.

Regular Classes - Bitches

6 to 9 Puppy Months bitches - 6 entered (3 absent)

1. CASTLEMAINE'S FOR ALL THE DAYS. This puppy moved very easily and had a good sweep of stifle.

2. SILVER THORNE'S HEARTSEASE. Lovely hindquarters and nice bone.

3. SILVER THORNE'S SHAMROCK. Good type and lovely expression. When settled down this puppy can move freely.

9 to 12 Months bitches - 13 entered (3 absent)

1. O'LUGH'S JIGGER OF AERIE. Also, Best Puppy. This young bitch had all the right type. She had good depth of chest and brisket with lovely feet, tail, and sweep of stifle. She moved well with very good extension

2. JULY OF AERIE. Lovely proportion of bone to body. This bitch was a close second to the Best Puppy. She also had a good expression, good feet and moved very well.

3. MYRICA LEANBH NOLLAIF OF EAGLE. Lovely dark eye, good spring of rib and good movement coming and going.

4. SYLVERWOLF SAGE. Nice outline and depth of chest with good proportion of bone to body. As with the previous three, she moved well. On balance, this was a very nice class of youngsters.

12 to 18 Months bitches - 6 entered

1. STARKEEPER GLENAMADDA USA FLAG. This bitch had good ears and earset and a lovely side gait.

2. HOUND HILL TALLULAH. HP303503/01. 05/12/08. Again good ears, good feet, lovely outline with a good sweep of stifle and underline.

3. ROSSLARE'S MERCEDES RISING STAR. Nice type with a good looking head and expression set on rather well on a lovely neck. Lovely bone.

4. EIRIANS ALL THAT JAZZ. This has a lovely outline with good depth of chest, underline and spring of rib. She is a lovely type

Novice bitches - 9 entered (3 absent)

1. VIOLIN OF AERIE. This was my Reserve Winners Bitch. This bitch is really nice; has a lovely head and expression, good ears, neck, feet and bone and is a very agile and lovely mover.

2. ARAGORN CECILIA O'TAILSTORM. Good easy movement, quite sound coming and going, lovely balance and bend of stifle.

3. MYTHIC'S KINDRED VALA. Nice proportions and expression. Nice underline.

4. GABOR OF EAGLE. Good ears and ear set. Good bone and underline.

Bred-by-Exhibitor bitches - 16 entered (4 absent) This class was very good with good depth, and every placement was well earned.

1. R NOBLE MAGGIE MCNEILL OF EAGLE. This bitch has a nice spring of rib with good underline. Good ears and expression. She moves beautifully from the side.

2. GORDON OF AERIE. Lovely extension, good underline, proper balance of bone to body.

3. ARD RHI'S ANYKA. This bitch is a really lovely type, with a great expression, good ears, and good bone.

4. TALIESIN'S WYVER WILNET. Again, a good moving wolfhound. I rather liked the “old fashioned” style of this bitch.

American Bred bitches - 18 entered ( 5 absent)

1. BRENNIAMS REDTOP VIRGINIA ROSE. Very nice outline, particularly lovely bend of stifle. Excellent head with correct planes and ears.

I tend to harp on ears and bend of stifle; however, this is understandable. When Elin and I started showing deerhounds in the early 70’s, wolfhounds were very straight stifled with weak thighs. Flat backs and too much light underneath seemed to be too prevalent. The breed has improved in many ways, and these are two of several improvements over the wolfhounds exhibited then. The breed is in far better condition than thirty-five years ago.

2. JANUARY OF AERIE. Good bone, size and proportion. Lovely ears and tail set.

3. HOUND HILL VALLEY OF AERIE. This bitch moved well coming and going. She has a good underline with a strong neck set on properly.

4. GLENREAGH R NOBLE OF EAGLE. Again, a lovely, stylish type. Good feet, ear set and underline.

Open bitches - 15 entered (4 absent)

This was my Winners Bitch and Best of Winners, 1. VESUVIUS OF AERIE. This bitch deserved the points and earned them in a very tough winners class. She has just great proportion and size but is also very agile; she moves very well. She has good balance of bone and a very lovely sweep of stifle.

2. WOLFHAVEN CAPER OF AERIE. Good proportion to size, good feet, outline, head and ears. Gaits beautifully from the side.

3. MISE EIRE NUALA. Lovely type, excellent expression and tail set.

4. LAISLINN STARKEEPER RAYNE, FCH, SC. Excellent spring of rib with good bone in proportion to size.

Veteran dogs - 5 entered (1 absent)

1. AM.CAN.CH TOMAHAWKE WOLFHAVEN WINDTALKER. This is very fit and moved well. He has nice bone and spring of rib and a correct coat with a properly coated tail. A very creditable seven year old!

Veteran bitches - 8 entered (2 absent)

Award of Merit and 1. CH. STARKEEPER GLENAMADDA REALTAN. What a sound, good moving animal. She has a lovely depth of chest and brisket with a good underline and sweep of stifle. I gave her the award of merit not as a “sop” – as in ‘…. lets give the old bitch a pat on the back…’ - but with intent. She was in contention for best of breed because of her soundness and type. It is important that newer exhibitors and breeders realize the importance of longevity. All too often, deerhounds and wolfhounds are shown and put away. The spectator needs to see what a mature hound should turn out to look like! This bitch is every bit a good example of a mature wolfhound.

Best of Breed - 30 entered (5 absent)

With more than a few good specials, the best of breed competition was very strong. I could have placed more than one best of breed at any given time at any show. In fact, there were many in this class that deserve recognition both at the breed and group level. This observation reminds me of the time Elin and I were at WELKS in Britain – years ago. Mrs Nagle had just done the hound group, placing a wolfhound first. We were walking back top the “car park” with Anastasia Noble and Miss Hartley. A spectator confronted the four of us stating: “ ….just typical, of course she would put up a wolfhound….” Miss Hartley looked at the man and merely retorted: “….well, it, I didn’t put my hands on it, but it certainly must have been good. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have given it the group.” Well, I feel very strongly that the breed class is worth that level of consideration. The awards of merit were not handed out lightly.

Award of Merit. CH TALIESIN'S SUAILCE, JC deserved an award of merit with good balance of bone to body, a lovely depth of chest, ears ear-set and expression.

 Award of Merit. CH PITLOCHRY'S ENTRY also had nice proportion and moved particularly well. I particularly liked the well let down hock, wide thigh and sweep of stifle.

Best of Opposite Sex. CH DUN MYRICA SPEAKER OF EAGLE. This dog is every inch a male but, regardless of his substance, remains every bit agile and could stand up to any work given him. He has a lovely expression, strong neck, and great depth of chest. A very upright, strong animal.

Best of Breed . CH WOLFHAVEN DON'T GO BREAKN MY HEART. Well, she did! This bitch is well put together. She covered ground with little effort. I particularly liked her outline. While of a good size, there was not too much light underneath and she had lovely attributes: good head structure, lovely expression. Her tail set was correct and was properly coated. Her coat was lovely, harsh and dark. Sam Ewing always told me that it is very hard to find a darkly coated wolfhound with quality. This bitch is that level of quality and deserved the breed.

I would like to thank the club for such a great opportunity; I really was pleased to judge this specialty. There were very many good classes with depth of quality in those classes, which made for very tough, exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable judging. Topping off the weekend was finding and buying General de Quoy’s book, “The Irish Wolfhound Guide.” While there is no question that it’s a good basic primer, the “old” photos together with the history of the breed not only make it a good record but made it particularly poignant seeing many of my wolfhound friends that are now gone mentioned in the book. This show will be one of the highlights of my career judging deerhounds and wolfhounds; the entries were that good.

Back to Specialty Page