Interview with Ann Ingram – 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge
What does it mean to be invited to judge at this year’s historic Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
Ann Ingram: When I received the initial invitation, I was really surprised. There are not many European judges who have had the honor to judge at Westminster, and to be one of them was so exciting. When the date of the show was changed, my initial assignment was 2022, but I was already booked to judge in Madrid. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement! Luckily, I was re-invited for 2023, and after an anxious look at my calendar, it was a great relief to discover that I was free!
Can you share your thoughts on your various Breed assignments? Please be specific.
Ann Ingram: The breeds assigned to me were a dream for me, and included my own breeds, Boxers, Poodles, and Boston Terriers. Added to those I had Giant and Standard Schnauzers, French Bulldogs, Schipperkes, Great Danes, and British Bulldogs. The quality throughout was very, very high and there were many close decisions. I was very impressed with the movement and agility of the French and British Bulldogs; no overweight or overdone dogs, no breathing problems, and such great representatives of the breeds.
There has often been the suggestion that the European judge and the American judge do not always view dogs in the same way, often having different values and priorities. So, it was interesting that Breed winners sent through to the Groups by myself and Mark Cocozza proved to be so successful at Group and Best in Show level. Needless to say, we were both delighted!
I started with the British Bulldogs and it was very close between the male and the female for Best of Breed. It’s a hard breed for a female to succeed, as the male is so impressive, but she was so correct in every detail; beautiful head with good upsweep of underjaw, well laid-back nose and clean eyes, and so active on the move with that characteristic Bulldog roll. She was a star.
The Standard Poodles were breathtaking with their wonderful presentation and handling. They were a dream to judge. My BOB winner impressed me so much with his long, refined head, dark, well-shaped eyes, and that long, crested neck running into a decent front with good body and hindquarters. He excels with his carriage on the move and that light, Poodley movement. With highly presented breeds, what you see initially is not always what you get when you put your hands on, but this dog is truly as good as he looks.
Only two Miniature Poodles were there, which was a disappointment. In Toy Poodles, I found even quality and was so impressed with my BOB winner. She had the sweetest head with long, well-chiseled foreface, correct chin, and small, almond-shaped eyes. A long, crested neck added to her lovely carriage on the move; super temperament and attitude.
The Standard Schnauzers were a bit mixed in quality, but I was very happy with my winners who were great representatives of the breed. The Giant Schnauzers were outstanding, with several top-quality exhibits, all handled and presented to the highest standard with good harsh coats. I was splitting hairs to separate them! My Best of Breed was a very special dog who really excited me! So well-balanced with super head and eye, well-laid shoulders, good bone, and sturdy, square build. His outline and showmanship were stunning. This dog could compete anywhere in the world!
In a good entry of Boston Terriers, I found the quality a bit mixed, with some that looked so well stacked but did not move with much drive. Others moved well but were not quite so typey. I was, however, pleased with my overall winners.
Again, the Great Danes were mixed in type, with some needing a little more bone and substance, but it was refreshing to find quality in some of the different colors. I was also pleased that there were no overdone heads with the loose lips and deep flews, more akin to a Bloodhound than a Dane, which can frequently be seen in Europe. I felt my BOB really scored with his size, bone, and substance, classic head, and that super-arched neck running into well-laid shoulders. He typified the Breed Standard description: “combines regal appearance, dignity, strength and elegance with great size.”
In Schipperkes, I was very happy that they were a nice size and very even in type, with short, cobby bodies. It is not unusual to find longer backs and top size in other countries. My BOB was so feminine and yet still had the sturdiness required. A nicely arched neck gives her a lovely silhouette, added to which she has a super head and expression and neat, well-placed ears which she used so well.
In French Bulldogs there were so many top-quality Frenchies that could certainly compete successfully anywhere in the world, but in the end it was the sheer force of his personality which gave my BOB winner the final nod. He excels in muscular condition and can certainly move, using those strong hindquarters to maximum effect, yet still retaining his excellent topline. He has a large, square head with correct bat ears and wide-open nostrils, and eyes just full of life. I just couldn’t resist him!
I had several top-class Boxers and was so impressed with an older dog who I had previously judged and put up a few years ago. At nearly nine years old, he certainly didn’t show his age, except for a grey muzzle, and he powered around the ring like a youngster. Full credit to his owner and handler to have him in such wonderful condition. Ultimately my BOB, who maybe doesn’t have the eye-catching flashiness of some of the others, was so correct in every detail, with his square build, good bone and feet, well-laid shoulders, and clean head with lovely expression and broad muzzle; such a well-balanced male.
Now that it’s over, what are your thoughts on the 2023 show year? Any thoughts on the year ahead?
Ann Ingram: The AKC is to be congratulated on their great success in promoting Pedigree Dogs and engaging with the general public. They have a great website, which is very informative and attracts a lot of views. Of course, in the US there are such great shows, such as Santa Barbara and Orlando, which showcase Pedigree Dogs at their best and also provide a great experience for all involved. Whether as an exhibitor or pet owner, there is something for everybody.
Sadly, in several European countries, the anti-Pedigree Dog groups have succeeded in making it very difficult for dog shows: there are many veterinary checks; it is not allowed to cut the whiskers (this includes Poodles); slip leads are banned; and now it seems that it will not be allowed to kneel down to show breeds such as Dachshunds. It is difficult to see a great future for Dog Shows and Pedigree Dogs in countries such as Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands.
On the plus side, the World Show in Geneva this year should be a very successful one with top-class dogs, and I am greatly looking forward to my assignment there. Crufts still receives more than 19,000 entries, retaining the title of The Biggest Dog Show in the World, attracting dogs from every continent. (Next year, I will have the honor of judging Best in Show.) In Ireland, this year will be the first year since pre-COVID times that we will have a return to our usual number of shows and, so far, the entries are holding up well with an average of 1,000 dogs per show. Thankfully, we have not been too affected by the anti-dog campaigns.
There is no doubt that the Pedigree Dog World is under attack and needs to unite around the world to promote Pedigree Dogs. Lobby governments and stand up against the protesters. Otherwise, the sport of showing and breeding dogs will be gone forever.