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Interview with D’Arcy M. Downs-Vollbracht – 2023 MCKC Dog Show Breed Judge

D’Arcy M. Downs-Vollbracht


Interview with D’Arcy M. Downs-Vollbracht – 2023 MCKC Dog Show Breed Judge

What does it mean to be invited to judge at one of the most important dog shows in the world—Montgomery?

Montgomery is an iconic show. It is the premier showcase for terriers and an event I have always viewed as one of the most prestigious of all shows. To say I was honored and humbled to be invited to judge my breed at MCKC would be a woeful understatement. I know what it is like to hope I have a dog worthy of exhibiting there, and all that it takes to walk into that hallowed ring, so being chosen by the Border Terrier Club of America to judge was otherworldly.

Can I share my thoughts on my Breed assignment?

I judged Border Terriers and had a strong entry. There were many tough decisions to be made, especially in the bitch classes. There were several well-made, promising class animals. Some were in various stages of coming together and into themselves and others were just more ready on that day. The specials were strong, with correct young dogs to well-made veterans rounding out the entry. Grooming was perfectly acceptable across the board in my mind. I had dogs in every stage of coat, but I could feel and see the coat quality overall was excellent. There were one or two that lacked for undercoat, or lacked harsh topcoat, but those two extremes were rare. Pelts were aplenty and I was thrilled to have so many thick, loose-fitting hides. Having a few where you could check for pelt and come up pleased pretty much anywhere on the body was a treat.

Teeth were in fine shape with no undershot or wry mouths at all; good scissors (and a few level) bites and, for the most part, good-sized teeth. Muzzles and heads were a bit more inconsistent; however, there were some truly beautiful otter-like heads to choose from. I looked for a correct muzzle-to-skull ratio, proper planes in the skull and muzzle with very moderate stop, small V-shaped ears, and a correct well-filled muzzle and I was able to find it in a number of dogs. Good front ends, which have been, and will likely always be, a point of discussion as they are critical to function, showed up in the ring.

I had a number of really well-made fronts to choose from and it looks to me that this is an area where we are improving. We still have a bit of work to do, but I was encouraged by what I saw “big picture.” There were some longer and weaker loins set behind deeper, shorter ribs, but they were fortunately countered by several beautifully balanced dogs that had all of the pieces in the right spots. Rears with long thighs, and stifles that tied into a well-let-down hock without exaggeration, were a joy to see in the entry as well.

In terms of correct proportions, I was happy to find dogs that were slightly taller at the withers than they were long from withers to tail. This is a key factor in the breed, and affects not only the outline but the ability of the dog to function. There were dogs present with proportions opposite the Breed Standard, that were longer from wither to tail, and lower on leg, so it is important to remain vigilant about those proportions going forward. The temperaments were quite good overall and I appreciated having so many dogs that exhibited the correct temperament. This isn’t something that should need to be addressed, but having seen the full range from fearful to aggressive of late, I was elated to not have anything other than proper temperaments in the ring.

As someone who hunts more than I show, and also judges Earthdog, it was an unforgettable experience to have gone over so many beautiful dogs that, in my opinion, could also perform the functions for which they were originally bred. In the final line-up, there wasn’t one I wouldn’t love to have taken home. In my mind they were all typey, sound, and moderate dogs with no extremes. They could all work underground and live to tell about it.

In my opinion, what does the future hold for the Terrier Breeds in America and around the world?

We live in a world where, for many, suitability for the breed’s original purpose is difficult or impossible to test. Live hunting or quarry dispatching isn’t available to many who now live in suburbs or cities where space is limited and lifestyles are different. Earthdog tests some of the skills and instincts, but in truth, the dogs aren’t truly tested in the face of battle. However, as we adapt, and human needs and circumstances change, so too must terriers if we hope to survive. Sports like Earthdog, Scent Work, Tracking, NASDA, Agility, Obedience, Rally, Dock Diving, Barn Hunt, and others serve to test many of the skills and instincts needed to preserve the breed well. The conformation of the breed needs to remain as stated in the Standard both for preservation of the original purpose and for maintaining breed type into the future.

Fortunately, the Border Terrier is and always has been an adaptable breed that fits well within a family. The parent club and breeders do a good job of protecting the breed to the Standard, which keeps the breed well suited to modern life while not foregoing or changing the expectations of the Standard. After judging at Montgomery, I feel the breeders are doing an excellent job of preserving breed characteristics in the Standard and I feel the Border Terrier is in good shape to remain a part of life in the future, both in the US and abroad.