Interview with a Hound Group Judge Eric Liebes
Eric Liebes: My first two dogs were a Komondor and an Ibizan Hound. The Komondor still shares the breed’s AKC All-Breed Best in Show record. The Ibizan Hound finished his championship and was one of the first CDX-titled Ibizans.
In the 1980s, I branched out to many Sighthound breeds and also tried my hand at Obedience and Performance competition. During the ‘80s, based out of Denver, I finished championships on dogs of numerous breeds in the family and for others, and placed regularly in the Hound, Working, and Herding Groups throughout the Rocky Mountain area. I also achieved seven Komondor National Specialty wins, 10 all-breed Bests in Show, and finished CDs on five Komondorok, two Ibizan Hounds, and a Tibetan Terrier.
My first Ibizan Hound was acquired in 1981. By 1994, I had bred a Dual Champion, multiple Best in Field, Pedigree Award and National Specialty winning dogs, and several other Dual Champions. I am still active as an exhibitor and breeder. I have a nine-year-old Ibizan Hound, a seven-year-old Komondor, and her two-year-old son. The two adults have been top-ranked breed competitors and have been Select at their Nationals. With my wife, Joan, I have shown, bred, and finished Samoyeds, including several with Specialty wins, Group placements, and Bests.
I was first approved to judge by the AKC in 1992. My first breed approvals were Ibizans, Greyhounds, and Komondorok. I am now approved to judge all Sporting, Hound, Working, and Herding breeds, Miscellaneous, Junior Showmanship, and BIS, and I have been a Siberian Husky judge since 2001. I have judged in Australia, Canada, China, Sweden, Ireland, and Mexico as well as for AKC.
In 2020, I had the thrill of judging at Westminster. I continue to study and learn more about all breeds. I have had the honor of judging National Specialties for Greyhounds, Ibizan Hounds, Scottish Deerhounds, Kuvaszok, Samoyeds, and Standard Schnauzers. My goal is to bring a breeder’s eye to my judging every time I judge, especially at these important Specialties.
I am a breed mentor in Komondorok, Samoyeds, Greyhounds, Ibizan Hounds, and Pulik. I am currently the Judge’s Education Coordinator for the Ibizan Hound Club of the United States. Joan and I live outside of Colorado Springs with eight dogs and three horses. I am retired from my career as a Research Geophysicist for Chevron.
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Eric Liebes: As noted, I live near Colorado Springs, Colorado, and started showing in 1981… so, 42 years. I’ve been a judge for 30 years.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Eric Liebes: Komondorok and Ibizan Hounds are our original breeds. Later, we also bred Salukis and Whippets. Now I’m also a Samoyed breeder. I use Windriver for Komondorok and Ibizans. My wife’s longtime kennel name in Sammies is Azteca.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Eric Liebes: I won the Ibizan Hound National with Dual Champion Windriver Justin. He was a Group winner and a very good lure courser. He was in my third generation of breeding Ibizans.
My first Komondor was Ch Nagyalma Apple Of My Eye. She still shares the breed’s BIS record (7) and won three Nationals.
What are some of the qualities I most admire in the Hound Breeds?
Eric Liebes: Aloof and smart, they each have their own personality. I really like how varied and funny the Ibizan Hounds are.
Have I judged any Hound Breed/Group Specialties?
Eric Liebes: In Hounds, I have judged the Greyhound Club of America twice and the Ibizan Hound National. I’ve also been honored to judge the Scottish Deerhound National and very large Specialties in Irish Wolfhounds and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. I did the Top 20 in Beagles a few years ago.
Hounds are, first and foremost, hunters. How does this inform my decision-making in the show ring?
Eric Liebes: Once the dogs look like the breed, I heavily prioritize movement that is typical for the breeds. Each should have the movement which helps them hunt over the terrain they were developed for, and for the game they hunted.
How important are breed hallmarks in the Sighthounds? In the Scenthounds? In the “Primitive” Hounds?
Eric Liebes: Very important. I object to your use of the “Primitive” Hounds term. If you are referring to my Ibizan hounds, they are Sighthounds in every way and also use their other senses. Many of the Sighthounds are ancient breeds and have been carefully developed for their look and skills. The Egyptians had Greyhounds and an ancestor to Ibizans and Pharaohs. Which ones are “primitive?”
Would I have any advice to impart to newer judges of the Hound Breeds who come from other Groups?
Eric Liebes: Judging Sighthound movement typical for each breed is a special skill. Many never get it, some do. I’m a breed mentor for Ibizans, Greyhounds, and Pharaohs. I talk a lot about typical movement.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Hounds of the past?
Eric Liebes: Breeds have ups and downs. Afghan Hounds are in a comeback after many years of disappointing quality. Ibizans have finally settled into a functional size range and good soundness, which wasn’t the case in the ‘80s! While numbers are down in many Hounds, quality is still out there. The Coonhounds benefit from a continued emphasis on performance.
When it comes to Group and Best in Show competition, do Hounds have a “leg up” or a liability? (Think Westminster.)
Eric Liebes: Long-haired dogs seem to have an advantage in Best. Small dogs have the advantage of getting on a plane, under the seat, and getting to more shows.
If I could share my life with only one Hound Breed, which would it be and why?
Eric Liebes: Already chosen: Ibizan Hounds. I’ve been in the breed for 40-plus years.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences judging the Hound Group?
Eric Liebes: Not necessarily the Hound Group… A nice dog caught my eye and I gave it a large, competitive Group One. At picture time, I found out it was a very precocious nine-month-old puppy. I hope it doesn’t coarsen up too much!