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Nathaniel Horn – 2023 National Dog Show Sporting Group Judge

Nathaniel Horn headshot


Interview with Nathaniel Horn – 2023 National Dog Show Sporting Group Judge

Can I describe my reaction to receiving an invitation to judge the Sporting Group at this year’s National Dog Show Presented by Purina?

Nathaniel Horn: I was pleasantly surprised. I smiled to myself because this is a one-of-a-kind show. (The National Dog Show is televised after the Macy’s parade on NBC every year.) I thought to myself, what a great honor.


What does it mean to judge a Group at this historic show?

Nathaniel Horn: It is a great opportunity to judge a Group of wonderful dogs, televised on national TV. To me, it means a great deal. As a dog hobbyist of a “second generation” family and a breeder/owner-handler, I competed in the Sporting Group for several decades. It is very special to get the chance to judge a full Group with a countless amount of quality dogs. I have competed against many of these breeds over the years and I have enjoyed dedicating a lifetime to learning breed type and breed nuances.


In my opinion, how does this show differ from other AKC events?

Nathaniel Horn: This is the only show that is televised as part of a national holiday. During Thanksgiving Day, in many households, this event has become a yearly tradition that families look forward to watching together. My grandchildren, other family members, and friends who are not necessarily “dog people” get to see what my beloved life-long hobby is all about.


What was I thinking or feeling moments before I stepped into the center of the Group ring?

Nathaniel Horn: I actually thought to myself, “This is huge: National TV, almost every breed in the Sporting Group will be in the Group competing. The end result is totally up to me.” I said to myself, “I got this—I can do this.”


Was there a heightened energy coming from the dog and handler teams? Did I feel the energy of the spectators?

Nathaniel Horn: Yes, absolutely. Each exhibitor/dog team got their turn. Each performance was unique. For example, a young lady showing the Boykin Spaniel had a smile from ear to ear and the excitement traveled right to her dog. They had a marvelous time. The spectators enhanced the whole event. The cheering and clapping added to the excitement and to the energy portrayed by exhibitors and their dogs. The joy of this was breathtaking.


How challenging was this assignment?

Nathaniel Horn: Can I share my selection process? Judging a Group of this size with a great depth of quality was extremely challenging. My selection process involved judging by the Breed Standard and the exhibitor/dog teams’ ability to perform by displaying breed type, movement, and attitude.



Do I have a word or two about my Group winner? About the dogs that placed?

Nathaniel Horn: The Group winner, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, is a dog with breed type, including a great coat, great outline, and a correct head including head features. He has beautiful, sound movement with reach and a drive that shows he can perform on land and swim well in the water. He had moderation throughout; no tendency toward being under substance or overdone. In second place, the Welsh Springer Spaniel, displayed the rectangular silhouette and a nice headpiece. This particular Welsh has a great attitude, covers ground in movement, and she can certainly perform the hard work required of the breed.

Third place went to the Parti-Color Cocker Spaniel bitch. She is very well made and, to quote the Standard, the Cocker “…has a sturdy compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head.” She is well balanced and moves extremely well. Her outline conformed to type. Fourth place was the Golden Retriever male. He has a beautiful “headpiece.” His eyes yielded a friendly and intelligent expression. He was of good proportion and outline, and displayed enthusiasm and attitude while moving.


It has become a great tradition. I can’t say enough about the hard work, hospitality, and spirit of all the people who contributed to putting on this event.


This show has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition in America. Is there anything I’d like to say on behalf of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and the show’s sponsors?

Nathaniel Horn: It has become a great tradition. I can’t say enough about the hard work, hospitality, and spirit of all the people who contributed to putting on this event. This includes the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, Purina, and NBC. The Take the Lead get-together showed great camaraderie among many dog enthusiasts. As a judge, I felt extremely well taken care of.


Are there specific ways in which this show furthers the cause of purebred dogs?

Nathaniel Horn: Absolutely! What better way is there to show the world how great the sport of dogs is than by televising the highlights of a great dog show on national TV on Thanksgiving Day?


Now that my assignment is complete, what does this show mean to me personally?

Nathaniel Horn: This show will always be considered, to me, a special highlight of my judging career. The experience is right “up there” with judging a National Specialty, judging at Westminster, Palm Springs, or at an AKC show. Most particularly special about this show is the fact that the event is seen and enjoyed by so many people all over the country.