The Cesky Terrier

From the March 2020 issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.

When you observe Cesky Terriers in a group of other terriers, you notice one thing. They are so calm! While all around them Terriers are barking, quarreling, and bouncing around, you will see Ceskys just sitting beside their owners or handlers just taking it all in. When Frank Horak, avid Czechoslovakian hunter and genetic researcher, crossed his first Scottie and Sealyham Terriers in 1949, one of his primary goals was to develop an upland game hunting breed that was not quarrelsome and could be housed together and would easily hunt in packs. The result is a calm, slightly reserved, fiercely loyal dog that makes an ideal pet and companion. This natural reserve places the Cesky at a disadvantage at times in the Terrier Group ring. The breed standard calls for a calm and kind disposition, alert, but non-aggressive. Ceskys are never sparred in the ring.

BELOW: The range of the grey color of the Ceksy

Between 1949 and the mid-1960s, Mr. Horak’s kennel, Lovu Zdar (Czech for “hunting success”) bred dogs produced from the original Scottie-Sealyham matings until he fixed the qualities of the breed he was looking for—small, light, mobile, well-pigmented and an easy temperament. This national breed of the Czech Republic was accepted for FCI registration in 1963 and was accepted into the Terrier Group by the AKC in 2011.

Ceskys come in shades of grey. This is one of the breeds that carries the gene that causes the coat color to lighten with age (the “G” pigmentation gene that has yet to be located on the canine genome), and the effect is more dramatic than in any other breed. Cesky puppies are born either solid black or black with tan markings. Normally by the age of two, the black has lightened to grey and the tan markings have lightened to very light tan. This often places puppies and adolescents between six and 24 months in the uncomfortable position of appearing mottled or brindled as their coat changes from black to grey at different rates. This is normally resolved by age two (as required by the standard).

Some white markings are permitted and appear frequently on the chest, but no more than 20% of the pigmentation should be white. Pigmentation issues sometimes arise in the ring over this “white” pigmentation requirement for several reasons. The (“G”) or greying gene can cause very pronounced lightening in some Cesky Terriers producing dogs that are a very light platinum. These light platinum dogs are much more common in Europe than in the US, and when a light dog appears in the ring with more “traditional” grey dogs, it is striking. But closer inspection shows that this dog is not white (like a Sealyham, for example). Additionally, Ceskys with the dominant black and tan genotype often have markings that fade to a very light tan again giving the appearance of more than 20% white markings. Again, closer inspection reveals light tan furnishings rather than white. Lighter Ceskys are appearing in the US Cesky population, so this issue should soon be less problematic as these light dogs become less of a minority.

The Cesky has a ratio of 1.5 length to 1.0 height making this a long, short-legged breed. This feature along with a long, well-muscled neck makes the breed ideal for tracking and trailing, moving fast with his nose close to the ground. For example, they are used in their native Czech Republic for wild-boar hunting and given the responsibility for tracking this game and flushing it from the brush. They are also used for finding small game and will enthusiastically go to ground after them.

The predominant impression of a Cesky is a “well-muscled” dog. The standard uses this term over and over describing the neck, forequarters, hindquarters, and body. The topline of the Cesky requires a slight rise or arch over the loin, but cautions against a roached back. The Cesky tail is seven-eight inches long, should follow the line of the rump and “may be carried downward, or with a slight bend at tip; or carried saber shaped horizontally or higher.”

Cesky Terriers move with a free and even gait with “good reach in both the front and the back, covering ground effortlessly.” The ideal Cesky weight is less than 22 lbs. (ten kg), although the standard encourages emphasis on a well-proportioned dog rather than a focus on any one feature.

Ceskys are groomed to accentuate their musculature. Unlike the standards for both founder breeds, the Cesky is single-coated (soft coated) and is therefore clippered not stripped. The furnishings should be firmly textured and should not be “overdone” in terms of length and coverage. This is a working Terrier and the furnishings should be practical for field work.

Cesky Terriers are a relatively healthy breed. Of the close to 170 genetic illnesses that are now DNA tested by commercial labs, the Cesky Terrier has none that presently appear as problems. Ceskys typically stay active well past ten years old—they just keep getting greyer. The calm, pleasant disposition that Frank Horak was striving for as he developed the Cesky Terrier in the years between 1950 and 1990 has made the Cesky a wonderful companion dog and pet and should lead to continued growth of the breed in the US and Canada.

BELOW: “Gait should be free and easy with good reach in both the front and back.”

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