A "Sizable" Debate
by Susan Meredith Dunivant
In the eighties I wrote an article for the United States Kerry Club Blue Terrier Club Newsletter, The Blueprints, titled "Does Measuring Up Mean Measuring Down?" It was a short commentary on what has been a perennial subject of discussion among Kerry breeders since I began in the breed. Indeed, I have been assured that the size debate has predated many other Kerry fanciers as well! The following represents my attempt to match a personal interpretation of the standard to what Kerry Blue Terrier exhibitors prefer to present in the ring today. For the purpose of this commentary these opinions, although perhaps shared by others, should be considered my own.
Our breed, a working terrier, the Irish farmer and sportsmanís "Jack of all Trades" does not have a size disqualification. There is a generous size span allowed under our standard, 17 1/2 inches to 20 inches for dogs, 17 inches to 19 1/2 inches for bitches. Any lesser or larger size allowance would in some quarters be seen as a sign to divide the breed into "size varieties", as is done with Schnauzers, Poodles and certain other breeds. Since few Kerry breeders see this as a favorable idea, we must work within the parameters the forefathers of the breed fancy apparently believed reasonable to maintain correct Kerry Blue Terrier type.
As is the case in most breeds, one might naturally tend to develop a preference for a particular Kerry type, which more than likely would include a preference for a particular size. However, determining a dogís quality placing too great an emphasis on size would be a serious mistake. Provided the specimenís height and weight are within the breed standard then size should be judged either a virtue or fault, depending upon how far it strays from the Kerry ideal, 18 1/2 inches at the withers for a dog, slightly less for a bitch.
This brings us to our next dilemma. For a number of years now there seems to be a preference in the United States for a taller Kerry Blue Terrier. It is well known among Kerry fanciers that one might finish a championship on an 18 1/2 inch male but quite another thing entirely to special one with any success. The 18 1/2 inch male is conspicuous in the show ring by his "ideal" height where some bitches may stand above him in this measurement. Indeed, sometimes it seems 20" males and 19 1/2" bitches must look up to a few specimens in the ring!
But wait...there is the flip side to consider. There are also 17 1/2 inch dogs and 17 inch bitches out there. One would be correct in assuming they are a true minority or seen to be when one considers the number of dogs and bitches at the top of the standard for size we see in the ring nowadays.
Is there then a preference among Kerry fanciers for a larger "ideal"? Perhaps, but although the debate over size rages on, the fancy in general is resistant to any changes in the size recommendations set down by the standard. It would seem however that there is tacit acceptance among the Kerry fancy to favor a dog which might measure at least an inch taller than the "ideal" 18 1/2 inches and to a bitch proportionately taller as well, placing the males at around 19 1/2 inches , and the bitches then at the height considered ideal for males, or 18 1/2 inches.
Given this perceived preference in the Kerry fancy for a bit taller dog and bitch, what is the key to judging this "modern" Kerry Blue keeping in mind the original intent as set down by the authors of the standard of perfection?
Clearly it is to favor an animal which presents a balanced picture of the breed. If the Kerry full of quality is a bit taller than the ideal 18 1/2 inches, or perhaps shorter, possesses good movement and temperament, obviously it is to be considered over a mediocre animal, even if that mediocre animal is the "ideal" size. In all cases one must judge being mindful of the upper and lower size parameters set in the standard, and in no case consider a dog outside these parameters. Since the Kerry Blue Terrier standard has no size disqualification, it is of utmost importance that the breeder and exhibitor present an animal which falls within the standard for size. Judges may only judge what is presented to them, so the lionís share of responsibility rests with the exhibitor. BUT a judge must penalize any exhibit obviously over or under the size parameters. After studying the breed for a reasonable amount of time one will learn to estimate size even without a wicket, and it will become glaringly apparent when a specimen outside of the size parameters enters the ring.
The balanced Kerry does not possess too much leg, which would give it an "up on stilts" look. Neither should the dog be short on leg giving it a "low slung" or "dumpy" appearance. The dog should appear nearly, but not quite square in appearance...remember, this is a drover/herder with a free flying trot converging to the center line in a single-track at a brisk trot.
A back too short, or leg too long will result in an interference in gait. Be mindful that a too long back may result in a dog appearing to move efficiently, but further examination may show that it is not closing itís stride properly, resulting in lost propulsion. Good reach of neck allows the dog to extend itís head forward, allowing it to shift itís weight forward to improve balance, resulting in smooth, reaching stride.
Will Kerry breeders in the US someday choose to raise the ideal height preference in the standard? This remains a debate among breeders, exhibitors and judges for the time being. Will a size disqualification be added? The majority of Kerry breeders, including the author, resist this idea having witnessed itís abuse in the ring affecting other breeds with such disqualification, resulting in hard feelings among owners, handlers and judges.
In the end one might consider that a working terrier such as the Kerry Blue must be sturdily built, but with definite elegance, possessing quality bone and fully developed musculature regardless of height. Structurally the dog should be balanced in angulation fore and aft, with moderate length of leg, presenting an almost but not quite square dog. Add to this package a dense wavy coat of blue gray, deep slate to silver coupled with an outgoing temperament and the picture one ends with will be more than satisfactory.
The above qualities should certainly be sought whether judging the 17 inch bitch, or the 20 inch male. The multiple uses for which the breed is employed must in some part be reason for the generous range recommended by the standard. The original authors of the standard apparently chose to trust future breeders and judges to promote the quality balanced dog within that range, seeking to perpetuate the breedís ability to remain the epitome of the versatile working and sporting terrier.
Note: IncidentallyÖafter much debate with fellow fanciers I have FINALLY determined what really is the IDEAL size for the Kerry Blue TerrierÖ
The dog is the ideal size if itís MY dog, but not the ideal size if itís yours!