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Judging the Kelb tal-Fenek
love for the Kelb tal-Fenek started when I was quite young. Since my
childhood I have had various opportunities to be invited for a hunt. Today,
I am an active keen hunter, and therefore I am well engaged in the breed.
In our family we presently own three Klieb tal-Fenek, which we
successfully show and which are also used for hunting wild rabbits. I am
also a promoter of the Kelb tal-Fenek overseas, and have exported nine
puppies from my kennel "Tal-Wardija” to Denmark, Germany, Holland,
Norway, Sweden and the USA to inject new blood - which I believe is
imperative for the breed’s future.
I act as a judge for field trials for hunting dogs in Malta as well as in local Kelb tal-Fenek speciality shows. I have judged Klieb tal-Fenek at breed specialities in The Netherlands, Sweden and the USA.
these past years I have attended and participated in many dog shows around
the world and I am quite dismayed at the judging situation. There are many
judges who, in my opinion, really understand the Kelb tal-Fenek and judge
the breed with a superior ability. However a large number of judges
unfortunately judge this breed as they do any other breed, not taking into
account that the Kelb tal-Fenek is a unique breed and as such should be
judged specifically on these grounds.
major faults that are not being highlighted in the breed include:
us begin with the first major fault. First of all, let me remind you all
that the KTF is a hunting dog used in Malta to hunt rabbits over rough and
rocky terrain. It therefore requires the agility of a properly formed
front for ease of movement. A straight front,
caused by a lack of forechest, looks absolutely inappropriate on the Kelb
tal-Fenek, and makes the dog incorrectly constructed. This would
automatically make its movement restrictive on the land that it hunts, and
therefore a bad hunter – not being able to perform the work it was
originally bred to perform. In the show ring, side movement should easily
reveal this fault.
lack in under-jaw is unfortunately being seen too often in the show rings.
This shortcoming makes the dog look snipey. A dog with a lack of under-jaw
will not be able to perform the task of catching rabbits, since it lacks
the power of bite to catch and kill its prey.
at the rear is also being seen more and more in the show rings. The reason
is quite obvious. A dog with an over angulated rear is much more eye
catching, and looks stunning in the show ring. Breeders have altered the
breed for this purpose - and this is not correct. We have to realize that
the Maltese terrain requires a dog whose hunting abilities are based on
high intelligence, stealth, agility, sight, hearing, and lastly speed.
Therefore its construction requires a moderate bend of stifle, not an over
angulated one. One must be aware that the Kelb Tal-Fenek's hunting ability
is directly related to this. An over-angulated dog would certainly lack
the necessary agility and therefore risk ending up with broken legs.
points that I have noticed in the show rings, which were not brought to
light by the relative judges, include:
out indicates a massive and powerful dog. The Kelb Tal-Fenek is not such a
type. It should be of “Sight Hound” construction, but of slightly
heavier build – and the emphasis here is on “slightly”!
a broad Kelb tal-Fenek cannot be “lithe” in construction. Incidentally,
“lithe” is a requisite of the breed and is commonly being ignored. The
word “lithe” in the Oxford dictionary means, “to be flexible, nimble
and agile”. Certainly no broad or heavy dog would enjoy these attributes.
I have also seen many critiques where judges commented favorably on a
“perfectly straight top line”. This is totally incorrect. A Judge
writing similar remarks certainly does not know the breed. The standard
calls for “an almost straight top line”. The almost
straight top line gives the breed the required agility and flexibility –
set ears do not constitute any reduction in hunting prowess. But it does
deduct from the perfection of the breed. They should be “medium high set”
according to the standard. In other words at “5 minutes to 1” and not
at “10 minutes to 2”, as in the Podenco Canario. Lets face it – an
esthetically formed head is much more pleasing to the eye.
are many other features (faults) within the standard that judges fail to
highlight. I will not delve into these, not because they are not important,
but because they are, maybe, not as blatant as the above-mentioned faults.
Also, if I were to discuss further points, this article would not be only
a three-page article. Let me however make one point absolutely clear – the
perfect dog has yet to be born! As breeders, we should all be
acknowledge our dogs’ faults. We must constantly endeavor to breed only
according to recognized basic principals and breeding ethics – always
for the benefit of the breed.
have intentionally not included any photos of any dogs to illustrate these
faults. I have done so in order not to offend. This article is, in fact,
not intended to hurt or insult any breeder, nor is it meant to do any
injustice to any judge. The
purpose of this article is solely to bring to light certain deficiencies
in the method of judging the breed, so that future judging might be
performed appropriately and more concentrated on the genuine
breed type, for the ultimate benefit of the Kelb tal-Fenek itself.
knowledgeable specialist judge once told me, “They have changed the
breed”. This comment hit me hard, since I realized the intensity of his
words. Let us, as breeders, put a stop to breeding malpractice forthwith
for the benefit of the Kelb tal-Fenek.
appeal is truly honest and sincere. “Let us, as breeders, avoid the ruin
of this wonderful breed through selfishness, romancing and wishful
thinking. Let us not change the breed, as we know it today, solely for the
purpose of winning at the show rings. We could otherwise risk the loss of
the Kelb tal-Fenek as it has been bred in Malta by countless generations
throughout the centuries”.
To all judges my plea is on similar grounds. “As judges, we have an obligation - an obligation to promote the correct type in accordance with the breed standard. We should award the correct type of dog, and be honest in our critique with all dogs. Unless we do so, we will unwittingly be instigating a change in the make up of the breed – something, I am sure, that all judges are not prepared to do”.