colours grooming length moderate movement tailset temperament


by Patrick Ormos, Phi-Vestavia Cardigans, USA

How big should a Cardigan be? The standard makes several conflicting claims - and certainly we see dogs in the ring who seem quite outside the standard, at one end or the other.

The AKC standard suggests 10.5 - 12.5  inches (26.67 - 31.75 cm) in height, and 36 to 43 inches (90 - 109.2 cm) in length. I don't know how anyone is supposed to judge that, however! Can you imagine trying to measure from nose tip to tail tip in the ring! We also have suggested weights: 30-38 lbs (13.65 - 17.2 kg) for males, and 25-34 lbs  (11.3 - 15.3 kg) for bitches. Is this indeed what we are seeing today in the ring?

The standard's imprecise language allows for several different and quite conflicting options. We can imagine a 10.5 inch (26.67 cm) tall dog who is only 36 inches (90 cm) in length, and a 12.5 inch (31.75 cm) height to the 43 inch (109.2 cm) length. This suggests a ratio of 1:3.4 (height to overall length when measured from nose tip to tail tip). But - the current language allows for an interpretation which suggests a 10.5 inch height to a 43 inch length (a ratio of 1:4) or a 12.5 inch height to a 36 inch length (a 1:2.8 ratio). All three can not be correct: 1:3.4; 1:4; 1:2.8. This would simply not make the right kind of dog. We are searching to stabilize our breed type not confuse it. An extremely long, short dog in the ring with a cobby, tall one next to it does not go a long way towards stability!

In the same way, we do not want to allow for too much misunderstanding about weight. A short, long dog who is only 30 lbs (13.65 kg) will be quite different from the same dog at 38 lbs (17.29 kg). Which is right? Such variation is too extreme for my taste. Think about the myriad options when you factor in height, weight and length -  everything from long, tubular dogs to practically square heavy ones.

So, what is the AKC standard trying to describe? "Low set with moderately heavy bone and deep chest. Overall silhouette long in proportion to height..." If we are to take this seriously, then we need to make our standard more explicit, more precise. Rather than giving ranges, I would prefer to see us give an ideal height, length, and weight. Too much variation disturbs breed image and type. We are often perceived (by outsiders) as a breed lacking in consistent breed type. While things have improved greatly over the years I have been in the breed, it seems to me that there is still a long way to go.

I would suggest that our ideal height should be 11 or 11.5 inches (27.94 - 29.21 cm) for bitches and 12 inches (30.48 cm) for dogs. We don't really need tiny males, nor huge females. Historically the breed has always been about 12 inches, let's not change that.

Our dogs have greatly increased in weight, bone and substance since the early 1900's. Much of this has been good for the breed. But, it is possible to have too much of a good thing! Certainly some of our current specials who lumber around the ring at over 40 lbs in weight could simply not do the job for which they were bred. Let's work to bring down size.

Equally disturbing to me are the tiny Cardigans which we see in the ring. Tiny bitches and diminutive dogs should not be tolerated any more than the giants! We need to return to our ideal of moderation rather than exaggeration.

It would seem to me that 30 lbs (13.65 kg) bitches and 38 lbs (17.29 kg) males are quite nice weights to aim for.


Now, before you get mad at me (though perhaps that's too late) I know that the AKC standard says, "Overall balance is more important than absolute size." This sentence should be at the end of the paragraph on size, not at the beginning. It is the sentence which allows for exceptions, for the gorgeous and correct bitch who is a little small, for the exquisite male who is a little small, for that exceptional stunning stallion dog who is big but carries it off, and for the gorgeous bitch who can fight it out with the big boys. Exceptions prove the rule. They do exist, but they should be rare. This sentence should not give us license to breed monster Cardigans or tiny toy Corgis. Over and under-size animals should be the exceptions not the rule."Overall balance" is not an excuse for a size problem, rather it is a goal for good breeders.

While I dislike the ambiguity of imprecise language, nonetheless I believe that the ideal for which we strive is indeed to be found in the standard. Is the standard wrong? What do you think?




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