By Keven Harris
Somewhere along the boat ramp, the west has missed the Fix-it Boat.
While there is much evidence of declining numbers at almost every turn in this great sport of purebred dogs, ie; breeding, breeders and exhibitors, sadly what we once considered to be a great family day or two out, has now been eroded to an all but vanishing scenario.
Aging population, financial constraints, municipal restrictions, reduced kennel numbers, and an increased number of extra activities to fit into available free time, has really changed the way it was, to the way it is.
This problem is clearly evidenced by the significant decline in entry numbers, world- wide. Closer to home for example is The Royal Melbourne Show where In the 1960’s, entries teetered around 9,000 over 9 days. That number has slowly declined to just around the 5,000 mark (plus /minus) in today’s environment.
This has in some ways, created a new order of exhibitors, not all necessarily of the same ilk of yesteryear. It would appear that this now almost expected phenomenon, does in the broad sense, go on unchecked. At best, with no real activity to engage in the expertise of professional promoter’s, success in achieving a meaningful increase in numbers seems limited to more of a “get one loose one” syndrome nationally. Such is not the case however when it comes to a significant and increasing interest in the sport throughout the Asian region.
Leaders within the region are clearly way ahead when it comes to encouragement of family participation, almost as if going back to that euphemistic term “the Good old Days” as once we knew them. This is especially so in Thailand, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and India.
Korea and Japan are likewise in this same mix, although to some extent these two have advanced somewhat in organizational skills and breed numbers. This does not mean in any way that other nations are behind the eight ball, but more a case of continually fine-tuning their own organizational and planning skills. Also coming on stream now at a steady rate is Vietnam.
At most Asian shows, it is very common to see immediate families, ie; parents and children, also accompanied by many of the extended family as well. Proof of this is often seen in publications like DNA where win photos are crammed with family members to the point of almost losing sight of the winning exhibit.
The main point here is that the various region Kennel Controls have a vested interest not only in bringing new people to the sport covering all available disciplines, but more importantly to ensure that they are retained within the system. More often or not, these extended family members are sought out by interested kennel control personnel, engaged in informative show related conversation, and as a result become exhibitors themselves. This must be considered the very best result for any of the Asian nations and the growing Asian influence in the sport.
With Few exceptions, any judge assigned to an exhibition held under the auspices of China Kennel Union (CKU) will almost certainly have extra curricular duties after completing those official to the assignment. When judging is completed, one or more judges will be asked to adjudicate over a number of mixed varieties and non-registered dogs. There has been as many as upwards of 200 bought by excited owners to a show for examination. The final outcome is for said judges to determine as to the pureness or otherwise of each individually examined dog.
Some do have documents, not always complete, claiming the dog as a pure bred and some may get a pass. There are many which fail the examination, document or not. Those that get a pass however, are automatically swooped up, signed up, and added to the growing number of exhibitors. The rub off here is that mostly while being passed as pure, the quality is less than great and these new exhibitor/owners go on, seeking a better quality dog so that they can happily compete into the future. Win. win for all.
This procedure is not new, it was one carried out in the 50’s and early 60’s in Australia where a dog with incomplete documentation could be examined by three all breed judges as to its purity of the breed claimed. If all three agreed, the owner was then able to register with the appropriate State control, allowing exhibition and breeding. In India, early promotion by way of local free advertising in the daily press, radio spots, and generally posting of flyers in and around the venue site ensures that whether held in a mall or an outside venue, any show held throughout the country is assured of a very large gallery. This is enhanced in Thailand and India where vendor areas are set up attracting huge crowds.
In India particularly, it has been observed to have procured crowds in the several thousands at a two -day event while at the four day Impact event in Thailand is estimated upwards of ten thousand visitors. The rub off from these clever promotional activities is an eventual introduction to the show scene and the signing up of many to the sport.
The smart clubs set up information/registration spots where members of the public can be and often are signed up as new members, guided to appropriate person(s) of their breed interest and so begin as we all did, a newbie.
It would be fair to say that while there are those of some wealth throughout the region, it is not necessarily indicative of always having the best. In fact there is a growing number of breeders able to produce top quality exhibits in many breeds. This can also be seen from a variety of published results where winning exhibits are often wide and varied as are the owner/breeders.
The thought of being confined to exhibiting in ones own country is no longer a stumbling block. Cheap airfares, budget airlines, and a relaxation of quarantine regulations have made it possible for travel between countries within the region. This has created the opportunity to those seeking international opinions outside of their own comfort zones.
The perfect examples of this in recent years is the Philippine Circuit Shows and the Thai Impact event where exhibitors have come from the America’s, Canada, Australia, and every nation within Asia Pacific.
In each of the Asian countries already mentioned, one could be forgiven for shaking ones head in dismay when it is realized that the upper limit entry totals are comparatively low, somewhere between 280 to 450. One should likewise never be misled by these figures when one takes account of the quite limited number of breeds making up the entry.
There are many breeds that have not yet hit the ground running as it were; a full compliment of breeds not always if ever is represented. The exception to this may be special events such as the already mentioned Thailand’s IMPACT SHOWS and the PHILIPPINE CIRCUIT SHOWS where entries over four days soar to an excess of 6000 helped by that influx of overseas entries some of which are breeds not normally seen in those countries.
Added further to the elements of those, moderate entry one of shows, is the fact that almost always, a single judge is engaged to officiate over the entry. This is of course in vast contrast to a fully critiqued FCI European event where the maximum number on any one day is eighty, or the AKC, CKC at 175 and in Australia, the maximum of 250. In time, this will change, in some cases that change is underway with multiple judges now being engaged. Nevertheless, the answer to declining numbers at home and elsewhere has so far eluded the authorities. Whether by non-action or an inability to take on board experts in the field, or any other reason, I am reminded of that one indicative and pungent scene, from the movie; On The Beach by Neville Shute.
THERE IS STILL TIME BROTHER.
WKP of Top Dog Media and Keven Harris
Keven’s interest in pedigree dogs spans more than 50 years, as a young lad with BOXERS and concurrently for 24 years with top winning ENGLISH SETTERS under the PINETOP prefix. Latter years saw the addition of top B.I.S. winning SIBERIAN HUSKIES including SUPREME BIS at the 2005 Tasmanian Royal Show. A former councilor in South Australia of the Canine Control Body, past President Secretary and Treasurer of Boxer and English Setter Clubs, founding Chairman and President of the Adelaide Plains Kennel Club, past Vice Chair and group leader of the ANKC Judges Training Scheme in Australia, and an ANKC accredited trainee judges assessor and examiner.
An International All breeds judge, ANKC, PCCI/FCI. AKC. Keven has judged coast to coast in Australia including an unprecedented nine invitations to various Champion of Champions Contests, throughout New Zealand, Thailand, India, Mainland China, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, USA, in addition to 43 specialty shows in 29 breeds with pending assignments in several countries, and a full book of assignments at home in the Philippines.