On March 16, 1946 Blueprints published a letter to the editor written by Mr. Henry
Coughlin. In 1966, it was published once again. Fifty-seven years from the day
it was written, it is still relevant today and worthy of discussion on the Internet.
Special thanks to Zippy Fleisher, who found the letter and passed it on to me,
Mr. Henry Coughlin writes:
I read with some concern the recommendation in Blueprints that an 18 inch Kerry
be contained in an 18 inch square from the point of shoulders to the buttocks.
I have no quarrel with the objective of producing Kerries standing about 18
inches. My concern arises from the danger of squeezing a Kerry's body into an
18 inch square, under the Standard, which calls for a back "medium in length."
By the back is meant the distance between the withers and the stern. While the
Kerry standard might well demand a short back, it doesn't as it now stands.
Neither the standard, nor reason, nor good Kerry sense, however, calls for a
short body from the point of shoulders to the rear face of the buttocks. A consideration
of Kerry anatomy will make demonstrably clear that to foreshorten that dimension,
while retaining a medium length back, will compel sacrificing power and proper
angulation of the front and rear. Additional length of body in front of the
withers and behind the pelvic region means additional power, flexibility and
free movement, of which the Kerry is particularly capable, because of its well-developed
and powerful quarters.
Only with that additional length in front can you secure the long shoulder blade
and its proper angulation with the bone of the upper arm. A shoulder well laid
back gives the long forearm, which, in combination with a short back, is so
desirable in any Terrier or Hunter. And it is only with the additional length
behind, that you can have the wide hams, long thighs and well-bent stifles which
can properly support the weight in movement, and which enable a terrier to stand
like a cleverly made hunter, covering a lot of ground. . . So much for the significance
of a short back as against a short body.
One of the most impressive attributes of a well-made Kerry which, to a large
extent, makes him stand out in the Terrier Group, is the controlled power and
beautiful freedom of movement which he exhibits, as contrasted with the stilted
gait of many of the smaller terriers. To impair this outstanding attribute should
give us serious pause. Such impairment would be inescapable if a Kerry with
a medium length back under the Standard, were foreshortened at the ends to accommodate
your 18inch square.
This ill-conceived square idea apparently originated from the book, The Modern
Kerry Blue Terrier, by Mrs. Violet Handy, the British handler. It was predicated
there, however, upon a short back. In the January 1946 American Kennel Gazette
George Proctor cites a recent public utterance of Mrs. Handy which repudiates
her earlier square idea. She now places the square from the withers to the set-on.
At first blush, her change of position could be questioned as going too far
to the other extreme. In any event, she seems to have gotten from under the
Blueprints idea of the whole body in a square.
Mrs. Walter Fleisher's comments on the article were written in 1966.
The issue he discusses is still hot today. However, the present Standard does
describe the back as SHORT. He makes a clarification between the words BACK
and BODY, which are used in may cases, too loosely.
The description in the Standard of the hindquarters calls for well-bent stifles,
angulation, long second thighs. No rear limbs built to the Standard can move
freely, which movement is also called for in the Standard, unless there is sufficient
distance between the fore and hind limbs. The feet of a dog whose back is too
short will interfere and of necessity he will adopt a crabbing or stilted gait.
For properly constructed limbs, the back must be long enough to permit a flowing
gait. This distinction from that of other terrier breeds, should be emphasized
for it tends to be forgotten. Too often we hear admiration for a short back
when in fact such a dog probably does not have suitably long stifles, thighs
and reach. A dog with an exaggeratedly short back is out of balance. How can
we tell the judges?
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