(The following article on funtional ability was written in 1951 by Robert L. Wiel of Kerryall Kennels, California. It was originally published Blueprints, December 1951. Original copy courtesy of the Mrs. Walter Fleisher Collection.)
In the little more than twenty-five years that Kerries have been bred in this country, great strides have been made in improving their quality. But in the evolutionary process we must be careful not to lose sight of FUNCTIONAL ability.
While a flawlessly put down Kerry is a thing of beauty, overemphasis can be given to how he looks, rather than how well he could function as a working terrier. You cannot make a sound Kerry with a pair of shears.
To imporve working ability we must breed for rugged frames, good balance between front and rear assemblies, correct mature color and texture of a coat, and temperament.
That a rugged frame is indispensible to the development of the strength necessary to stand rough going is obvious, yet often overlooked. Many winning Kerries today have either a good front, or a good rear assembly–few have both. From the functional standpoint both are equally necessary to soundness, for if the rear cannot transmit sufficient power, what good an excellent front? If the front is bad, what good a perfect rear, since the power is wasted? Without perfection at both ends, we are better off with less perfect but more equal front and rear assemblies.
Color is improving, but too many Kerries are being shown which are either much too dark or much too light. Texture in many cases, also leaves much to be desired. A well-known breeder-judge recently remarked to me after going over a very large entry, that he had never seen so many incorrect Kerry coats.
Temperament is likewise better, but examples who lack the desirable combination of fiery alertness and good-mannered tolerance are still seen.
How are we to accomplish these improvements? Regional Kerry club thinking must be reoriented and directed toward the breeding of better specimens. These clubs can become the backbone of the fancy, and a powerful force for good, if the individual member-breeders will cast aside blind prejudices and breeding systems which have proven failures, in favor of serious study of succesful bloodlines and what has made them successful. Then, having discovered them, they must make use of them to advance the quality of their stock.
I’d like to see the Kerry fancy take a really active part in developing better stock, by giving whole-hearted support with their entries to those judges who are putting up true-to-type specimens, giving proper weight to the points I have mentioned, and severely penalizing lack of them. When judges put up poor examples it is a disservice to the breed. These dogs are in the public eye, are used for breeding, producing more untypical Kerries, ad infinitum! Fortuately, these judges are in the minority, but let’s not let them control the future of our beloved breed!