In his inimitable style, one of the great dog writers of our time helps reveal the meaning of "type," a word that holds so many intangible definitions. In this 235-page book, published in 2002 by Doral, Richard Beauchamp explores the essentials of breed type with a conversational style.
Raised in Detroit in the 1940s, Beauchamp first heard the word "type" used by a Collie breeder at a Detroit Kennel Club show. Eater, he heard the term in reference to an English Setter. "I wondered how a Collie and an English Setter could both have this type' thing," he recalls. "One looked nothing like the other. I stored the word and found that it would become the most frequently and most arbitrarily used of any I would hear for as long as I was to remain involved with purebred dogs."
Consistently comparing how judges and breeders consider breed type as they interpret individual breed standards and critique puppies and dogs, Beauchamp breaks down the essentials into five categories: breed character, silhouette, head/expression, movement, and coat. His discussions about how each portion of the breed's standard is defined are intriguing and thought provoking.
His remarks about character are eloquent and to the point: "Breed character is the sum total of all those mental and physical characteristics that define not only what the breed should look like, but how it should conduct itself," he says. "Breed character is the immediate impression the dog gives at first sight. Stalwart determination personifies the Bulldog. The slender bone, light-footed agility and far-seeing gaze of the Saluki transport us swiftly across the desert sand, while the Bullmastiff assures us we need fear no danger."
In one chapter, he describes a breed study seminar in which students were inundated with charts, graphs, and measuring tape to dissect proper proportions of an animal. "When the judges-to-be emerged from the lecture, their eyeballs were spinning," he says. Beauchamp then took the group for ringside mentoring, where he told them to put their charts away. "1 called my students' attention to the dogs whose silhouettes represented the ideal or close to it I pointed out the dogs that had the right balance and the right length of neck ... I had the students concentrate only on the dogs that had what we were looking for, and told them to burn those images into their minds," he says. "We do not enter the show ring or look into the whelping box looking for proof of our formulas. We look there to find that animal with that unquestionable stamp of quality who portrays the essence of the breed."
Beauchamp, best-known for his Cocker Spaniels and Bichons Frisés, lives in Cambria, Calif., and judges all Sporting and Non-Sporting breeds, as well as Hounds, Toys, Working dogs and Herding breeds. Regarding his hook, he says, "It's a way of passing on what I learned from my mentors in an organized form. It should help everyone who has a career in dogs to conceptualize what type actually means."