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Molosser Musings: The Year of the Dogue

Modern Molosser columnist Bas Bosch celebrates a 2010 full of sour mugs
2010 was a Dogue de Bordeaux year for me, no doubt. For years now, I have felt more than privileged to be invited to judge many national specialties, especially of the (Mini) Molosser breeds. But to be asked to do four national championship breed-club shows for one and the same breed in one year – and an extra one that had the same impact – is, even for this spoiled judge, quite a treat.
Originally I was also booked to judge the first championship show of the Belgian Dogue de Bordeaux Club, but because of a change of date I had to withdraw. Much better this way – sometimes it can be just too much, even for me, not to mention the sake of the breed. It all sounds a bit greedy, does it not? A bit? But enough about me, me, me – or soon you will see me as a typical judge. Here are five occasions in 2010 where the best of the best Dogues de Bordeaux in the world were brought together, giving the best possible opportunity for an in-depth impression of the state of the breed.


The first show to focus on is the national specialty of the Danish Dogue de Bordeaux Club, held the day before the FCI World Show in the middle of June. The show drew a record entry of 58. A majority – 31 – were foreign entries from eight countries, with Great Britain and the Netherlands responsible for more than 20. The host was a very young club – in the past there was a Danish Molosser Club – and the breed in Denmark is struggling with health regulations (see The World of Dogues de Bordeaux in 2008 and 2009), so to come up with this number of Danish entries is something to be cherished.
I wish I could support what must be the hard and often frustrating, not to say heartbreaking, work to establish a breed by focusing on some nice Danish winners at this show, but I am sorry to say that all my class winners were foreign. That in itself does not say that much; the competition from abroad was strong by any standard, but what the Danish entries in general had to offer at that show was not that impressive. Luckily we know that things can change for the better in a relatively short period of time, and the enthusiastic group of breeders who are in charge have already shown plenty of dedication to get there. 
I was pleased that the club had come up with extra competitions for best head and best movement. There was also a class for best handler, though that is not really my cup of tea (for more than 20 years, I have refused to “judge” junior handling), but I did my very best to make the best of it. The first two, best head and movement, I did with full confidence, as I see them as supportive of the club and its history – the long list of illustrious names of highly respected and big-winning dogs in old clubs are such a good way of keeping history alive. Besides, as a judge one can make clear what one considers to be the best in that particular field, and the extra attention is beneficial not only for the breed but also for the individual dog. 
Hurluberlu van ‘t Bulscampvelt (bred and owned by J. and F. Vanbeveren, Belgium), who earlier took second in the Open Class, was selected as best mover. This hard-muscled and clean-cut male did impress me as a typical and honest mover, with an extra bonus of effortlessness one seldom comes across in the breed. It looked as if he could go on forever. 
The Dogue with the best head I spotted long before the actual competition took place, even before he had entered the ring in his class, Intermediate. He sat at ringside for some time, and I had sincere difficulty staying focused on what was presented in the ring. What a head. An enormous head, and one shouting breed type from any corner, in whatever pose. One of the best Dogue heads I have ever seen, for sure. Aemme de Legeanne (bred and owned by J. Dijkstra, the Netherlands) is the male that carries all that beauty. Regretfully, one cannot say that he excels all the way. He is a good example of a most special dog for two-thirds, if one only could replace his hindquarters, a combination I have come across quite often while judging Molossers, though I have the impression that this particular union of extremes is becoming more rare. No doubt about his head, though: I never will forget him as such, and he set the pattern for the year – every show delivered at least one extraordinary head. 
Aemme de Legeanne.
I surprised myself with this verdict, meaning to say that there are not that many superb heads around – plenty of nice ones, enough truly excellent ones even, but one that takes your breath away? We talk about a head breed first and foremost, with a lot of focus of breeders and judges on it, I mean to say, so one would expect more Dogue heads that one can dream about, or am I too spoiled, too critical, or both? Anyway, with all possible pleasure I can announce that there are more to come in this review, so focus on keeping breathing regularly for the time being. 
Another more personal note before I go further. If there is one thing I hate it is when one and the same dog is entered under me after I have already given him a championship. In that respect I am a dedicated follower of the English school – it is not easy for me to understand why an exhibitor is not satisfied with the one and only. (If one studies the show history of big-winning dogs, it is the multiple ticket wins given by one different judge after another that impresses the most – the true champions, so to speak.) That does not count for national breed club shows or all-breed shows with official day titles, of course, as the top has to be presented and where subsequently competition is tough. But even at that kind of an occasion there is something in me that wants to find something new. Before you draw the wrong conclusion, at whatever show I will give the ticket to the dog that deserves it, even if he has won before under me; I like to think so anyway. But I must say that it is sort of a relief if I find a new dog to give it to, and strangely enough almost every time there is a new star waiting to be saluted as such, and every time it surprises me.
During 2010 when judging Dogues de Bordeaux I came across two, a dog and a bitch, that I had admired big time before and I had to give proof of that again, a kind of surrender, but easily done, with all pleasure. The Real Greats of this Era, no doubt, All Time Greats, why not. 
Ch. Moby de Legeane (bred by J. Dijkstra, owned by P. Valentin, Spain) is the first one that deserves that honorary title. Even at six years old and despite showing the first signs of it, he proved to be unbeatable – at this Danish breed club show, at least. Best of Breed, easily. And the next day, at the FCI World Dog Show, he took the same victory. I had seen him a couple of months before in Birmingham, England, where I gave a seminar organized by the Kennel Club. I could have used him for my breed talk, but decided not to as he was not in the right condition. After the show in Denmark, I had to compliment the person (B. Dunning, Great Britain) who kept him at the time for looking after him so well. Later on that year I would see him once more, so I am going to keep a few more tokens of admiration for a paragraph or so later.  
Best of Opposite Sex was won by Klea Bordeaux Red-Forest (bred and owned by A. Merle, Germany), a truly feminine bitch in the middle of the standard type wise, nicely balanced and strongly put together, resulting in easygoing, more than decent movement. 
It was at this show that a brand-new Dogue de Bordeaux bronze made by the Dutch artist Gerda van den Bosch was presented. 

The Netherlands 

The championship breed club show of the Dutch Dogue de Bordeaux Club is traditionally held at the last weekend of August, but this one was extra special, as it celebrated the tenth anniversary of the club. I felt extra honored, as it was my second time judging this event, the first time being the very first championship show and now the first jubilee show.
The biggest difference between now and then was the amount of entries. For quite a few years the breed and this particular get-together have become so popular that two judges are needed. The committee asked me with whom I would like to judge. It did not take me long to come up with the name of a world-renowned all-rounder who I greatly admire and who I know he loves Molossers, Rainer Vuorinen of Finland. The total entry was 131, from 11 different countries. Rainer judged the females and I took the males. The show was outdoors in typical Dutch surroundings, as Dutch as the weather: rain, more rain, close to a never-ending story of rain. 
Perhaps I was affected by the weather, or possibly my expectations were too high, but the impression the males gave me in general was a bit disappointing. No, I should say that I am pretty sure that the overall quality, especially that brought by the Dutch, had been better in the past. Luckily, the females showed to be the better lot – at least, that was the impression given by those that placed one to four in every class. 
Anyway, there was more than enough to like when looking at the males, especially at the end. 
At the very end I had pre-selected the winner of Intermediate, Aris vom Wilden Watz (bred and owned by A. Mies, Germany), for the ticket. Aris is a black mask I had judged only a couple of weeks before at an international championship show for all breeds in Belgium, where he ended as Best Male. He is a strong and massively built, extra-masculine Dogue, with surprisingly clean bone for a male of this size and substance – real volume, nothing “extra rich” there, not faultless construction-wise, but with a head – in a word, stunning. Since I met him I recall his expression at least once a day.
Aris vom Wilden Watz.
And then there was Moby. In an excellent condition for his age, but six and showing it here and there, more so around his hocks… nothing new there, see my Danish observations, but should I give it to him again? I was tempted to give it to Aris, “new kid on the block,” black mask helps, expression to die for. I looked at both of them from all angles, tried to let my hands speak once more … could not decide, until the moment I asked both of them to give a “whole study in profile.” In a split second, the decision was made: extra quality in overall balance and smooth lines all the way through with a neck carriage I had not noticed before, what a neck. To be really sure, I asked for another round: so easygoing, light footed almost, as a true stallion he filled the ring – Moby, Best Male. 
Bitches. Rainer managed to find – of course – that other “All Time Great,” the female that had won pretty much everything that there is to win, the best Dogue bitch I have ever judged, anyway, Tyrannus Skyejacked by Emberez (bred and co-owned by S. Colman, owned by N. Burnikell, England). What I said the first time I judged her, at the National d’Elevage the year before, I will say here again and wherever: Any word spent is too much. Now that I have the chance to write the nicest possible words there is silence – admiration only, no, no words, it does not work, I tried, proof is there, forget it. Skye, Best of Breed. 
Moby sired Aris and Skye, and this was his last show.  
Best of Breed Ch. Tyrannus Skyejacked by Emberez and Best Male Ch. Moby de Legeane at the 2010 Dutch Dogue de Bordeaux Club show with judges Ranier Vuorinen and Bas Bosch.


A repetition in silence, as Skye was entered at the Euro Club Show for Molossers in Slovenia a month later, where I made her best of 44 entries. The day after, the FCI European Show was held on the same premises, and she won BOB once again. 
The change was given by entries mostly from the East European countries. The Dogues that were more or less local showed a definite type based on athletic ability captured in bodies pretty much in the middle of the standard. A remark about hindquarters withheld these Dogues from reaching top places, under me at least, but truly interesting breeding work for sure. 
The Intermediate Class Winner, D’Or Bordo Buena Vista (bred by L. Starovoitova, owned by J. Likhatsky, Ukraine), became Best Male, a bigger Dogue than I normally go for, but I considered him surprisingly well proportioned for a Dogue of this size, with a great topline and a quality head not to forget, the best male head on the day.
For years it was that as soon as a Dogue, especially a male, got close to or above the maximum standard size, Mastiff proportions and balance followed almost immediately, so a Dogue that shows too much daylight, is too narrow in front and does not have the required shape – very slight pear shape – seen from above and often is too long as well. It seems to me that Dogue breeding is that much evolved in the mean time that we have seemed to manage to get what is typical balance and proportions in the big Dogues too, so far never as good as in a smaller-sized Dogue, at least in my opinion, but still, the mastiffy Dogue seems to lose ground; first we lost Toulouse type and now the “Mastiff” is disappearing. At the Italian Club Show – held a couple of days after “Slovenia” – I came to more or less the same conclusion, certainly after judging the Open and Champion males. There were quite a few I kept in until the last round before placing, as they impressed me a lot in terms of impressive size, substance and shape, and strong heads not to forget. In the end they were asked to leave in most cases because of just a bit too much daylight.       


The fourth championship breed-club show, with a total entry of 101 (the vast majority being Italian), was held in the city of slow food, Torino. This show gave me the best impression in general. Much to like in type, with no real difference in quality between males and females, and pretty much all Dogues showed typical, balanced and at least pretty strong movement. When I judged at this show a couple of years ago, that was not the case, which is the reason why I had to focus on well-built dogs first and for all that excelled on the move. In terms of construction, I was surprised to see so many that showed at least a bit too much rise over the loin together with too low a tail set, but even more surprisingly, it did not affect movement that much. 
What I also remember were wrinkles. More than at the other shows, I noticed an amount and quality of wrinkles that should be considered too much. This must immediately be followed by a neutralizing remark: The Italian Dogues that were overdone seem to come from one particular strain. One of them looked close to a hundred percent Neapolitan Mastiff, not only in wrinkles, but in everything. I still regret that I did not bring my camera; the only thing lacking was the blue color, seriously. Very interesting. One more remark to tone down my wrinkle remark: Compared to the previous Italian breed club show, I noticed a definite improvement. 
To stay with wrinkles a bit longer, and based on what I saw last year, I must say that I am not worried that much anymore about it. As I stated before, very recently even, in the preface of the third World of Dogues de Bordeaux, I experienced the standard changes as an enrichment for my judging and a more than appropriate remedy to stop hypertype. In what seems to be record time, we, breeders and judges alike, seem to be aware of the problem and have act accordingly. It is too soon to say the problem is solved, but I have every faith that in not too long a time it will not be a serious issue anymore. In fact – and perhaps I should not say it yet – I have seen plenty of Dogues recently that I consider too clean. In other words, we’ll manage. 
Honey Bee del Tridentum.
My Best Female in Italy, Honey Bee del Tridentum (bred by R. Mazzola, owned by M. and S. Bakker, the Netherlands), seems to be heavily wrinkled compared to many of those “extra” clean Dogues, but I consider her highly typical and very much according to the standard, with its dictate of “moving” wrinkles. More generally, she is a big, strong girl without losing the necessary femininity, a high-quality bitch for sure and presented in most beautiful condition. It sounds as if she was my easy winner – in the end perhaps, but in her class, Open, she had to deal with severe competition. I judged a number of really nice bitches at that show, and the black-masked female “Delice” (bred and owned by S. Carneli, Italy) that ended up second in that class only had to show a bit more pride in all her qualities and she would have won. I consider her to be better shaped in body proportions and with a most beautiful expression, cleaner in head than my eventual winner, but with an expression of chin and eye, superb. 
So, yet-another most beautiful black-masked head. It certainly was the year of the black mask for me. From pretty much day one, I have been an advocate of the black mask, I dare to say doing my bit when possible – if a good one comes along, giving it its rightful place, asking for attention for what it often had to offer in terms of strong, clean bodies. When I was president of the Dutch breed club we offered an extra prize for the Best Black Masked Dogue at the championship show, for sheer admiration if I would come across a black mask that excelled in expression, quite often even more than a red mask, so special.
But this kind of extra attention proved to be peanuts compared to the influence of one Dogue only, at least that is the way I like to see it. As soon as Ch. Cetje van ‘t Bulscampvelt appeared in the show ring, a surprising number of breeders that frowned upon the black mask went for him – understandably so. Since then we see more and more of this originally Cinderella look, and it is a real treat to see the rise in black-masked Dogues that excel in head and expression. 
Ch. Bull de Alfaree.
My Best of Breed in Italy was also a black mask, with a strong masculine head, much to like about it for sure, but not the best “black head” of the day. It was his overall picture that gave him the ultimate win. He, Ch. Bull de Alfaree (bred and owned by E. di Leo) excels in balance and shape, and is a proof in point that it is not the biggest Dogue that is the most typical one, closest to the standard. With that nice a report you would expect that the same judge would have given him more than one ticket if he had the chance. Well, I had the chance more than once, a few days before “Italy” and at the Dutch club show. In Slovenia, I gave him the Champion class, “nothing” more, and in the Netherlands he did not come “any further” than second in Champion. Bull for me was the best example in my Dogue judging last year that judging is all about a certain impression at a certain moment; one and the same dog can give different messages at different shows, even when there is hardly any time in between them. I do remember vividly that I was frustrated that he did not show more of himself at both shows before the Italian one, especially on the move. There you had a Dogue that gave a loud and clear message when stacked: “I am good, I will show it on the move.” When he had to prove it, he hardly could live up to it. And then, in Italy, for whatever reason – no idea, not a clue – he suddenly “delivered.” 


So far, those are the four countries where I judged nationals last year. In the United States, I judged at the end of July in Bloomsburg, Penn., where I drew an entry that was similar to that year’s national – 67 – a number I was really surprised and, even more, honored with. The Best of Breed competition had an entry of 17, and looking back, it was the best Dogue class I had judged the whole year. In the regular classes in Bloomsburg, I had found some nice males, but hardly any females I really liked – quite a different impression when, so often in so many breeds, including the Dogue de Bordeaux, the bitches are (much) better in general than the dogs. 
Best of Winners was given to Big House’s Diablo (bred and owned by B. Gordon), a masculine dog with an excellent head, nice “tough” expression and an impressive front and ribs. As extra bonus, he showed to be very typical on the move. And what about his color? Color? Very much according to the standard, with an extra hidden message from the judge: How wrong this trend is for “the deeper the red, the better.” I am sure plenty of good Dogue studs are not used because they are not deep, deep red. The same happened for a long time with black masks (and still is “good practice” in countries like England). It might be a good thing when you are a breeder of red canaries, but for dogs – according to the good old English school again – and it applies to Dogues: A good dog cannot have a bad color.   
That Best of Breed entry, my goodness, what a class. After I had recovered from an overwhelming first impression, I had to applaud the whole lot – supported by the audience. Luckily. My second impression was: Well, I do not know who says that in the U.S. they have lost substance in no time since the breed “went” AKC, but I would like to state the contrary, based on what this class was offering, anyway. Quite a few of the entries I considered to be too much even, if not by “nature,” than certainly by “show condition.” So many Molossers can fool you with what is real and what is excessive amount of weight. What does not lie is its effect on movement. Here you have an important part of my guideline that I used to get through that particular class. What I also had to deal with, more so than in the former classes (in fact more so than at any show anywhere last year) was the condition of eyelids – upper, lower and combination of the two, too many suspicious at least.
When selecting came closer to the end, I was able to focus on the smaller points that stamp breed type. It took me a lot of energy to sort them out, but I loved every second of it – the more difficult, the better; the smaller the details that make the difference, the better. When the last four had to be placed, only a few differences dictated the order. 
I ended with the most immature of the lot, Ch. Von Hof’s Cisco Kid (bred by D. Von Hof, owned by T. and J. Kelly), but that was the only thing that I really could count against him, and that is not allowed to be a reason. Here we have the second head that is “walking with me” since I first met him, a strong head with a most special expression, the result of a rare blend of head characteristics, very much in the middle of the standard and carried proudly on a body that I consider faultless, beautifully proportioned and seen from above already showing so much breed type, at the same time so clean, so much that of an athlete. What is not there yet is the depth in body, but he was by far the youngest in the class. He is a lovely example of a Molosser that needs time to mature, that should not look finished when he is one, two or even three years old. In fact, he is the kind all Molossers should be, slow maturing, but of which there are fewer and fewer around. To select dogs that give a finished picture at one year already is devastating to whatever breed, even more so in Molossers, as one goes for dogs that are hypertypical and/or over the top at three years already; look around at how many of those have managed to live a long life. What the BOB represents it is very tempting to predict, but I will not. I will follow his show career with all possible interest, though, to say the least. 
Ch. Von Hof's Cisco kids, above and below.
Best of Opposite Sex was the truly feminine Ch. Evergreen Only n Gucci (bred by A. Reed, owned by A. Richard), whose facial expression I “borrowed” during the seminar later that day to make clear my “sweeping statement”: “No chin, no chance,” which is not the same as “Give me a chin and you win.” It is so nice to notice that at least a few people really listened to what I have to say, looking at those exhibitors who after this chin message showed under me with Dogues that lacked chin by trying to “take away” as much upper lip as possible. They might forget that by doing this, they say to me: Here, judge, see what is wrong. More importantly, the result looks silly, as if the dog is much less intelligent than he actually is. The only good attempt to try and hide this is to bring up the muzzle of the dog, to “tilt” the head back a bit, as it were. The only “full proof” remedy, though, is “to bring a real chin.”  
Enough Dogue de Bordeaux for one year? With all possible gratitude, I say: OK, I will take a rest, but not for long … Dogues in Australia, Croatia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and the FCI European Show, I can’t wait. Greedy? Perhaps, a bit.   
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