AKC Judges: Facts and Figures

AKC Facts and Figures, Part 1: Dogs in Review’s Editor-at-Large Bo Bengston does some research on AKC judges and finds a few surprising figures.

By | September 19, 2011

AKC Judges total

Get any group of dog people together, and it won’t take long before the discussion turns to everyone’s favorite subject — the judges. The fascination that dog show people have for the judges is only natural: each one can make or break the fortune of hundreds in a single day, and they exert an influence on the fancy that’s almost impossible to overestimate.

In most other sports, the judge simply verifies who ran the fastest or jumped the highest; at dog shows it’s the judge alone who determines the winners, and however much that judge tries to be objective, his or her opinions are inevitably colored by personal taste, background and experience. An exhibitor who wants to win must therefore make an effort to learn as much as possible about these AKC-approved judges.

Yet the general truth is that, although you may have heard their names and know their faces, very little is known about AKC judges as a group. Who are all these people? How many hundreds — or thousands — are there? Where do they come from, and how did they get where they are?

No dog show exhibitor can keep up with the avalanche of new judges published by AKC on a monthly basis; reading through their names I often wonder what makes all these people qualified to pass a verdict on my breed. I have always felt that a brief, official synopsis, just the bare facts of each judge’s background, ought to be available for the exhibitors’ inspection before each show: year started, breed involvement, major achievements, etc.

Some unabashed bragging and self-aggrandizement would probably have to be dealt with, but knowing at least the basic information about the judges’ backgrounds ought to be every exhibitor’s inalienable right — and most of the facts would have to come directly from each judge. That’s why Dogs in Review prints interviews with AKC judges on a regular basis.


The AKC Judges Directory

There is one official source, however, which contains a lot of data about the AKC judges. You don’t get all the answers, but some of them can be found in a publication issued by the American Kennel Club: The AKC Judges Directory.

Appearing in an updated edition every year for longer than I can remember, this compact little book includes an alphabetical listing by name of all AKC breed, obedience, rally, tracking and junior showmanship judges, with contact information for each and what they are approved for, with provisional breeds in italics.

"It's obvious that the rules must be simplified to allow those approved for a few breeds to expand that number more easily."

There’s an easy-view cross-reference chart with Group and Best in Show judges, and then a listing of all the judges by Group and/or dog breed. It’s an immensely useful little book and I refer regularly to even the old editions — I have saved every one since 1980.

The size of the 2011 directory tells you something about how much the number of judges has increased. The format hasn’t changed, but while the 1980 edition consists of only 172 pages, last year’s AKC Judges Directory is more than twice as thick: 378 pages.

There is no question that we have many more American Kennel Club judges than we did 30 years ago, and since the number of dogs exhibited has not increased nearly as much as that, this may explain why there’s such intense competition for judging assignments today. (In 1980 the total number of dogs shown was 949,053 compared to 1,335,177 last year — a hefty increase, but not nearly as large as the number of judges.)

If you assume that the average entry per judge per day is 100 dogs — obviously a hypothetical figure, since the AKC maximum allowed is 175 dogs, although we often see half that or less — this adds up to a total of about 9,500 days of judging in 1980; 13,350 last year.

AKC Judges total
Sure, this sounds like a lot of dog judging assignments, but based on the number of judges we currently have in the US (more about that later), it works out to an average of only about four days’ work per judge last year. We know that some of the most active judges officiate at 50 to 100 shows per year, so obviously quite a few others were left with no assignments at all last year.

The 2011 AKC Judges Directory looks a little different from earlier editions. It is printed in a larger format with photographs of past judging greats on the cover, but the content is organized the same way as before. Unless otherwise specified, all figures in this article are taken from this edition of the directory.

Hours of counting and adding yielded some numbers that may at the very least provide a basis for future discussions. All data have been double-checked as far as is humanly possible; occasional minor slips are probably unavoidable with this many figures, but they do not affect the larger picture that emerged. As far as I know this type of information has never been published anywhere else.

NOTE: There is also, of course, the Internet AKC Judges Directory, which is a terrific resource for much of the above information, and also lists upcoming assignments and results from all shows the judges officiated at in the past, all the way back to 1997.

For my purpose it was easier to work primarily with the printed edition, since I needed the overview provided by having all the judges within two covers, but I did use the Internet directory to update a few figures. 


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Joy   Newtown, CT

9/22/2011 3:31:17 PM

I felt Bo did an excellent job with stating basic facts and numbers and putting them into meaningful words. Really fascinating to me. I wonder if the AKC has studied the numbers in this manner? This article really sheds some much needed light on a very misconceived subject.

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