The Importance of Silhouette in Showing Dogs

What Does Silhouette Say About Breed Type and Function?


Continued from Page 1

Ch. Paray's Propaganda

When achieved, the silhouette of breeds such as the Bichon Frisé reveal a dog whose shape is in perfect balance. Forward movement then occurs flawlessly with little up-and-down action at the shoulder. The smooth transitions of power flow forward and back harmoniously almost giving the impression of the wheels of a bicycle. Pictured is Ch. Paray’s Propaganda. Photo Shawn D.

Once the picture of that silhouette is permanently emblazoned in the student’s mind his education can begin. He then learns through study and research what deviations from the silhouette would affect the breed’s intent (discussed on previous page) most seriously. For instance, long legs on a breed intended to go to ground would be disastrous.

I devote an entire chapter of my book, Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type, to silhouette as one of the five elements of breed type, along with breed character, head, movement and coat, but in truth the importance of silhouette runs throughout the book. There is little this element does not affect.

Consider my definition of silhouette that appears in the book: "A breed’s silhouette defines the breed’s physicality by drawing a line around everything required by the breed’s standard and serving as a prologue for all that must be understood about the breed’s physical appearance.” Then look at the photograph of the Afghan Hound, Ch. Kabik’s The Challenger, that appears above the definition. If this doesn’t set a student’s quest for knowledge of the Afghan breed off in the right direction I seriously doubt it will ever occur.

So, you might ask what is actually included in the silhouette that makes it so important — in a word, everything. From the tip of the nose to the very end of the tail the silhouette tells you what should be there and how it should be shaped.

The correct shape gives you the dog whose parts put him in balance and when a dog is in perfect balance, this forward movement occurs flawlessly with little up-and-down action at the shoulder. The smooth transitions of power flow back and forth harmoniously, almost giving the impression of the wheels of a bicycle. Not all dogs, even the best of them, are blessed with this concordant movement and when present should be highly prized. 

Ch. Dynamic Super Sensation

Moving closer on into the silhouette we begin to see specifics. For instance the silhouette of the proper Wire Fox Terrier head: muzzle to skull proportions and placement of the ears, depth and shape of muzzle as well as how much head is required for how much neck. Pictured is Ch. Dynamic Super Sensation.

Then we move from the whole picture to specifics. Just look at the silhouette of the proper head — it’s all there: muzzle to skull proportions, depth and shape of muzzle and curvature of the skull. How much head is required for how much neck is revealed. How that neck blends into the body gives a pretty good picture of how the shoulders lie. Shape of topline? The silhouette reveals exactly where it corresponds to or deviates from level. Shape of the croup, set of the tail, degree of rear quarter angulation — it’s all clearly illustrated there.

Of course some dogs are covered in hair, but there are such things as clippers, water or even those trusty old tools, the hands. A silhouette can be determined for any breed from Xoloitzcuintli to Old English Sheepdog.

A student is extremely fortunate to have input from master breeders in regard to important subjects of this nature, but alas we lose more and more of them as the years go by. Those who do have the privilege of active great breeders in their breeds and do not take advantage of what they have to offer are, in my mind, no better than downright fools. 

In recent years it has become the breed parent clubs’ duty to educate the student. I have long advocated parent clubs concentrating on clarifying what the whole ideal specimen of their breed looks like rather than tearing the breed apart and confusing the student with a million isolated parts. If each and every parent club were to clearly identify the ideal silhouette of their breed they put each and every student off in the right direction of seeking the details that follow.


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Janet Oppedal   Rio Linda, CA

10/3/2011 9:34:40 AM

Thank you!! I love this
I just whish you would have mentioned that a proper silhouette does not mean the dog has proper structure, with out proper structure we do not have proper movement. I see alot of very correct silhoutetts that can not move to save their lives.

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