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The Problem of Balance in the Chow Chow

Article based on observations of Specialist Judge - Dr Samuel Draper, Liontamer Chow Chows, USA - author of "This is the Chow Chow"

A bit of background on the author:
Dr Draper was also an all-breeds judge that had extensive judging experience internationally. He was a foundation member of the Society for Preservation of the Smooth Chow Chow in the USA & was recognised internationally as a doyen of the Chow Chow.


The illustration left was published in Popular Dogs Magazine, August 1974 and used along with photographs of American Chows to illustrate the importance of balance in the Chow Chow.

To ascertain the general perception amongst breeders and judges, an experiment was conducted, using the above ceramic model created to onform perfectly to the Chow Standard: "Body squares with height of leg at shoulder" (USA Standard). ("Short-coupled and essentially well-balanced" - UK/FCI) Ed. Each of the judges and breeders were consulted alone, and each asked to consider only the matter of height and length of dog, not head, coat, tail-set, feet or any other part of the figurine's anatomy, except balance. Here are the results:

Judge1: "legs are much too long"
Judge 2: "Perfect balance - height squares with length."
Judge 3: "Legs too long for length of body."
Judge 4: "Perfect balance ... no, on second thought, the legs are too long.
These judges are all panel judges for chows, with Judge 3 also being an all-rounder.

Chow Breeder 1: "Legs too long."
Chow Breeder 2: "Body too short for length of legs."
Chow Breeder 3: "Perfect balance, height squares with length"
Chow Breeder 4: "Correct balance of body length with height of dog."

Results of this little examination are symptomatic of the problem of balance. Three out of four judges failed the exam outright, and only one perceived the perfect balance in the figurine made according to the Chow Standard. When the judges were confronted with the Standard, their replies included, "I don't see Chows like that (figurine) in the ring today. Most of the Chows I judge have much shorter legs." Another ventured: "The breeders I know tell me that the Chow head is the most important part of the dog, so I rarely judge on length of leg or body length." On the positive side, Judge No 2 above reported that one of the leading Chow breeders had told him that balance was of great significance because the Chow was originally a hunting dog and had to have fairly long legs to run on.

This quiz given to the judges and breeders is merely indicative of the problem, not at all conclusive; for there are many judges who recognise correct balance in the Chow and so reward it in the show ring. 

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