Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Holy fatness! Labs, flab and the delusional Fancy


The posting of this pic has prompted a humdinger of a scrap on the Purina Pro for Professionals Facebook page.

"Holy fatness!" says one camp.

"You haters!" says the other.

His breeder claims: "I can assure you that he is solid muscle and great coat! A Labrador should not have a visible tuckup (per the standard) and there should not be ribs seen but only felt. He's a gorgeous boy and I'm proud of him and his accomplishments in the care of his wonderful owners and handlers!"

Have a look at the difference between Trouble and the 1964-born Am Can Ch Shamrock Acres Light Brigade ("Briggs") - one of the biggest winning American Labradors of all time.



This is what 50 years of the show-ring has done to the Labrador in the US.  And I am at a total loss to understand how anyone could think the dog on the right is any kind of improvement.

I live in a part of the UK where we see mainly working-bred Labs - although we did have a show-bred Lab in the village who wheezed, waddled and limped his way into old age.  It distresses me to see what the show-ring has done to the breed.  My vet told me recently that they are doing an increasing number of laryngeal tie-backs in obese Labs.

Now I am sure that Trouble is a loved dog with a good quality of life.  He is not brachycephalic; he's not achondroplastic; he isn't plagued with fester-pit wrinkling.

But he certainly looks fat to me - and fat is a welfare issue for dogs, particularly Labradors who are so prone to joint disease in older age - whatever their hips scores when they are younger..

There's a considerable irony in Purina using this dog to flog their dog food because the company itself produces this body-condition-score graphic featuring the yellow Labrador.  Trouble would score a 7/8... way too heavy.


And, of course, one of the most compelling studies ever on Labrador weight came out of Purina's own laboratories. It found that keeping Labradors slightly underweight extended their life by two years.  In also found that the age when 50 percent of the dogs required treatment for a chronic condition was 12 years among the lean-fed dogs, compared to 9.9 years for the control dogs.

The dogs in the UK show-ring are not so obese. This is this year's Crufts Best of Breed.


But they are still nothing like the gloriously-lithe dogs that actually do the work the breed was developed to do.

Here's what Labradors looked like 100 years ago - this is Horton Max who in 1916 won the Labrador Dog Challenge Certificate at the National Dog Show in the UK.




Now as it happens, Max wasn't purebred - he was three-quarters Flatcoat, and only one quarter Labrador. Despite what many people think, dog breeds have not been trapped in closed gene pools since the beginning of time. For the first few decades of the Kennel Club (founded in 1873), stud books were not closed and the Kennel Club was happy to register dogs on the basis of how they looked. Flatcoats and Labs were pretty commonly interbred and as the short-hair gene is dominant, many of the flatcoat-lab crosses were registered as Labradors, with no restrictions on their ability to compete in KC events.

Indeed, Max's maternal grandmother, Vesper Belle, wasn't even KC-registered.

This wasn't universally accepted though and after a fuss about the "half-breeds" the Labrador Club was founded and the KC stopped them competing in conformation shows (although they were still allowed to compete in KC field trials).

For some time after this, Labradors remained dual purpose. This is Bramshaw Bob who won Crufts in 1932 and 1933 - a working gundog.


And this is Cheveralla Ben of Banchory, who won Best in Show at Crufts in 1937 - a far cry from today's show dogs.




Today, dogs like this are only seen in the Gamekeepers classes, and they don't win outside of them.

There was a glimmer of hope  last year when the Labrador Retriever Club of America wrote a strong letter to AKC judges urging them to pay special attention to the standard which asks that "labrador retrievers shall be shown in working condition, well muscled and without excess fat" (a letter that I note has now been taken down off the Club's website)

So it is depressing that Trouble won Best Veteran at the biggest Labrador Show in the US. And he wasn't the only chubby chops at the Potomac show.

This dog won Best in Show - in flagrant disregard of the standard that asks that the length of a Labrador's legs are half the height of the dog. This dog has loose lower eyelids, too, not ideal in a working breed (see here).



There is a pet obesity epidemic in the US and UK; our perception of what is normal in dogs has shifted considerably - as it has in humans too.

The tragedy is that the show-ring could play such an important role in protecting against pet obesity by ensuring that its winners are truly fit and lean.  Instead, exhibitors and judges continue to cite the hallowed standard as the justification for the choices they make while anyone with eyes in their head can see that the dogs aren't even close.

Seriously. It's delusional.
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Leave a comment here or join in the debate on the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Facebook Group

44 comments:

  1. Speaking of flagrand disregard. You say: "Labradors who are so prone to joint disease in older age - whatever their hips scores when they are younger." You provide no evidence whatsoever. The best study I know of regarding HD in larger dogs as related to environment and diet concluded "HD did not have such a large effect on the longevity of Labrador Retrievers or Irish Wolfhounds. Serious and moderate degrees of HD increased the risk of symptoms such as limping and hip pain and these symptoms occurred earliest in Newfoundlands. The Labrador Retriever was the breed in which symptoms appeared latest in life."

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326112842.htm

    The old photos of St. Johns dogs show dogs with serious ripples of fat. (I wish I could post photos). A dog bred for retrieving in near-freezing water has reason to carry a little blubber. You have selected your photos to show that Labs used to be lighter. I suspect you have chosen photos of dogs who are two or three years old and bred to compete in speed trials that involved jumping. Note that Mary Roslin Williams.. . . who began show judging in the UK between the World Wars, lamented the fact that too much hound was being brought into Lab bloodlines . . . to increase speed, but to the detriment of water working skills you would expect of a Lab. I also suspect the dogs you have shown would have been fleshier by the time the reached 10 yrs.

    I wish there were an opening to show photographic counter examples. There have been heavy Labs since before the breed standard was written. Horton Max, IMO is a Lab with a little too much hound blood. Trouble is a veteran . . . what did he look like when he was two? Dickendall Arnold was at least as stout . . . and went on to sire tens of dogs who earned master hunter titles.

    There is a modern fashion trend that detests excess weight. It also detests wrinkles and all signs of old age. Yes, Labs are good eaters and will get mobidly obese, given the opportunity. No question that is unhealthy. But IMO you are out of line in using Trouble as an example of a modern epidemic of pet obesity. Labs come in a range of body types. I'm sick of people saying the heavier type is a modern invention. It's been there all along . . . and can be traced back to the St. John's dog.

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    1. Jennifer, you're quite right to say ' Labs come in a range of body types'. I think what Jemima is saying is that it's a pity that it's the heftier types that win prizes in a breed that is essentially a working dog and needs to be fat free, both for the job they do and for their general health and comfort.

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    2. A Labrador isn't a St. John's water dog. That dog was essentially a canine seal, but it now exists in the much more moderated Cape Shore water dog or Eider dog in Newfoundland.

      https://retrieverman.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/kala-water-dog.jpg

      A Labrador is a British retriever that was used for shooting that descends from the St. John's water dog, as do all the other large retrievers from Britain and the Chesapeake.

      It's interesting that the Chesapeake is also a cold water retriever but is never built that way.

      The really heavy types aren't a modern invention. They are an anachronism. It was discovered around the year 1880 in Britain that the heavily boned dogs just weren't as agile or fast as the lighter-built ones that may have have had setter (with wavy-coats) or foxhound or pointer blood. That's why the flat-coated retriever looks as it does now. The golden retriever people decided to breed for the anachronistic heavily-bone wavy coat and that breed is now severely spilt into show and working types (a major error on their part) and the same with the Labrador people.

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    3. Ahhh very interesting Retrieverman. Some working (if there are any left) pointer blood is a very good thing at least from my own past anecdotal evidence. I wonder if this is where the black pointer came from.

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    4. I just wanted to defend the bitch Crufts BOB winner. It is pretty obvious that she ahs been bred from, and probably fairly recently going by the undercarriage, so some of her lack of underline is mammary tissue. I too dislike how heavy many dogs are shown, but this is nowhere near what I see in the average pet dog and really is a sign of the obesity problem among people and sadly it includes our children and pets. I have judged any number of 'fun dog' shows, and so many of the dogs are just plain fat and very unfit.

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    5. No litters for this bitch listed here - although that doesn't prove she hasn't been bred of course. Anyone know?

      http://labradorretrieverclub.eu/pp_breeding.php?id=LOCH%20MOR%20GIULIETTA&gens=4&db=pedigree

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    6. She is an overseas dog shown on and ATC number

      She has been bred from, as the KC have one offspring listed with an ATC number Bitch Loch Mor Ginevra (ATCAQ00931ITA)

      So it is very likely she has more offspring that haven't been shown in the UK

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    7. I posted a reply yesterday that doesn't seem to have got here.

      It gave more details.

      The Crufts BOB (an overseas exhibit) is an almost 6 year old bitch and has had at least one litter as one of her offspring also has an ATC number as she does, so shows up in MYKC serches for the breed..

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    8. I have bred exhibited and judged Labradors for well over fifty years here in the UK . I saw our breed from the ring side in the fifties and saw some of the very best dogs of that time winning in the ring dogs that worked one day and were shown the next. The very best of them would fit well in todays ring with the very best today. The dogs you have so carefully picked out to put on here were in need of improving. Over the years our breed has improved as have most breeds saving the few who have been affected by people breeding to an extreme. All animals from farm animals, Horses, I have had a lifetime in horses they too including race horses have improved, So much more is known about diet and exercise today. The Labrador should be a large boned dog should have a well sprung rib, this means the rib cage should be well rounded not flat, its underline should be level not cut up as in other breeds it should have a deep rib cage, and should be broad in the loin. It should be short coupled, the coat should be short very thick the undercoat waterproof. All the things together can give the appearance of heaviness. This is why the judges go to the trouble of going over the dogs in the ring to see what the dog is really made of.

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  2. I see quite a few people with these chubby purebred labs where I live here in Colorado, USA. Completely mystifies me, when field- and mixed-bred labs are not only fitter, but to my eyes, much more handsome. There seems to be an overall trend in the dog fancy toward making dogs flabbier. It's really bizarre.

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  3. Difficult to know what to say anymore, other than as a companion dog owner I will never buy a pedigree dog from a show torture breeder.

    What about some posts about dog breeders who are doing some good stuff and whom have the best interest of dog welfare at their heart?

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  4. Jemima where might an attorney send a letter addressing your slanderous and non factual remarks regarding the dogs you chose to address in your blog.

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    1. Oh bog off you utter coward! It would be so easy for anyone with half a brain to find out how to officially correspond with Jemima. Do you think this post makes you seem formidable?

      And WHAT exactly is slanderous here!
      And do you know what the definition of a fact is?

      No, thought not....
      LOL!

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  5. You are so incredibly clueless. You have absolutely no knowledge of breed type and structure. I would caution you again your written “opinion”. If this were my dog (and I did just see this dog in MD a week ago and he is anything but fat) I would be contacting an attorney as this article could potentially harm the reputation of this stud dog and his breeder.
    Breeder, WA State

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    1. Hahahahahahaha!

      This is better than a rubbish Soap Opera....

      Carry on! Very entertaining indeed...please keep us enlightened about the whole legal process won't you?

      It will be a world first if J is found guilty of expressing and informed and ethical opinion on canine welfare ON HER OWN BLOG.
      Moronic in the extreme....

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    2. Don't worry Anonymous 00:20 it won't hurt the dogs reputation, in fact you tunnel visioned bunch of bigots are more likely to use the dog because Jemima as mentioned him on her blog.LOL

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    3. Almost fell over laughing at this one. "Well, yer honour, that lady said my dog was fat."

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  6. The dog who won Potomac has mild ectropion? Then explain why he has a CERF clearance. Trouble fat? I've had my hands on that beautiful boy. He is lean, trim with a beautiful spring of rib and a correct dense coat -- doesn't matter what your eye sees or not, the truth is the truth. I have a beautiful black female that finished a few weeks ago -- if you saw her photo I'm sure you would call her fat too -- however, my veterinarian did an exam on her just one week ago. She put her hands on the dog and was very surprised when she exclaimed "she isn't fat, it's just her coat".

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  7. This is an excerpt from the AKC breed standard:

    "Chest breadth that is either too wide or too narrow for efficient movement and stamina is incorrect. Slab-sided individuals are not typical of the breed; equally objectionable are rotund or barrel chested specimens. The underline is almost straight, with little or no tuck-up in mature animals."

    Of course breed standards are just descriptions of beauty (in the eye of some) and they are full of fallacy in terms of using visually defined form to define function (chest breadth determines stamina = if the dog looks like this it will be able to retrieve birds in the field all day long).

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    1. Im finding the "no visible tuck-up" a real problem that must be encouraging people to over feed their dogs. Fit healthy dogs have visible tuck-up. Unless they are suffering from a massive hernia or are overweight etc it should be visible.

      A "flat bottom line", "underline almost straight", "no visible tuck-up" is pure insanity. You can't breed for that or achieve it without going pot belly piggy. It's like saying they shouldn't show any sign of being fit healthy dogs!

      Im wondering if the same applies to the Old English Mastiff whose show numbers have achieved much the same slab-sided low rectangular underline.

      "Two and still maturing", Rockport's Made Man or is that man made insanity? http://www.rockportmastiffs.com/Boys.htm

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  8. where does it say the dog has mild ectropion ? The eye report says "normal" in both eyes ??

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    1. The owners replaced the link - which originally pointed to a head-shot of the dog - with a pic of the dog's CERF exam, which did not find any ectropion. I've re-linked to the head shot of the dog and, given the CERF report, edited to say just that the dog has loose lower lids. It looks like mild ectropion to me, but I am not a vet and therefore happy to bow to the examining vets greater knowledge.

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  9. I know what my vets would say if you turned up with a dog like Trouble, whatever its age or breeding.

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  10. Oh wow, our favorite topic...Fat Labs. We write about it frequently on our blog http://slimdoggy.com/?s=fat+labs and typically get a lot of deniers from the breed folks. Pet Obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in the US and the UK too. The bigger problem is the denial from pet owners. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention recently published the results of their 2014 study and found that 95% of pet owners with an overweight or obese dog denied that their dog was overweight. There are none so blind as those that will not see. And why don't they see it? Because their roles models are these overweight Labs they see in the dog shows. They think, well gee, Sammy looks just like that dog that won, so he's not overweight. There is much scientific evidence on the impact of just a few pounds on quality of life and longevity, but just as people deny the relationship between their weight and their own health, they deny it for their pets as well. Sorry state of affairs and it's the dogs that suffer most.

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    1. A recent study in the UK found just 1% of parents of obese children identified their child as overweight, so what chance does a dog have ?

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    2. Yes. It's called normalisation. More cognitive dissonance.....

      Why do people who have perfect normal teeth spend thousands getting them bleached and straightened? Because everyone they see on TV and in the media have abnormal teeth!

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  11. You've convinced me to never feed Pedigree! I love how a Flatcoat person seems to think they're a Lab expert! Stick to your own breed and the problems within it! We'll take care of ours.

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    1. You've convinced me never to buy pedigree dogs if people like you are responsible for messing them up.

      Your little breed factions are utter nonsense. Dogs are dogs and breeds are man made and were defined in an era when there was a lack of understanding of evolutionary biology, genetics and oh yes, ethics. Look that last one up....it's really quite important you get to grips with it.

      What I really detest is your utter disdain for dogs. Why on earth would you ask someone to stick to their own problems within their breed?? You obviously do not care for the welfare of the species.

      Abhorrent.

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    2. To be fair, if that is taking care of Labs god help them! The dogs are fat, no two ways about it.

      And as Anonymous above said, shouldn't we all as dog lovers and enthusiasts be about taking care of all of them, not just our own breed? I'm a lover of all dogs, not just a select group of them.

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    3. Hello Dian Welle, please note that the Purina Pro Plan for Professionals Facebook page is a family-friendly and pet-friendly page. While there may be differences of opinion about various breeds and standards, any commentary should remain positive and productive. We ask that you play nice and be polite when commenting on this picture of an obese wining show lab.

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  12. Horton Max is a lovely dog who brings back so many lovely memories. We had one many years ago just like him called Preston. He was also a half bred, pointer/lab, lovely short shiny black coat, incredibly athletic solid long lived dog. He could even climb trees which he did often so he could sit on the roof in the cool thatch of the pool house. He could follow horses all day and swim like a duck diving down for anything we threw in the water that sank.

    Besides his inoculations he never needed a vet his entire life. He also had the most lovely clean lean head with the cutest expression. He was a cross between two working gun dogs. These pups proved so lovely a repeat cross was done due to popular demand. They had the ability to track, flush and retrieve partridge all in one power house, on the go all day.

    That last fat black lab looks just like a fat showing Rottweiler, the type we call corgi dogs, more and more of a mastiff type, the head has exploded. I don't expect a show dog to work but this one couldn't even in fit shape, it just doesn't have the lean effortless ability and build associated with the breed so wouldn't come into contention even for a cross.

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  13. A while ago on this blog someone mentioned our royal family, as an example of the effects of inbreeding. Are they not also a prime example of a breed whose work is much less in demand these days, and are kept mainly for show? I expect my dogs to enjoy chasing a ball, maybe blunder round an agility course, things that keep them fit; just as I enjoy cycling, though I know it's not for everyone: neither. maybe, are the fit athletic dogs that I like. Most labs are not kept for huntin' shootin' and fishin' any more but as pets, expected to fit in with owners' lifestyles. Are "flabradors" any more than dogs treated the way owners treat themselves? IMO it's far more likely that the show-ring is influenced by the pet market, than vice versa.

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    1. The royals might have lost their original function but they have a new one as sometimes rather louche ambassadors for the UK and potential saviour of wild elephant. They also do do quite a lot of hard labour as civil servants far as I can tell, "what a life one leads" etc. Kate is also 100% outcross of course so as a breed the line is well on the way to modernity. I just wish the living amongst them would forge some new traditions of their own. George, honestly?

      I agree on show show dogs though, most breeds have lost their original purpose yes but many can't make it in their new roles as pets either. They aren't field dogs but they do/should have a job as pets so need to be healthy happy long lived dogs.

      The problem comes in when their sole purpose is a show dog, for this role they only need the appearances of a healthy happy dog for five minutes in a ring.

      Its one expensive great big insult amongst other things to the greater dog buying public to be offered up so called "pet" quality, rejects out of the already dysfunctional very suspect gene pool of pedigree showing dogs. Dogs that often cannot live up to the more demanding function of being a long lived happy healthy functional pet.

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  14. There's a difference between "no tuck up per standard" and a lack of waistline cause the dog's fat.....and don't even get me started on "his coat is making him look that way!!!!"

    I was actually reasonably happy with the Lab that took Best of Breed at Westminster this year, though still lacking in any titles showing working ability the dog in question looked reasonably trim and fit!

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    1. No Im not sure I see the difference.

      Yes apparently it shouldn't have tuck- up like that of a hound, but why not a normal tuck-up like the three healthy looking black labs pictured above? Like any dog for that matter. The waist is the "tuck-up". A flat bottom line is a flat bottom line, sans tuck-up which means no discernible waistline.

      It appears me that obesity maybe written into the standard for some reason. Most likely to try and hide any hound influence it had in the past and to the detriment of the breed.

      Or is it genetics at work. Someone I know took their lab to the vet because it was too fat, the strain on its relatively skinny limbs was proving detrimental. Apparently they weren't over feeding it either and the vet confirmed it was some inherited hormonal disorder. I remember it was an unusual colour too sort of liver red and it had inflamed sensitive eyes. The poor thing looked and moved just like a piggy.

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    2. Little tuck up can be caused by fat, but where it is in the standard it should be the result of a long well ribbed back ribcage and short deep loin in a squarely built dog. My breed is required to be like this, and part of the appearance is due to the coat, and young dogs will have more tuck up that mature ones. See one of my favourite bitches http://www.barbelka.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/jozi.html who recently died at 15 years 5 months and was sound and trotting steadily for 40 minute lead walks to the evening before she died (had a massive seizure, believed to be organ failure). This is a hunting breed used for tracking large game.

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    3. Barbara is it really possible for a dog to have "longer back ribs"? Doesn't sound even possible to me?

      Those Elkhounds appear mostly to have normal tuck-up except maybe some of the veteran bitches.

      That tuck up though could easily be filled with an overdose of calories producing a degree of pot belly.

      What does the breed standard say?

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    4. A long ribcage and short deep loin as proportion of body length and longer back ribs as in how deep they are (not shallow ribs at the rear like a sighthound.

      I keep my girls correct weight (ribs easily felt) all their lives, hence staying active until death. Maybe not as lean as they might get by ihe end of hunting season in Norway, but lookint at Norwegisn photos I'd say they are kept a fit weight.

      The breed standard says: UK http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/standard.aspx?id=1016 says
      "Body

      Powerful; short, strong back; loin short and wide with very little tuck-up; chest deep and broad; well curved ribs; topline straight and level; distance from brisket to ground not less than half the height at withers."

      FCI http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/242g05-en.pdf
      "BODY
      : Strong, short in the couplings.
      Topline : Straight from the withers to the tail set
      .
      Withers : Well developed.
      Back : Strong, muscular and straight.
      Loin : Well developed.
      Croup : Strong and broad.
      Chest : Broad and deep, good spring of ribs.
      Belly : Almost straight. "

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  15. If you want to see a really fat looking Lab, google Buccleuch Avon (1885). He's viewed as one of the foundation stud dogs for the breed. Buccleuch Nell doesn't -- supposedly the earliest Lab in the photographic record, wasn't exactly svelt either, though the photo quality doesn't reveal body type very well.
    I prefer a more moderate body type, but the heavyset Lab is hardly the result of 50 years of the show ring.

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    1. http://www.longplain.com/dogphoto/buccleuch_avon.jpg

      He doesn't look fat in this picture, Jennifer. Perhaps you have another?

      Certainly, there were heavier-set earlier labs. But nothing like the dogs above.

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  16. Try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labrador_Retriever
    http://surfingbird.ru/surf/buccleuch-avon-considered-to-be-the-ancestor-of--jghIE7212

    etc. hundreds of sites show the same photo.

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    1. Avon is more St John's Water Dog than Labrador . But anyway very hard to tell from that pic what size he is. The picture I linked to is Avon standing which clearly shows a not-fat dog. I think the pic you've linked to is when Avon was older, hence the white muzzle (although that can come from the St John's Water Dog too).

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    2. I don't see how you can say Avon is more St. Johns Water dog than Labrador. He is a founding father for the Labrador . . . his reverse pedigree is astounding (this site had to truncate it because there were too many entries)

      http://labradorretrieverclub.eu/pp_reverseped.php?id=BUCCLEUCH%20AVON&db=pedigree&gens=8

      His name shows up in many Sandylands pedigrees, and no doubt a large number of other leading show lines.

      That he is older is relevant . . . but counters your argument. Trouble is eight now. White muzzles don't show on yellow dogs, but at eight, he probably has a few white hairs. Labs are often lithe when young and rotund looking when old. It's not fair to take photos of veterans and compare them to two and three year olds.

      Information about the descent from St Johns dog to Labrador (and other breeds) is scant. . . I gather that the St Johns dogs were varied in size and in coat length and texture. We don't know a lot about what they were bred with to produce the Labrador (and other breeds). No one is going to give you a number about what fraction of a Labrador's bloodlines came from St. Johns dogs (is it 20% or 80% . . . who knows . . . and what mix is the other fraction?).

      Note, retrieverman knows a LOT more about this than I do, and he commented that heavily built Labs were an anachronism . . . as opposed to the product of modern show breeding.

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  17. Thank you for continuing the battle to adhere to standards for the Labrador Retriever. Your mention of the Labrador's legs be half his height was poignant and one that I personally cannot understand why judges do not continue to follow. The more this topic is discussed, the more Labs can be shown without making them overly fat! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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