This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
In dog shows the judge is the central figure; not only does he pose) and is sometimes posed) in the middle of the ring in which the aspirants to fame are paraded, and where he and his doings are, for the time being, the cynosure of all eyes, but his power reaches a much wider circle than those immediately concerned, and the influence of his decisions is felt in hundreds of cases outside the boundaries of shows. Take up any newspaper wherein dogs are advertised for sale and see how the decision of a judge is turned into coin of the realm; how the fact of a prize having been awarded an animal, or even to his grandmother, is emphasised and capital made of it; and consider the vast (I believe an average of nearly 1000 dogs are weekly advertised in The Bazaar newspaper alone) business done in dogs nowadays, and how greatly the ordinary purchaser is influenced by such facts as prizes having been won; and at least one very practical effect of the judge's wide influence will be seen; and, if it is further considered that on the strength of such prize winnings dogs are largely bred from, another most important view of that influence presents itself.
What should be indelibly fixed on the minds of all concerned is that the judge's power does not end, but really begins, with the distribution of prizes, and that, therefore, his qualifications, the way in which he exercises his functions, and his mode of election, cannot, in the best interests of shows, be too carefully considered or too closely scrutinised, so long as that is done in a broad and liberal spirit, and free from the mere desire to cavil and find fault. I cannot take upon myself to define all the qualifications a judge should possess, but there are some which to be without is to render him unfitted for the position.
There are men afflicted with "colour blindness," and I have seen men attempting to judge dogs who were evidently afflicted with what I should call "canine blindness" - an utter incapacity to distinguish between corresponding and conflicting characteristics. What a muddle such men make, and how deplorable the consequences! These men may be the best of good fellows, their honour unimpeachable, and their desire for the improvement of the dog great, but they lack the absolutely necessary qualification of a judge, and as such they are failures. The judge must be a man of order, possessed of a natural ability for clear and accurate comparison and rapid analysis; he must be able almost at a glance to take in the whole animal, and roughly estimate its approach to his ideal standard of excellence for the breed; mentally dissect the several properties of each one, and place them in the order in which they approach nearest to his idea of perfection. The qualifications necessary are partly natural and partly acquired by experience - without a natural taste for the class of animals he judges - together with an aptitude in the arrangement of facts, and a power of analogy, no amount of experience will ever give that quickness and decision absolutely necessary to be successful as a judge.
There is a rather widespread opinion that to be a good judge a man must first have been a successful breeder. That is I think a position quite untenable. There is no doubt much to be gained by experience in breeding. The really successful breeder - not the merely lucky breeder - the man who starts to breed with a defined purpose, and keeps that in view until he attains it, has gained much that will raise his qualifications as a judge; but it does not make him one, for the simple fact is, that that man was a judge to begin with. On the other hand, the effect of such experience on some minds is narrowing and prejudicial, and in all cases it requires the counteracting and correctional influence of the experience of others.
That experience as a breeder is not absolutely necessary to the making of a capable judge, I might put forward many instances in dog show circles, but it is perhaps better to show the fact without drawing on that source. Readers - at least country readers - must, many of them, have known in the days when the butcher and the farmer dealt with each other directly, and beasts and sheep were "sold by hand," many a clever dealer who could value each of a herd to a fraction, and at a word could tell in what points the animal was best and wherein wanting, and yet such men may never have farmed an acre, and never bred either a cow or a sheep. If we take the case of horse judging it is just the same - it is not always either the breeder or the owner that is the best judge, and there are many men who never even owned a "screw" whose judgment is accurate and valuable. The experience gained by breeding may be beneficial or prejudicial, but it can never make a man a judge.
That the sort of judge I have feebly indicated as the right one is not always elected it is needless for me to state.
When I ventured to say inexperienced judges should not be appointed, I had no intention of suggesting that new judges should be forbidden the ring. There are within my own knowledge many good judges of large private experience who have not acted officially. But too often we see men appointed purely from the accident of their position, without any regard to fitness, and that is what should be discouraged.
I am of opinion that for shows that have a national character and importance, the judges should be elected, not appointed, and the larger the constituency of electors the less danger of the wrong man being voted to the position. To take the case of the Kennel Club. It is not sufficient for them to say, "we publish our judges' names before entries close, and those who object to them need not exhibit." The Kennel Club court the support of the public, and it has been liberally given. It has been very generally recognised that they have undertaken useful work and deserve support; and even those who think the position they occupy might be better filled, have too much sympathy with their objects to oppose them. Hence they enjoy, to a great extent, a monopoly, and people must exhibit at their shows or not at all, unless an undesirable opposition is started; for it can hardly be with any intelligent hope of improving the dog that people dip their hands in the Birmingham lottery bag.
The plan I propose, and it is one I have long publicly advocated, is to let the exhibitors elect the judges, whereas at present these functionaries are generally appointed by a very small section of them.
If, as often happens, there are ten judges to be elected, let there be for each section given to them individually, three men nominated by the committee of the show, and let the votes go in with the entry papers; a sub-committee would count votes and publish the names of the elected judges.
This is a practice of such long standing, and applied to so many things in this country, that I cannot think, as has been alleged, that gentlemen would object to be nominated. It was also, when formerly discussed, objected that it would lead to combinations of exhibitors electing men who would pledge themselves beforehand. I never could believe in that danger, but the objection only applied to the proposition that exhibitors should both nominate and elect.
My proposition is, to some extent, a compromise. The committee to name thirty instead of ten men of whom they approve, and the exhibitors to select from them. The plan has this further advantage, that exhibitors approving of none of the three nominated in their section instead of voting, might name three in the order in which they would like them nominated for future shows, and this would be to some extent an index of the public wishes for the Kennel Club.