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Summer's end in Sweden!

IT WAS at the end of summer, not by the calendar, but by the customs and practice attuned to climatic variations. It was the end of July, the weekend of Hound show at Stafford, seven weeks to go before the official start of autumn. In Sweden, as in the north of England, there was just one more week of holiday before the start of the new school term. Dog showing families were making the most of it, with four international shows on four consecutive days, all on the same site.

It was summer and it was raining, raining in Manchester when the 'plane took off, raining in Stockholm when it landed and still raining next day when we started the five hour drive south to Ronneby. It rained throughout the journey but, and it seemed unbelievable good fortune, enough blue sky to make a sailor's shirt and a watery sun showing as we reached our destination, a motel two miles from the showground, Swedish miles that is. Appreciating national differences more than global uniformity I was happy to hear my hosts, little more than half my age, still measuring distance in miles and remembered that one Swedish mile is about six English.

Setting up camp
Once installed, we set out for the venue, a town centre park, natural with woodland and a stream running through forming large pools for a variety of ornamental water fowl still blissfully unaware of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Spaniels and water dogs about to take over their territory. There, Swedish exhibitors had already come, like nomads, and set up their encampment, rectangular plastic tents, many bearing the logos of companies which see them as great advertising - mobile billboards. It was the eve of the first show. Few, if any, would be sleeping in their tents. Most set up by their scheduled rings at the first of the four shows and then went back to their mobile homes or motels nearby.

There's a park like that in my home town, just as natural, much larger, with green flat spaces, sufficient for the 40 rings needed for the Swedish shows. It took demonstrations, high court injunctions and two prison sentences before the right even to continue to walk dogs there was established. What chance of staging even one show with 3000 dogs? Who, in England, would place all their show paraphernalia inside the tent, zip up the front, and feel certain it would all be there next day, and the next and third and fourth? That's how it was in Sweden.

There are no covered rings at Swedish outdoor shows. Most exhibitors set up their tents at the ringside, two or three deep in breeds with large entries, and 49 Beagles or 48 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels constitute large entries. Fine for exhibitors, frustrating for would-be spectators -ringsiders would be a misnomer at most. It's not quite so convenient for exhibitors as it reads. Each evening, like Bedouins or Masai herders, exhibitors folded their tents and moved on. Beagles in Ring 10 on Thursday, 28 on Friday, 25 on Saturday, and a two hundred yards trek between the tens and the twenties. Permutating two dogs of different breeds and eight rings over four days, we opted for a centre spot at the crossover of the figure eight composed of two separated blocks of rings, and there we stayed.

I hadn't had hands on experience of Spinoni since an Italian breeds show in Milan in 1994 until I travelled to the four shows with Liz and John Shaw's Ch. Sentling Zenzero. He has been spending a year showing in Sweden and is due to return home in December. So successful has he been that his handler, Tjorborn Lenstad, has become known as Mr Spinone. At the end of August he was eleventh in the table of Sweden's top dogs. His first place in Group 7 at the international show in Sandviken at the beginning of September may well have improved on that. At all four shows in Ronneby he was the only Spinone shown. The breed is little known in Sweden. That points up one of the differences between Swedish and British shows. There are no Any Variety classes, no Import Register breeds. The2892 dogs at Thursday's show came from 202 breed. On Friday there were 2954 from 210 breeds, 2883 on Saturday from 217 -Sunday's catalogue mislaid but the pattern much the same.

On Thursday 25 breeds had only one dog entered. In the absence of breed competition greater importance is attached to group placings. Judging single entries, devoid of breed context, and determining group placings, particularly in groups as diverse as group 2, requires enormous self-confidence, based, it has to be presumed, on a great breadth of experience. It does not, however, fill me with any degree of desire to see the FCI practice of qualifying judges to take on all the breeds in a group progress further here.

For all that, Sentling Zenzero had three group placings - third on Friday, first on Saturday, second on Sunday, and his kennel companion, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne, Venquest Femme Fatale, bred by Pam Aldous and the late Graham Telfer, had four, a Group 3, two fourths and a second. We travelled home with eight BOB trophies and seven more for group placings, a new experience for me, and one I don't expect to repeat. Femme Fatale is the dam of the BOS winner on all four days, Dyfrgi's Cinnamon, sired by Dyfrgi's Rowanberry, now in England.

So many breeds with such few entries put show logistics under strain. In Ring 16 on Thursday one judge had Bergamasco (1), Pyrenean Sheepdogs (8), Dutch Shepherds (1), Belgian Shepherd, Malinois (1), Groenendael (1), Terveuren (1), Schnauzers, black (12), Pepper and Salt (32), Silky Terrier (8), Yorkshire Terrier (14). Next day he took on 14 breeds all from Group 2 from Anatolians (2) to St Bernards, eight smooths, fifteen long haired, one group but as different as Dobermann (3) is from Shar Pei (10). On Saturday his stint took in six Toy breeds, three of then relatively recent arrivals in Britain and still not generally well known here, the three Bichons, Havanese (13), Bolognese (3) and Coton de Tulear (22). Few judges had the luxury of a single breed - 48 Flat Coated Retrievers. Terry Nethercott had two which are regarded as one in Britain, Phalenes (11) and Papillons (79).

Four shows all with ten FCI Groups required 40 group judges, most able to take on more than one. Add to the complications of permutation the big ring events interspersing the groups, best junior handler, best this and best that - puppy, veteran, stud/brood, breeders group. By dint of frequent appearance judges previously unknown to me became recognisable figures.

Four shows, each with ten groups and a possible forty group 1sts. It didn't work out like that. In Group 1 the Pembroke Corgi, Sw. Am. Ch. Otreks. Only In My Dreams took first place on all four days. The Scottish Terrier, Sw. Ch. Raglan Rory was the group winner at the first three shows and second at the fourth. Remarkably his owner-breeder's wife was the breeder/handler of the West Highland White Terrier, Dk. Ch. Tweed Top Hat n' Tails, which had group placings at all four shows. The run of Group 10 wins by the Saluki dog, Sw. Ch. Qirmizi Cartago was broken only on the second day by the only Azawakh entered. Best Saluki that day was a bitch and she was placed second.

The only Pointer entered on Thursday and Friday, Int. Ch. Vento Del Biondo, Italian bred and Swedish owned, went on to win Group 7 on both days and on Saturday was placed fourth. On Sunday he was absent. With Dachshunds the same breeder/owner, Elisabeth Rhodin, took first place in Group 4 on three days, but with three different dogs, all standard long-haired. The Basset Hound, Swede Sun's Konrad, winner at the World Show in Milan, was first amongst the scent hounds at the first two shows, fifth on the third day and third on the last.

Best of breed winners are placed 1 - 4, fifth is known as Reserve and the other five are assigned to a shared group sixth place so that none leaves the ring unrewarded. The same procedure holds good for BIS except that fifth is known as reserve. On the first day the top award went to the Siberian Husky from Denmark, Danish and American Champion Chouan Breaking the Waves, currently Sweden's Top Dog of the Year, 380 points ahead of his nearest rival. On Friday the Pembroke Corgi, seventh in the table of top dogs at the end of August, was BIS, followed by the Basenji with titles from Norway to Israel and Canada, Faraoland Luxor Out of Africa, on Saturday. After taking BIS on Sunday the Saluki was back again in the ring a few minutes later when, very much as an afterthought it seemed, all four BIS winners competed for a Supreme Best in Show award, decided by Allan Pepper (Canada), elected to the task by the panel of fellow judges. Here the final award was:
1 Saluki (Sweden)
2 Pembroke Corgi (Norway)
3 Basenji (Swede)
4 Siberian Husky (Denmark)

The majority of dogs from other countries were from Norway (1322). Denmark and Finland were well represented with 791 and 727. Fifty-three were from Holland, 151 from Germany, 769 from Belgium and 46 from Italy. There were two from Austria and one from Spain. Most surprising was the announcement that four were from India. I didn't find them. Certainly one of the judges was from India. Philip John. He judged Group 2 on Saturday, Griffons and Tibetan Terriers on Thursday, all the Bichons and Chinese Crested on Friday and thirteen breeds on Saturday including Basenjis, Pharaoh Hounds, all the mastiff breeds and the one Central Asian Owtcharka, from Germany.

Swedish native breeds did not fare so well, with only two group placings over the four days, the Swedish Lapphund Anthrazit's Manthra, from an entry of ten on Thursday, and a Vastgotaspets (Swedish Vallhund) fifth in Group 5 on Sunday. All breeds compete together for the best veteran in show.

Resident in Sweden for some years now, Anita Whitmarsh was shown in the catalogue as living in England as she was eight years ago when she bred the Vallhund, Sw. Nor. & Int. Ch. Svedala Ludwig Lodjur placed fourth on Friday. A few days later she was due to sit an examination which would qualify her to judge the group. Saturday's best veteran (55 breeds in competition), the Basenji, another with a string of championships from Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, Germany and Israel, Hot Stuff Out of Africa, is the sire of the same day's BIS winner.

Entries from the Swedish breeds were low, Vastgotaspets turning out best 28, 13 and 25 on the first three days, Lapphunds 10, 15,11. In Group 6 Scent Hounds, there were fewer of the native Drevers than of the French Bassets Artesien-Normand, and three of the four shown were from Finland. Hamiltonstovaren had one Friday, three on Saturday. The explanation is simple and historical. Most are for hunting; hunters are not much attracted by beauty shows. Shows are no indication of the numerical strength and quality of the hounds, nor of the hunting Spitz.

I had to wait until Sunday to see their special parade, including one recognised in Sweden only this year, the Halleforshund, another elk hound, this one yellow, which takes its name from its district of origin. Sweden's HUNDSPORT calls it a nygammel alghundsras, a new-old elk hound breed. All that is new is recognition as a pure and separate breed. Others on parade were the Schillerstovare, Smålandstovare, Gotelandstovare, Jamthund and Drever.

The Schillerstovare is a fox and hare hound favoured particularly by hunters on Sweden's west coast. It is a clear deep tan with a jet black saddle. Like the Hamilton, it takes its name from its founder, Per Schiller, a farmer (1858-1892). 'It was formally recognised in 1907. Since then it has not been outcrossed to other scent hounds and is very stable in looks and working ability.' That's how it was in 1989 when the SKK celebrated its centenary. Very recently, however, the breed club embarked upon a project to broaden the gene pool, by outcrossing to what the Swedes refer to as he Serbski Gonis, one of the black and tan hounds found throughout the Balkan countries, hunting in the Swedish style, one or two hounds, not packs, and to the gun. Just as in Britain, hunters are not entirely averse to shows. They would rather run their own to their own criteria. Hounds from the first generation of the outcross were shown at the annual summer show of the Varmlands stovar klubb in July.

The Smälandstovare runs contra to the current Scandinavian edict that dogs be shown with full tails. Every second hound is born with a stump tail, and it seems always to have been so in the area around Jonkoping and Buskvarna where it originated. Absence of a tail detracts rather from typical hound appearance and the tan on the one paraded was very pale with regard to the standard which requires it to be deep. Ideally males measure 50cm, females 45cm. Despite the Smälandslands kennel club being one of the organisers of the four shows none was entered.

Until 1946 the Jamthund was not regarded as a particular breed, merely as an old, big elkhound from Jamtland. It is the tallest of the hunting spits - 58-63 cm dogs, 53-58cm bitches. 'The colours resemble those of the wolf, but may vary from shades of black to light grey. The cheeks carry the typical light wolf markings.'

The Swedish Kennel Club's centenary (1989) booklet does not include the Dansk-Svensk Gardhund. The Danish kennel club's does. That was published in 1997. A standard was agreed in 1987 and two years later it made its show debut. Originally a farm dog with a facility for ratting, its small size, short coat and terrier-like character and appearance make it popular as a companion dog. Frank Jackson's description in DICTIONARY OF CANINE TERMS marks 'a strong resemblance to the Jack Russell terrier', which seems very apt. There appears to be a great deal of variety, just as there often is amongst dogs of one breed at a working terrier show. It is shown only in Scandinavia - in Group 2 with the pinschers. Entries at the four shows ranged from thirteen to twenty.

The other Danish breed shown - but very rarely - in Group 2 is the Broholmer, one of the molossers, 'a mastiff breed with an impressive bead, broad, flat skull, strong muzzle and flewed lips'. Its revival - renaissance even - is recent. At the Danish Kennel Club's centenary show - the FCI's European show - there was a public presentation. It was a rare surprise to find two at the four shows, with just one entered. Yellow or brown with dark points and short-coated it stands 70-75cm, (271/2 - 291/2 in) and weights around 120 lb.

All four shows were international events. Around the shows successful dogs sported the narrow coloured ribbons, each denoting one or other area of competition and level of success, twenty-five single colours and combinations in all from red for first prize in a breed class, red/gold for BOB, orange and white for fifth place (reserve) in BIS competition, gold and lilac for the winning junior handler.

I felt line one of the much maligned German holidaymakers placing towels to reserve seats by the pool as I placed my own folding affair by the BIS ring at 2 p.m. The number of exhibitors staying for all four days meant that many watched groups and best in show. Breed judging began at 9.00 and in many breeds was done by noon. The big ring programme began at 3 p.m. with the finals of the Pedigree Pal competition for the year's top junior handler. Apart from scores of long-legged, long-striding teenagers racing round the ring, then standing with one arm folded up behind their backs in the manner of Royal Navy stewards serving coffee or port on mess nights, my only notes are of the Rough Collie which managed to slip his lead and then play catch-me in and out of the ring to the enormous embarrassment of the young girl handling and - forgive us - the vast amusement of the spectators. Repeat placings were almost as much a feature as they were of group judging. Junior Handling is now such as international family affair maybe the names of the most frequent winners will be known here:

Fredrik PERMO (16) Sweden - one first place, two seconds
Sabine NIELSEN (14) Denmark - two firsts, one second
Malena PERSSON (13) Sweden - one first, one third
Pernilla Sandstrom (13) Sweden - one fourth, one fifth

I sat through all the groups each day, and waited - waited for the Clumber Spaniel, Welladays White Earp, to take the judge's eye as he had mine. On Sunday he did and then Philip John chose him as BIS2. It was the last day, too, before an old favourite, the black Miniature Schnauzer, Ulf van de Havenstad, Belgian bred, Swedish owned, made his way to the top in Group 2, after third places on Thursday and Friday and second on Saturday. The breeders' group is an important feature of Swedish shows. Quite remarkably the 'Discovery' kennel of Great Danes triumphed on all four days.

UK breeds
With so few native breeds Sweden provides a great stage for foreign dogs, and since it dropped quarantine Britain no longer has any advantage over other European countries. Still, British breeds are long established there and standards are high. In Group 1 the Smooth Collie, Sandcastle's Sister-Sanelma, had second place in Group 1 on the first day and fifth on the last. The Bearded Collie Int. Ch. Alistair's Lonesom Cowboy was fourth in the group on Thursday and Friday and another, Sw. Ch. Most Everybody's Business, was Group 3rd on Saturday. The catalogues did not provide a table of breed totals but with 47 on Thursday, 74 on Friday and 63 on Saturday, Beardies must have been well up in the top entries.

The Norwegian bred English Bulldog, Finnish and Nordic Ch. Streetwalker's Human Touch had two Group 4ths and a Group 2nd at the first three shows. Dalmatians and Rhodesian Ridgebacks were only transferred to Group 6 last year but both breeds took top place once and six other group placings.

The Italian Lagotto Romagnolo has achieved very swift international acclaim in a way that the other water dogs, Barbet, Portuguese and Spanish have not. Renee Sporre-Willes of HUNDSPORT, the Swedish Kennel Club's magazine, introduced the breed. Entries averaged 15 over the four days. From France the basset breeds have a stronghold amongst hunters but only two of the twenty or so Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen breed were entered in the 'hunting' class. The Basset Hound had similar entries but with none in hunting classes.

In our convoy - incessantly it seemed in touch by mobile 'phone comparing progress, deciding rest stops - were three Bergers des Pyrenees. One of them from the famous De L'oustaou de Padel kennel in France took BOB - eight entered - on Thursday and then took third place in the group, but Saturday's entry (12) was the most interesting with two from France and one from Holland - this one shown au naturel, the coat in plaques a la Bergamasco. The BOB - from France - showed the conformation and temperament of this tiny shepherding breed to enormous advantage to Scandinavian breeders working at such remove from the only country where there is any strength of competition, 58 at Lonchamp in June. Not all the exports to Finland were of high quality, a fact acknowledged in the magazine of the breed club in France, and something would-be importers of new breeds to Britain under the new freedoms should be aware of.

The Bergamasco was shown in the same ring. It was there I met Stuart Band and Cindy McCarthy, she handling the young brother to their own Swedish bred import. Is it by coincidence or design that all their breeds have the initial b, Beardies, Bouviers, Bolognese, Bergamasco?

Sunday everyone would be leaving so we partied on Saturday night under a large canvas dome at the centre of the showground, with beer and korv (hot dogs) and a sing-song led by a keyboard player with a good voice and a seemingly endless amusing line in patter. Sunday's BIS ended in sunshine but we travelled home through monsoon-like rain and thunder and lightning such as I have experienced only in Africa, arriving home at 3 a.m. And so to bed.

Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Harry Baxter

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