Interview with the late Derek Rayne

Derek Rayne was a very famous judge At one time, he was listed as the "Youngest All Breed Judge in the World", having been approved in 1950 for that lofty status. He was also a prominent breeder of Pemwelgi Corgis (and Fox Terriers) for more than 50 years and campaigned such well-known dogs as Eng. & Am. Ch. Rockrose of Wey, Ch. Nebriowa Miss Bobbisox and Ch. Elskling of Foxlore, winners of many Specialties and all-breed Bests in Show. He saw his first Welsh Corgi at Crufts Dog Show and was shortly hereafter the proud young owner of a mediocre Corgi. Years later he acquired Eng. Ch. Bowhit Pivot who became the first American champion and the first Corgi to win a Group in America. Pivot was a half-brother of Dookie, owned by the Princess Elizabeth, and a half-brother of the notable Eng.Ch. Rozavel Red Dragon, owned by the famed international judge Thelma Gray. Derek Rayne was born in 1915 in Surrey, England and moved to California in 1938 where he lived until his death in 1998.

Am. & Eng. Ch. Bowhit Pivot

The following is a portion of an interview held in California with the outstanding judge, Mr. Derek Rayne (published in The Cardigan News-Bulletin 1978, Number 3).

Q: Could you tell us how you got to be a judge?

A: The way I started out, I had an advantage going to dog shows as a child. Shows in England at that time were benched* so I had to wait for my grandfather and I had to sit and listen to these old Terrier men. When they were trimming their dogs, they would talk and if I kept quiet and out of the way, they would tell me things. The shows were more leisure than they are today and I learned a great deal. This opportunity is not available today.

Also, when I came to America, I used to do a lot of Ring Stewarding. I'd try to steward for judges that I admired like Alva Rosenburg, Walter beeves and some of the great judges that we've had in this country. If there was a lull in the judging they were kind enough to explain why A was better than B dog. So thru asking them questions and talking with them afterwards, I was able to learn a lot. I don't think you can learn much out of reading a Standard and a novice can read into his dog the Standard and think he has the "perfect dog" (of which there is no such animal)!

The greatest asset a judge can have is experience. I know when I started judging that I made many mistakes. I look back over the years and I almost blush for thinking of some of the errors. They were honest errors but I hadn't seen enough dogs. Now I can go anywhere in the world, and with any breed of dog that comes in the ring, I can think in my mind all the great dogs that I've seen in that particular breed. Experience is a very important part of judging. I hope I won't judge until I'm senile. Unfortunately, some judges go on too long. But I think older judges, if conscientious, usually are the best judges.

A judge has to consider the purpose of the breed, except some of the toy breeds, were bred for a definite purpose. Now a Corgi that is timid or too heavy, built like a Basset {too low to the ground), could not perform as a herding dog. Remember, they're supposed to be able to jump back if the cow kicks out at the heeler. If the dog is sluggish and slow, he'd get kicked right on the nose and that would be the end of the Corgi. So they're supposed to be like a light weight boxer as opposed to a heavy weight. A lot of Corgis today are losing that agility. They've been bred so heavy that they would not fulfill the purpose as a heeler.

Q: Why have some of the visiting English judges put up such huge dogs?

A: They're heavy in England. If they were going over rocky terrain, in a field say where there were tussocks of grass, they would be hitting their brisket and having difficulty negotiating the ground. Now they are fine on a mowed lawn or a concrete floor at a dog show where there's nothing impeding them but can you imagine those dogs trying to move over rocky terrain? This is what's happened in a lot of breeds. We have bred to certain looks and got away from the original. The Corgis I've seen in early books were much leggier.

Q: Everyone certainly speaks very highly of your judging.

A: Well, there are some people who don't agree with any judge. Keep in mind that judging is not a science. There's no way where you can feed in dog data and come out with a score. From day to day, dogs vary and judges vary in their interpretations. One judge will think more of type, another one of showmanship, another of soundness. I never criticize another judge because I feel the exhibitor pays for HIS opinion and when he shows under me, he pays for MY opinion. It's a thing of comparison. There's no really scientific way of judging dogs.

Q: I don't know if I should ask this since it may be a touchy subject.

A: No, I have no touchy subjects.

Q: That's what I heard; you speak straight from the shoulders. For us beginners, I am disturbed at the politicking that goes on. Some judges will put up dogs just because of the people handling them. I suppose this is inevitable?

A: I think judges are divided, good, bad, and indifferent. I think maybe there are more that are mediocre, that do a fairly good job but not outstanding. I think there are a few that are very poor. I don't think that there is any politics in the sense that the handler or exhibitor contacts the judge. I think that oftimes if a judge doesn't know the breed, he will lean toward a well known handler because he figures he knows the breed and would not take a dog into the ring that was a bad one. I think a lot of times the handlers win on the ignorance of the judge, not on dishonesty.

Q: If that's the case, what advice do you have for us neophytes?

A: I'd be careful who I showed under and there are a lot of judges who put a lot of importance on showmanship. I don't personally give importance to handling and showmanship in the ring. I don't want to mention any names but there are quite a few Corgi people who do not show their dogs very well. I remember when Frank Sabella showed Ch. Rockrose of Wey for me, she had a tendency to not put her ears up. As he was gaiting her and coming toward the judge, he'd throw a pebble so that she was coming in with this very intense expression using her ears instead of having them flaring back. Now that's smart handling and realizing the lack of showmanship of the bitch.

Q: What don't you like to see handlers do?

A: I don't like to see handlers throwing liver all over the ring because it makes it difficult for other dogs. When they're gaiting and suddenly see a piece of liver it throws them off their stride. They try to grab it and that's bad. I don't like to see handlers emphasizing to the judge that a dog has a level back by pounding on the hindquarter or the back with their hand. If the judge is any good, he can see that the dog has a level back. A lot of handlers bring their hands along the top of the dog's back, back and forth to show how level it is or else lift the dog up in the front and drop him down to show what a perfect front the dog has. A judge shouldn't need that and I resent overhandling. And I don't like handlers who talk to the judge in the ring. Occasionally, somebody that I know real well will say, "Hello, Derek", in the ring. Now I don't like that. Not that I'm snobbish; I'm very glad to go out and have a coke or a beer with them after the show but in the ring I try to be professional. I try to be pleasant to exhibitors but I don't talk to them by personal name. I don't like exhibitors who try to show their friends, "Oh, I know this judge!" because most judges resent that. Novices go to shows and see the judge visiting with the handler in the ring and think, oh, well, he knows this man. It's a bad impression. Obviously the judge knows some people better than others but he shouldn't engage in a conversation with them.

Q: That's why us newer people looking at that get the impression of a lot of politicking going on behind the scenes.

A: I never talk. Lots of people think I'm a stuffed shirt. In fact, my nickname in the Seattle areas was "The Stuffed Shirt". It's not that I am one but I am deliberately very cold at dog shows because I feel that a lot of people are looking at me, a lot of little people!

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*) A benched show is an all-breed show specifically designed for public education and enjoyment, wherein all dogs are required to stay in an assigned "benching area" for the duration of the show, (except when being exercised, groomed, or exhibited) in order that the public may easily view the exhibits up close and talk to the breeders, owners, and handlers. Excellent for the public, but can be exhausting for the exhibitors.

Benches at Crufts 1983