The Boxer Standard, itself, indicates that completely black masks and white markings (flash) are equally desirable. It is obvious to anyone who attends shows regularly that flashy animals have an advantage in ring and are substantially more likely to complete their championships than plain animals. Can our breed afford to lose the contributions that superior plain Boxers can make?
Does the plain Boxer have a chance in the ring?
For some time now, there has been an ongoing discussion among Boxer breeders about the difficulty of finishing plain dogs and bitches to their championships. Exhibitors claim that judges ignore plain animals too often, making it much more difficult and expensive to show plain Boxers. Judges reply that they canít put up dogs that arenít shown under them and blame breeders for failing to campaign plain animals.
There is a great deal of frustration in the fancy with the favoritism displayed toward flashy dogs over equal but plainer animals. The current belief seems to be that finishing a plain dog or bitch is so very difficult as to be almost impossible. Because practically everyone we know has limited resources available, we often give in and place exceptional but plain animals in pet homes and put our efforts into the flashier puppies in the litter because very few of us can afford to keep a large number of dogs.
In the past year or two there have been some encouraging signs that more breeders are bringing out plain animals but they are still in the minority at the shows. The thing we need to accomplish is to make the playing field as level as possible for all dogs, so that markings ultimately become irrelevant to a judgeís placements. If that could happen, we truly believe people would start assessing their plain puppies in the same light as the flashy ones and stop thinking flash = show and plain = pet.
First, but not necessarily foremost, there are economic reasons. Everyone knows that breeding two flashy animals together will result in some white or mismarked puppies. These animals can not be sold by any ethical breeder because of this fault. They may be placed in pet homes at the breederís discretion but represent an economic loss for the breeder. Furthermore, evidence suggests that a disproportionate number of white animals end up in rescue. Because of this many breeders choose to euthanize them at birth.
The desire to breed from champion caliber animals has caused more flashy animals to be bred from and has eliminated a large proportion of plainer Boxers from an already shrinking gene pool. Knowledgeable breeders will sometimes keep beautiful plainer bitches to breed but many people canít afford to keep plain males, no matter how outstanding they may be. By making it more possible for plainer animals to finish their championships and be used for breeding, we would reduce the number of flashy to flashy breedings that produce so many unwanted white puppies.
Secondly, eliminating high quality animals from a breedís gene pool based on superficial markings, especially when those markings are equally desirable according to the breedís standard, is a kind of genetic suicide. There is increasing evidence in the science of genetics that limiting a breedís gene pool can have long-term detrimental effects on the breed. Because of the heart and other genetic problems in our breed, it would seem prudent to open up the Boxerís gene pool to as many healthy animals as possible without regard to their markings.
How can we accomplish this goal of getting plain animals taken seriously as show prospects? One possibility is to have separate classes for plain animals. This may seem like an impractical or radical suggestion at first but upon careful consideration, we believe it holds promise as a way to rectify the apparent discrimination against plainer animals in the breed ring. Obviously, in order to be effective, there must be a very clear definition of what constitutes a "plain" Boxer. Should this proposal gain acceptance, we feel the most appropriate source of this definition would be the ABCís Standards Committee.
We have discussed this proposal with a number of other breeders on the Internet. Since the responses have been about 10 to 1 in favor of this suggestion, we believe there is support for a change that would aid plainer animals in competing effectively. A separate class would showcase the color distinction and hopefully send a message to the judges that the Boxer fancy would like them to consider these dogs when making their decision for the points.
There will have to be a unique name for these new classes and suggestions from members of the Boxer Fancy on this issue would be very helpful. We are hoping that other members of the ABC will give serious consideration to this proposal as a way to promote the consideration of plain Boxers for a championship and ultimately, for the betterment of our breed.
Letter to Boxer Judges About Plains
By Liz Sullivan and Pat Russell