Northstar Specialty 2023
Conformation Judge: Dr. Christiana C. Hartenstein
I want to thank the Northstar Irish Wolfhound Club for the invitation to judge one of their annual specialty shows. This year’s shows were held in memory of Linda Souza, Lloyd Simmons, and Gary Goddell - three people whose love for and contributions to the breed left a mark on all those smart enough to recognize and wise enough to appreciate them. I hope that wherever they are these days, they have wolfhounds around to keep them company.
The organization of this show weekend was excellent. Many volunteers and supporters pitched in to make this an enjoyable experience for everyone – thank you for your time and commitment! My ring steward Jamie was organized and efficient. In fact, he also served – literally – as a shoulder to hang on to when a hound decided to throw me off balance; having just recovered from a broken ankle, he prevented another 3 months of cast, crutches, and walking boot. SO grateful!
I also want to thank all exhibitors for their sportsmanship, sense of humor, and, most importantly, their unwavering dedication to our breed. This is evidenced by consistently supporting both smaller regional specialty shows and larger ones with quality hounds. Given the enormous investment that comes with keeping these hounds, I take my hat off to them for this commitment; after all, not every investment comes with the hoped for return.
About the Hounds
About two thirds of the entry were presented in good physical condition – in appropriate weight and with hard muscle. They were well groomed and shown to their advantage. The remaining third did not feel that great under the hands, unfortunately. Some were overweight, many rather soft and mushy, others outright dirty. In some cases, I had blood on my hands from open wounds after examination. I never had to wash my hands so often during a judging assignment.
As observed during other judging assignments as well, some handlers struggled to present their entry on a loose lead, which impacted movement and soundness. Plus, it took away from the hound’s commanding appearance. In these cases, it is hard to determine what causes the movement faults – is it truly the hound’s conformation, the handler, or a combination of both. But handling can be a deciding factor. In addition, some hounds simply stopped competing, losing out on a higher placement or even win. While none of us judges are flawless, we should not be blamed for everything (although I understand we certainly could).
When it comes to the overall quality of the exhibited hounds, I was rather disappointed as I had hoped for more consistency across the entry. The most pressing issues were balance, faulty front constructions, and body length. The word “long” is mentioned 7 times in our breed standard for good reason. But what does “long” really mean? These observations served as a reminder that the interpretation of the standard is indeed highly personal, just as much as its application.
I truly enjoyed my final line up and was pleased to award the top prizes, including the two Award of Merits, to worthy, functional representatives of the breed. They all were, albeit different, true to the standard, displaying the “great size and commanding appearance” for their respective gender, the required greyhound shape with that wolf killer-look, and of course that “easy and active gait.”