A Judge's View
Why We Are All Expert Judges By Richard Lutwyche
Showing pigs is not nearly as competitive as dog or horse showing but from time to time tempers flare and there are fall outs. But is this fair? Can anyone on the BPA (or British Lop) judging panels be deemed to be incompetent or showing favouritism? I don’t think so and in the next few paragraphs I hope to demonstrate why. Please read them, especially if you go showing or are about to and at least ponder these words.
The judge is inside the ring and has a unique view of all the pigs in each class. All those experts outside the ring, (some of them also on the Judges’ Panel), have a different view and their own opinions but it is only the judge’s that counts. Only he or she can allocate the prizes. In the old days, almost every show had as its first ‘rule’, “The judge’s decision is final” and maybe there’s a case to bring that back.
For each breed there is a Breed Standard of Excellence published by the BPA (or the BLPS) which identifies the good and bad points of the breed. Allied to this, the judge should be considering general principles that apply to all breeds such as feet/legs, growth rate (size for age), condition and conformation. Both the breed organisations now run ‘apprenticeships’ before a judge can be considered for inclusion on the panel but there is no formal training whatsoever. I think you will agree that there is no such thing as the perfect pig; every example has imperfections of some sort or another. The exhibitor’s job is to (legally) minimise these, the judge’s duty is to identify them and take them into consideration. But determining the severity of the shortcomings he or she sees is entirely down to the judge and without guidance from the BPA it is entirely their decision and their choice. It is also entirely proper that that decision may be totally at odds with all those other experts around the ring and that doesn’t make it wrong!
To give you an example, let’s take an imaginary sow class. The judge notices the following ‘faults':
Pig 1 – has a dummy teat and a heavy jowl
Pig 2 – is heavily in-pig and dips a little behind the shoulders
Pig 3 – has an uneven number of teats. Her tail is set well down.
Pig 4 – is also heavily in-pig and is walking stiffly
Pig 5 – is in relatively poor condition
Pig 6 – is a good example of the breed but has a ‘dirty’ saddle, i.e. there are mottled dark markings within the white
Pig 7 – throws her right hind foot out when walking.
- All these are faults but of varying severity:-
1. The dummy teat is definitely a fault and should be marked down but should she be bottom of the line?
2. Consideration must be given to her condition which may be causing the dip. A contender for first place?
3. Many judges will accept an uneven number of teats as being better than the bare minimum and not mark a pig down
accordingly if the underline is otherwise good but the sloping away
of her back and the tail set should be considered.
4. Locomotion is very important but is there a fault with the pig or has she just got up and been used to being on grass and
not on the concrete that is the floor in the pens at the show?
5. Condition and cleanliness is important but how far down do you mark such a pig with no other obvious faults?
6. A dirty saddle is not actually a breed fault according to the standard but many breeders try hard to avoid it and thus some
judges will mark it down - but should they?
7. This is a fault but how severe is it compared with some of the others? With no guidance from the Breed Standard of the
relative importance of the faults (other than the stated ‘objections’) the judge has noted, it is entirely his or her choice as
to how they interpret them. Some judges are red hot on underlines, others on legs/feet.
- It’s easy when you’re outside the ring, with your friends. But once on the inside with the judge’s badge on your lapel, the pressure grows. A stockman can try to hide some of the shortcomings in locomotion and by standing a pig on a slight slope, a dip behind the shoulders can mysteriously disappear so if the judge hasn’t seen something you have, that doesn’t necessarily make him or her incompetent. As their experience grows, so they are less likely to be taken in by such showmanship. And just because a pig has been winning everywhere else, doesn’t make it a shoo-in for another top prize. Being carted round the show circuit makes an animal tired and not at their best and so even the best quality animal may not show itself off so well in mid- to late-season. So before you criticise too severely, remember that the chances are if you are a regular on the show circuit, sooner or later you may end up in the ring with that judge’s badge on and all that seemed so easy from the boundary, now takes on a whole different meaning!
- Oh, and the ranking of our imaginary seven sows? It’s down to the judge - and him or her alone!