Monday, October 25, 2010

The Incredible Egg

The Cardigan front is the hallmark of the breed.

It is also the most difficult to understand, for breeders, exhibitors and judges alike. It is also the most frustrating thing to breed for. In a single litter, your fronts can run the gamet from too close to too wide and everything in between. Breeders that are new to the breed often keep the puppy with what they think is the best front as 8 week-old puppies, only to end up with a dog with too much "crook" at a year old; or too wide/straight.

One common issue that I find is that there is a great deal of misconception regarding the shape of the chest. The correct Cardigan front is egg-shaped; the widest point of the egg at the top, tapering to a gentle point at the bottom. As we call it in Judges Ed; an Upside-Down Egg.

Without the proper shape of the chest, the entire front is going to be thrown off! You simply cannot have a pretty, sound, cradling correct Cardigan front, unless you have a properly shaped chest to begin with!

So... please go to your refrigerator, and grab an egg...

(I apologize for these photos; we buy organic eggs from free-range chickens and I did not realize until I embarked on this project that not all eggs were as clearly formed as others- so the differences may not be as obvious.)

The correct Cardigan front will cradle the properly shaped brisket "like an egg in an egg-cup". The moderately broad chest, egg-shaped brisket is well let down between the forelegs. The forelegs curve about the rib-cage. They have a prominent prosternum (forechest) The curve in the forearm makes the wrists appear somewhat closer than the close fitting elbows. Feet point slightly outwards, to a maximum of 30 degrees (11:00 & 1:00) The feet are forming a base for the "egg-cup" The curve of the forearm is cradling the properly shaped brisket. There is no "empty spaces"- no daylight showing between the elbows and the brisket. It all fits together like the well-designed puzzle that it is.

If you compare these two eggs, you notice that the egg on the left is more tapered, coming to a gentle point- more like the "upside down egg" that we want in our Cardigan chest. The egg on the right is flat at the bottom.

Take the egg in your hand, and turn up upside down- feel the point; turn it right side up- feel the flatness.

Lets talk about THE DOG

The shape of the chest can be felt at birth- and can be seen very early on. Many things will change, and certainly the shape of the brisket is not the sole reason for keeping- or not keeping a puppy! But- remember what I said earlier- you cannot have a proper Cardigan front without a properly shaped chest!

This 7 week old male exhibits a properly shaped brisket. Notice how the forearms curve around the chest, and the very noticeable point. Compare this to the photo of his littermate, below. The properly shaped brisket was present at birth. Unfortunately, there were some other virtues that were lacking in this puppy, so he was placed in a pet home.

This puppy exhibits a very flat brisket. Although he has curve to his forearms, they do not cradle the brisket. His front resembles a "staple" or box. This improperly shaped brisket was there at birth, and did not improve. Although he had other virtues that we liked, he was placed in a pet home. A male with an incorrect front has no place in a successful breeding program, or show home.

Evaluating Your Dogs

I cannot stress this enough. If you are not sure where your dogs virtues and faults lie- ask for help! Please --DO NOT use an all-breed (all-rounder) judges opinion of your dogs as a rating scale. The CWCCA has very excellent educational material available for breeders; visit the Ways and Means section on our website for more information. Visit the Cardigan Commentary website- MAKE the time to attend National and Regional Specialties. Move out of your comfort zone a little- instead of only talking to the people you know- instead of only working within your own local groups- try reaching out to breeders outside of your area! You might just be suprised at what you learn!

I have said this before- and at the risk of sounding like a broken record-I am going to say it again... If you want help- and you want to improve -- you need to ASK for help! No one is going to come up to you , and offer to mentor you! We have mentors available all over this country! We have good mentors available- who are more than willing to spend the time and effort! I know that I speak for all of us when I say that we ONLY want to do what is best for our breed!

Just ask!!


  1. A super post! Can I link this to my FB wall?

  2. Taija- absolutely you can link this! I hope it helps!

    It is so frustrating to judge class after class of Cardigans that are lacking the proper shape to the chest! I think so many new breeders (and perhaps judges) get hung up on the "wrap" that they forget that the wrap is there to cradle the chest, and the chest has to be shaped correctly first!

  3. Kathy, I could not agree more.

  4. I really got a LOT out of this post, thanks for sharing!

    Laurie Eno
    The Daily Corgi