Approach to defining Breed Standards

In order for Standards to be as useful as possible to breeders, exhibitors and judges, certain important principles must be followed when they are defined:

- Standards must be phrased clearly and unambiguously.

- Standards must be phrased in a consistent way, so that the same features for different, but comparable, breeds of cavy are described in the same terms.

- The points allocated to the various different features of a breed must accurately reflect the relative importance of these features within that breed.

- The points allocations for similar features in similar breeds should be the same.

- Standards should be easy to understand and remember. (This will be greatly aided if the sequence in which features are described is the same for all breeds.)

In attempting to follow these principles, it is important that cavy breeds are grouped in a logical manner, so that breeds with similar characteristics can readily be compared with each other. The following classification is used to compare the breeds currently recognised in the United Kingdom:

- Self, covering short-haired, normal-coated, solid-coloured cavies;

- Ticked, covering short-haired, normal-coated, ticked cavies (Agouti, Argente, Solid Agouti);

- Marked, covering short-haired, normal-coated cavies in which the placement and quality of markings are of great importance (including Dutch, Tort & White, Tricolour, Bicolour, Tortoiseshell, Brindle, Dalmation, Roan, Harlequin, Magpie, Belted);

- Marked Pattern, covering short-haired, normal-coated cavies that have markings occurring in a defined pattern, the clarity and definition of which are most important (including Himalayan, Tan, Fox);

- Crested, being variants of any of the above that have a crest;

- Satin, being variants of any of the above that have a satinised coat;

- Rough-coated Shorthair, which may be rosetted (Abyssinian) or rexoid (Rex and Teddy);

- Longhair, which may be smooth-haired (Sheltie), crested smooth-haired (Coronet) or rosetted (Peruvian), or rexoid variants of the above (Texel, Merino, Alpaca respectively).

In defining Standards it is also helpful to group the features described under ‘broad headings’ of related features, so that these can be compared across different breeds. The following ‘broad headings’ cover all breeds currently found in the U.K., though obviously not all apply to each breed:

- Head, Eyes & Ears

- Coat Appearance around Head (crest; frontal in Peruvians & Alpacas; head/mane in Abys)

- Body Shape

- Satinisation

- Markings

- Ticking

- Colour

- Coat ‘Look’

- Coat ‘Feel’

- Presentation

Then, within each Standard, these broad headings of features are placed in a logical order, the same order being used for all Standards regardless of how important the particular feature is within the particular breed. The order chosen is one that firstly takes the features that are obvious to the observer at first glance (starting ‘head first’ and then going to body and coat colour), and then taking those that involve closer examination.

In the case of Smooth short-hairs (Selfs, Ticked, Marked, Marked Pattern, Crested, Satin), this means that a logical sequence is:

- Head/Eyes/Ears, Crest (if any),

- Body Shape,

- Satinisation (if any),

- Marking or Ticking (if any),

- Colour

- Coat (feel).

In the case of Rough short-hairs (Abyssinian, Rex, Teddy) a logical sequence is:

- Head/Eyes/Ears and Coat on Head

- Body Shape

- Coat Look

- Coat Feel.

In the case of Longhairs (Sheltie, Coronet, Peruvian, Texel, Merino, Alpaca) a logical sequence is:

- Head/Eyes/Ears and Coat on Head

- Body Shape

- Coat Look

- Coat Feel

- Presentation.

Within these headings there are likely to be sub-headings defining particular features, for example the Head, Eyes and Ears individually, specific Markings that are sought or particular aspects of Coat Look and Coat Feel. In doing this it is important to ensure that all key features are actually mentioned by the standard but are placed within the appropriate heading, e.g. Head with ‘Head, Eyes & Ears’ not as part of ‘Body Shape’; ‘Coat’ separate from ‘Colour’; points for colour of ears separated from those for shape of ears etc.

In defining Points Allocations the general principles are:

Within Smooth short-hairs:

- The points for HEE vs Body Shape vs Ticking or Marking vs Colour vs Coat should accurately reflect the relative importance of these features in each breed.

- Since Selfs have no requirements in terms of Ticking or Marking they will carry the highest points for all other features, and will have the highest expectations in these features.

- Points allocations for Agoutis and Argentes will be the same, and in requiring a significant number of points to be given to Ticking will allocate rather fewer points to the other features than are appropriate to the Self.

- Points allocations for Marked Varieties will be similar to each other, but will reflect slightly different requirements between particular breeds. In particular, Dutch, T/W, Tricolour, Bicolour, Tortoiseshell and Brindle will use similar points allocations, in which a majority of points are allocated to the vital features of Markings; but Himalayans will carry slightly reduced points for Markings and correspondingly increased points for Colour, to emphasise Contrast; whilst Dalmations and Roans will carry slightly increased points allocations for Head, Eyes and Ears and slightly reduced points for Colour, as appropriate to the specific requirements of these breeds.

- Crested and Satin variants of the above will carry a defined number of points for the crest or satinisation, with the remainder allocated pro rata to the points in the standard of the breed of which they are variants.

Within Rough shorthairs:

- The points for HEE & Coat on Head vs Body Shape vs Coat Look vs Coat Feel should accurately reflect the relative importance of these features in each breed.

- Points allocations for HEE & Coat on Head and for Body Shape will be the same, but points for Coat Look and Coat Feel will differ between Abyssinians and Rex. (In fact the points allocated to Coat Look and Coat Feel are reversed between the two breeds.

Within Longhairs:

- The points for HEE & Coat on Head vs Body Shape vs Coat Look vs Coat Feel vs Presentation should accurately reflect the relative importance of these features in each breed.

- Points allocations for HEE & Coat on Head, Body Shape, Coat Look, Coat Feel and Presentation will be the same within each breed.

Having followed these principles, points may then be shown for individual detailed features. However, these will be shown as subsets of the points for the major features themselves, being indicated as such by brackets.

For example the points for Markings in a Dalmation might be shown as:

Markings 60
Of which
Head Markings To have a white blaze with solid colour on either side, giving a well balanced appearance. (30)
Spotting To have coloured spotting on a white body; spots to be clear, distinct and well-distributed all over the body including belly. (30)
Feet Markings To have solid colour covering the feet. (10)

Grouping features in this way is aimed to make it easier for judges in particular to see what are the most important characteristics for each breed and how the relative importance of these characteristics varies from breed to breed, before the detailed features for each breed are emphasised. The simple premise is that, if standards are made easier to compare and remember, more notice is likely to be taken of what they say.

So, the result of following these principles should be:

- Standards that are laid out in a logical sequence, consistent from breed to breed;

- Related features grouped together where necessary under the major headings of Head/Eyes/Ears/Coat on Head, Body Shape, Satinisation, Markings or Ticking, Colour, Coat Look, Coat Feel (although, of course, not all of these apply to each breed), with detailed breakdowns of these major features being given where appropriate;

- Points ratios that are generally agreed to reflect the relative importance of the different features within each breed,

- Points ratios that are consistent between similar breeds rather than having unnecessary divergences.

- Standards that are easier to understand, remember and use, and which are likely to have a positive impact on the knowledge and expertise of anyone - be they judges, breeders, exhibitors or merely observers - who tries to use them.

The guiding principle is that:

Standards should be logically laid out, easy to understand, clear and consistent, both within individual breeds and between different breeds; for without standards there can be no real fancy.

However good the Breed Standards are, we are unlikely ever to reach a situation in which every judge is able to judge every cavy of every breed 100% accurately and correctly. Good standards should, however, produce a situation in which judges are given the best possible information to help them try to do so.

Wash 2: Designed by Simon Neesam for the British Cavy Council © 2020