Breed standard

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A breed standard is the description (usually written) of an ideal member of a breed of domestic animal. The synonym bench standard is often used.

Breed standards are used in animal husbandry, which involves the keeping of livestock, and in animal fancy, which has to do with the breeding of animals usually kept as pets. The breed standard may describe the appearance and other characteristics of an animal in general terms, or it may be very detailed, spelling out required attributes such as heritage and pedigree (whether or not the parents were registered, and how many generations of registered animals are in the background), working ability, and visible features, called conformation points, in great detail. The failings of an individual are known as faults, and the breed standard may list those faults which, if present, disqualify the animal from being registered, bred from or exhibited.

Some important conformation points for show animals include size, colour, sexual dimorphism (when males and females look different), the quality of coat, and the distribution of markings. Not all possible confirmation points are important in all species, or even in all breeds of a particular species.

Breed Standards in Dogs

Breed Standards for dogs can be written quite differently and there is a great range of styles, formats and description. Some requirements that are of paramount importance in one breed may be barely noted in another breed, and not even mentioned in others.

For example, English Toy Terriers can only be black with tan markings, and requirements as to the placement of the tan colour is well specified, the ideal Maltese must be pure white, but Chihuahuas may be any colour at all. The breed standard of the Miniature Fox Terrier specifies both the upper and lower height limit, that of the Great Dane gives a minimum height only, the breed standard of the poodle separates the varieties on the basis of adult height, while the breed standard of the Manchester Terrier does not mandate any height requirements, describing the size parameters by weight only.

Some breed clubs, particularly those of working dogs, such as the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, consider the breed standard of less importance than a dog’s ability, and some like the Koolie Club of Australia, do not want to follow a written breed standard at all.