What would he see and how would he react? Would he be proud of how the breed has evolved or would he be shocked at how poorly the generations of breeders have interpreted the breed description he wrote down over 100 years ago?
These are all questions we really need to consider if we are to control how the breed develops in the future.
All those years ago, when Proff. Heim essentially locked in a description for the breed we now know as the Bernese Mountain Dog, he wrote it with a mindset to describe as best he could the regional dogs brought before him that were similar in style, which were then entered into the official stud book for our breed. Some dogs were not included because they strayed too far from the median and did not display the phenotype he was trying to describe. (with this in mind I wonder how many of our modern dogs he would have denied into the stud book for being off-type and too exaggerated!)
Proff. Heim did not write the descriptions of the dogs before him to establish new exaggerated traits within the breed in future generations. He essentially wrote a standard that was trying to describe the dogs he saw before him so as to preserve it for future generations. He used language that at the time reflected what he saw in comparison to language that had been used for generations within horse breeding and other canine breeds. He wrote descriptions using terms that were relative to all other standards at the time.
Why is this point important?
Take for example the phrase "stifles well bent". Did Proff. Heim mean for future generations to breed a dog that has such exaggeration it deems it unsound, unbalanced and so far from how he meant for the description to be interpreted? When he likely penned these words, he was likely comparing it to other dogs of the time, including the other sennenhund breeds in Switzerland as well as other local breeds at the time, which displayed much straighter stifles and rear angulation. In comparison to these other breeds a Bernese was to have "well bent stifles".
Another phrase that springs to mind is "Well Boned" that crept into Standards in the mid/late century. It was never the intention I am sure for BMD's to have bone the size of my arms! We all often get swept up into the momentum of "bigger is better!"
I could list many descriptions from the standard that have now become exaggerated and have crept into our breed over the years. Length of body, length of leg, substance, head shape, colour temperament. None of which describe our breed in their exaggerated form yet get rewarded consistently.
Never in my wildest dreams am I saying we need to breed dogs that look like the dogs that Proff. Heim saw in the early 20th century. We have strayed too far from that, but I think it is important for us to take stock and evaluate whether we are breeding to extremes to fulfil a quick win in the ring. What is admired in the ring as a desirable quality because it has not been seen before, doesn't mean it is correct, nor the best way forward for the breed.
I often wonder whether it would be beneficial for a worldwide committee to be formed to try and put together a 3D caricature/ illustration of what is the "ideal" Bernese according to the current standards we have and use. This would give us all a reference point to compare to and it may slow the trends that will alter the breed for future generations.
I think a pertinent point in our breeds history was Alex V Angstorf. He really changed the way our breed looked in the modern era and gave a reference point of how the breed should look for many generations. In the same way, why not let us create a fictional representation of a BMD that changes the breed for the better and creates a style of dog that permeates for generations to come.
Some would say that a singular illustration would stifle individual opinion and interpretation, but I think this is short sighted. The benefits would far outweigh the negative points. Consider this... Every breeder has a vision of what the perfect Bernese looks like. They will spend a lifetime trying to attain this 'minds eye' of the breed. Will they attain the exact representation that is portrayed in their mind... NO, not ever.
Likewise a singular illustrated representation of our breed would guide the current/ future generations of what the ultimate Bernese should look like. It will provide a consistent singular goal for us all to breed towards and keep consistency for generations to come. None of us will attain breeding an exact representation of this illustration, but at least the vision will be consistent for many generations to come on a world wide scale. (If the Pure-breed world still exists then, but that is for another discussion.)
Additionally it would make judges training much easier. Whilst examples of the breed can be shown in judges training it is often biased by the mentor giving the lecture. A singular representation would lock into the judges mind a reference point to which they can judge. Judges worldwide would all be on the same page when it comes to what a Bernese should look like. Gradings would become more consistent because all judges would be comparing to a singular representation. The Breed Standard would not add confusion by being non precise, open to interpretation and vague but rather help a judge weigh up and prioritise the required attributes of the dog before him/ her compared to the illustration they have at the forefront of their mind.
Food for thought, don't you think? What are your thoughts?