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Keegan's Mom

Breeding Question - different aspect.

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The "test of the hill" is no more for a lot of these places. Today's small time farms don't seem to have every single dog work really long hours every single day.
I don't know that this was ever then case, even on "the hill." Certainly our friends from G.B. can speak more authoritatively, but from what I saw in Ireland the sheep are on the hill for extended periods of time and only brought in periodically for flushing, procedures, etc. It is possible that farms/farmers that practice rotational grazing may actually give their dogs more of a workout on a daily basis . . . But this is just conjecture.

 

I would suggest that management style is probably more of an indicator of the test of the dog, rather than size of the farm.

 

Anyway, I see your point.

 

Kim

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Sure, LauraS, I did bring it up. I brought it up because I think it bears mentioning as a warning about the potential this type of thing has for going down a road we don't want it to. I think structure and conformation are seperated by a fairly thin line, and it is one we would be wise to be aware of. I think part of the slippery slope is this: Lets say whomever this deciding entity is decides how the dog should be put together structurally to be good at herding. So, what do we do, begin to breed for this particular structure in exclusion of anything else? Hypothetically speaking.

 

I agree, there are dogs being bred too soon, and dogs being bred that shouldn't be. These same farmers you mention, however, aren't going to be very likely to go have their dogs' structures tested either.

 

All I'm trying to get at is it still comes down to being careful what we select for so that we don't lose the breed we love, and many of us need. Not trying to paint an enemy, or necessarily bring the AKC specifically into it. I'm not saying that evaluating structure would be completely useless, but I am saying that I PERSONALLY would be careful to take it with a grain of salt, also evaluating what I already know about my dogs.

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What a great topic!!

 

I have a similar question that I have been wondering about for a while. I have attended a few trials (informal and formal) and I am always amazed at the grace of the dogs. More recently I have even felt brave enough to mingle with the participants and talk to them about their dogs (previously I always sat back and watched from a distance as I haven't had the opportunity to herd myself, I didn't think I would be welcome). I was taken aback at first at how casually I heard people talking about breeding their dogs. I had to step back and take a breath and look beyond the "breeding is bad" mantra we have in our heads - after all it is a herding trial right? These are the dogs that are supposed to be bred to improve the breed.

 

After I did that, about 75% of the conversations about breeding made sense, but some still bugged me. One woman was talking about breeding her 10 mo old bitch in a few months. She wanted a female puppy from her and her sister was getting a male, but she didn't know yet what she would do with the others. Can you really tell how good a worker is after only 10 months? This is a genuine question on my part. I would think not, but I don't know. I asked and this particular dog didn't have regular farm work.

 

I have taken away from this board that only dogs that herd should be bred, and that every dog that herds isn't breed-worthy and that seemed to go against that. Or is any dog that is trained to the open level passed the test?

 

It was mentioned earlier that the decision to breed has to be made while the dog is relatively young and healthy so looking at the "grandparents" is a reasonable way to make that decision (still seems a bit risky to me) but what if, in the case of this bitch, what if her mother was bred at a year as well. Then her mother would be 2 years old when this bitch is bred and only 3 years old when/if the bitches offspring are bred. Is 2-3 years old enough to know if the dog is good? Would any 'defects' in working style, temperment or structure show up by then?

 

We hear how only a few generations of incorrect breeding can ruin the breed, shouldn't this be cause for worry? Or am I reading too much into this?

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Structure is Conformation; Conformation is Structure. Conformation is a very taboo word here (for good reason!), but it's not always associated with breed shows.

 

Again, I'm not saying a working dog has to conform to a certain structure, I'm suggesting people breeding working dogs really evaluate if the work their potential breeding dog does actually proves it is sound and/or test hips and/or educate themselves as to what to look for (e.g. a dog that stands a funny way, or moves differently, or lags behind, etc...).

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Although I've had border collies all my life, I have only been personally involved in working them on stock for a little over 11 years. Coming from a performance horse background (Three day eventing), I was expecting that a well-defined correct structure would make a big difference in whether or not a dog could hold up over time.

 

As it turns out, I've found there's a very wide range of structures that work and hold up over time. In fact, the range is so wide that I barely give it a thought in a breeding. It cannot be defined in the same terms as horse structure and movement which is the basis for much of the fantasy in the beliefs held by the conformation people. It can't even be defined in the same terms used for other types of dogs, even other types of herding dogs.

 

Short of striking problems such as severe HD, much of whether a certain structure works for a dog is connected directly to the dog's working style. There's a lot involved -- too much to pick apart a particular aspect and hold it to a standard separate from the rest of the make-up of that dog's working ability.

 

I guess the problem is people want to look at pieces of the puzzle to make a judgment when looking at the whole puzzle together is the only way to judge. There are no short cuts to figuring out what the whole puzzle is supposed to look like.

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Again, I'm not saying a working dog has to conform to a certain structure, I'm suggesting people breeding working dogs really evaluate if the work their potential breeding dog does actually proves it is sound and/or test hips and/or educate themselves as to what to look for (e.g. a dog that stands a funny way, or moves differently, or lags behind, etc...).
I agree. I think there needs to be diligence, experience, and care taken when deciding to breed. You would hope that obvious flaws would be easy to pick out, and that a responsible breeder would exclude these types of things from their program. I think we do need to take the time to be diligent!

 

One woman was talking about breeding her 10 mo old bitch in a few months. She wanted a female puppy from her and her sister was getting a male, but she didn't know yet what she would do with the others. Can you really tell how good a worker is after only 10 months? This is a genuine question on my part. I would think not, but I don't know. I asked and this particular dog didn't have regular farm work.
In my VERY NOVICE newbie opinion, I don't think so. 10 months old? At that age this dog wouldn't even really be started much yet. I think it too would depend a little on the person saying this as well's experience.

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In the words of Joe Pesci: okay okay okay....

 

When I talk about trotting, this is one gait that is very indicative of a) a healthy horse or dog (will go into that more later) and :rolleyes: is the easiest to analyze.

 

Why pick trotting? NOT because that is what they do in the show ring! It is because it is a way to see how each leg hits the ground, and look for lamness (as in horses- head bobs etc as lame leg lifts), and also to see how fluid the movement is. Running is not easy to analyze in a dog because it is a general body movement (and frankly we can't see that well). In herding dogs I can think of at least one time you can notice a trot- on the way to the house after working. Not on the way to the sheep, unless you have a very well trained bc

Anyway, the trot is easiest to eye, and analyze, that is why I brought it up. My Kelpie trots around me when I am working outside, and when you see a real effortless trot, you see a dog sort of gliding- this is a good sign in a dog that needs to work. OKay, and if you STILL think I am talking about show ring stuff- go look at wolves and how they trot. That is utter effortless movement- which is what we want.

Julie

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I would say livestock producers know what a sound animal looks like without thinking in terms like "effortless movement." Most are savvy enough to know when an animal is right or not on a level those on the outside don't understand.

 

Kitch,

 

Just because these people wanting to breeding the young bitch were at a sheepdog trial doesn't mean they are automatically the standard. Were they Open handlers?

 

On the other hand, if someone like Tommy Wilson decided a bitch that age was breedworthy, I certainly would not question him.

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I guess I've always seen BCs to be sort of like the Mustang. Maybe I'm wrong. Mustangs are very healthy as a whole and sound and even have certain things that are characteristic looking of their "breed" like hard feet, thick leg bones, larger knuckles- generally easy keepers as far as feeding. Nature in all it's harshness has forged a generally very sound animal. They don't always have the prettiest legs- or prettiest anything else either sometimes.

 

The BC is of course not chosen as a breed by natural selection but in many generations past, darned near it! The hard work has forged the dog.

 

I do not however see a problem with using what science is available to us now to take measure of the greater specimens so that we (collectively, breeders-not me) might determine to some extent,

as an aid if you will, which are the better young pups to keep. In light of the fact that drive and instinct are so powerful (as it should be) that a dog will work for years without vital body parts (I say vital because nature has ensured that all walking things have hips). Not that the yard stick for breeding shouldn't be as it has always been but if there are scientific aids out there for todays' BC breeder that would help them solve a problem in their breeding program. That would make their dogs healthier, then that's great too.

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I do not however see a problem with using what science is available to us now to take measure of the greater specimens so that we (collectively, breeders-not me) might determine to some extent,

as an aid if you will, which are the better young pups to keep.

Please understand as you read what follows that I am a scientist and also that I'm very committed to the health of the breed. That said, the problem with "using what science is available" is that people tend to put more emphasis on what they know or what can be easily quantitated for them. If they know nothing or little of working dogs, then they will cling to science in an effort to make up for that lack of knowledge. Then the "science" takes on an importance out of proportion with its optimal role in the big picture. This overemphasis on science to make up for lack of true functional knowledge is very prevalent in the non-working and AKC border collie herding crowd.

 

Keeping the big picture always in mind is important and not easy to do.

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Julie is right about the trot. I bet you would find a range of certain scientific measurements in dogs that are tireless workers. I bet you would find that they have good length of upper arm in relation to the length of the shoulder blade (um indicating decent layback to the shoulder)- meaning that you'd never see them hackney in movement. You would also see a rear assembly that favored good drive and flexibility. There is a bunch of possibilities on how these things could come together to create very different looking dogs. Heck lots of mutts have good structure. And yes this trotting business was developed in horses and it really is better to trot an animal in a natural position not an elevated head.

 

Most working BCs I meet have fine over all body structure front and rear without anyone ever trying for it (maybe they don't have hip sockets who knows! but that isn't really related to structure)which is why I really believe that the nature of the work forges the breed as a whole.

 

I find it interesting that it's been brought up about determining if the work is hard enough these days to continue to forge a superior dog.

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Denise,

 

I hope you understand what I meant in that science is available and should be used as an aid to those stock dog breeders who already know what they are doing and that it's great that it's available to them should they choose to use it or need it for some reason- not that science should be used as the standard yardstick for breeding. It's way earlier here so sometimes I'm not clear. Well, off to work for me.

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Annette,

 

Yes, I understood. I wasn't really taking issue with your intention, just with the way that in reality it often turns out.

 

And I hope you understand that I know how to evaluate animals for soundness at a trot. Heaven knowns, evaluation for soundness was at least a daily occurrence in performance horses, less so in my working dogs. Just because someone understands these things doesn't mean they would or should use that type of evaluation over their "feel" for soundness in an animal.

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So what I'm reading is that most breeders of working border collies (mean working as herding only) go on their personal evaluation to see if a dog is fit to breed. This generally means do they work well, do they appear to have any problems working for long periods of time, knowldege of the breeding lines, and experience.

 

I was beginning to think that relying too much on science, as Denise was saying, may take away from the overall big picture. Yet, makes you wonder if what Laura S. was saying about the dog with no hip socket is worth a look at before breeding?

 

Another thing to think about is if a dog is not structurally sound by the opinion of the evalutors, but still works well...should you take them away from their work? Is over compensating in another area going to hurt them that much...depending on how much over compensation is involved? Could a dog with certain structural problems still herd well? I think yes. Could they still live a full life? I think yes. But also, can a dog look structurally sound, yet have underlying issues...yes!!!!

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Having come from a background of working for a horse vet with thoroughbred layups, I became acutely aware of things that are off in a horse. I am not talking about lameness here, I am talking about ease of movement. I am also a scientist, Biologist, and work in research. My main gist to what I was saying was that it is plum easier for an animal to work all day, if they are put together well, and the easiest way to analyze that is to see them trot, and also, to see them work all day, with absolutely no hitch in their gitalong. I also come from farm life, and spent my summers alongside every type of animal out there, and many many dogs. As it is now, I have been to and watched inumerable herding trials, and watched many many dogs. They all looked very fit to me, and what stands out to me, is the body built for utility- great shoulder layback, good declining croup, and in general able to cover long distances without a problem.

 

"I would say livestock producers know what a sound animal looks like without thinking in terms like "effortless movement." Most are savvy enough to know when an animal is right or not on a level those on the outside don't understand."

 

I will agree that my gp's didn't use the term effortless movement when talking about the French Alpine goats they raised, or the Angus cattle, or even the ponies they, had, but those attributes are not sought after in those animals (except some REALLY nice ponies). What do you mean by "outside"? I also worked horse farms for 10 years. So, I don't feel on the outside- rather quite intuned to both animals and science.

 

Julie

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Hi everyone:

DANG, I put it in the wrong place, so here is the post now: I wanted to show you what I think of when I talk good shoulder layback and sloping croup= well built working dog, and dog who can go easily. On page 2 of "I want to see your dogs" in the gallery page: on page two, Julie Poudrier's dog Jill is a great example.

Julie

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Julie,

 

By outside I mean the non-livestock non-working border collie people who strive to define proper structure and soundness in the working border collie. Are you a livestock producer and breeder of working border collies?

 

I'm not talking about overt lameness either. As I said, I've learned that horses are not a good model to use for determining what structures will work for a working border collie. IMO, in horses, there is greater need for skeletal structure to be at optimal angles, lengths, etc., simply because of their weight, form and the types of things they do. In dogs the size of border collies, muscle development, and tendon and ligament integrity play a greater role in maintaining soundness in the work these dogs do than in horses and their "work." Therefore, there can be more variability in bone structure, and because you can't really see things like joint integrity, function is more important as an evaluator.

 

I have a dog who has by your standards absolutely horrible structure. Yet to watch her move, it looks as if her joints are made of rubber bands. She at nearly eleven years old is the soundest, most athletic dog I've ever known, still more than capable of a hard day's work.

 

Rachael,

 

I was beginning to think that relying too much on science, as Denise was saying, may take away from the overall big picture. Yet, makes you wonder if what Laura S. was saying about the dog with no hip socket is worth a look at before breeding?
I did say, "Short of striking problems such as severe HD, much of whether a certain structure works for a dog is connected directly to the dog's working style."

 

The debate I'm mainly engaging in here is defining certain aspects such as shoulder angle as being automatically accepted as good structure for a working dog.

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Hi Denise:

I do agree that many dogs put together (apparently that is) by committee, can and do work well. Form follows function, and there has got to be a reason why some many BC's seem to have what I have described, regardless of breeding. And I know that working stockdog breeders do NOT breed for conformation

 

I don't breed livestock and/or BC's. Just have good observational skills and an atuned interest in anatomy and physiology. I will acquiesce to those who breed the aforementioned.

 

 

Julie

(who's main interest is in seeing healthy dogs work at what they were bred to)

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There are going to be NO PERFECT breeding programs.

 

I tend to trust natural selection based on work over anything that humans think of "ie correct structure" or create "ie tests" to TAKE its place.

 

And back to horses--- I have seen humans(cronically doomed to short sightedness and misconceptions) in the conformation classes create a horse that is incapable of doing well in anything but standing around looking pretty.

Those being bred based on ability don't look anything like a conformation animal.

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OMG, too many Julies. I keep seeing my name and then realizing that y'all are responding to the other Julie.

 

I just posted a nice long reply but my ISP disconnected and I lost the whole thing. I'll just reply to a few random comments (I don't feel like scrolling back to figure out who said what).

 

First, as someone already pointed out, just because a person has a border collie and is at a sheepdog trial doesn't mean the person knows squat about working dogs or livestock or the breeding on either.

 

But, to the person who hypothesized "what if the 10-month-old bitch was from a dam bred at a year old?" I would say that you wouldn't have to go near that breeding with a 10-foot-pole. But as someone else said (Denise maybe) if the person breeding those young dogs was someone like Tommy Wilson then I would take a different view, since he has more dog and stock experience than many of us will ever have. Again it comes down to research: If you know who the breeder is and what that breeder's experience is with working dogs and livestock, including what kind of dogs he/she has produced in the past, then you could (and should) factor that in when considering a breeding.

 

Oh, and just because the dam may have been bred young doesn't mean that every other relative out there is young and unproven. Research and homework, you can't do without them.

 

To the person who made the comment about there being so many good tested (structurally) dogs out there that no one should need to breed to an untested dog, I say again, research and homework. If you know the breeder, know his/her dogs, know how and how much they are worked, and have a hitorical perspective to look from, then I see nothing wrong with choosing to breed to an untested (structurally) dog. For me, I'd rather know the dog inside and out workwise and history wise and *know* that this is truly a dog that will complement my dog than exclude such a dog solely in favor of a dog who has a list of structural tests available. Again, if there were two dogs available who were equal in all ways to do with work and one had a list of tests done and the other did not, then I might want to choose the tested dog. But I would never exclude the untested dog on the basis of lack of tests alone.

 

Re: using the trot to evaluate a dog's potential ability as a sound worker, ISTM that many border collies follow two tracks when trotting. I don't know that I've ever heard a proven reason for why this is so, but one leading theory is that tracking in such a way conserves energy. However, if I had a horse that trotted in two tracks (unless being asked to do so by a rider) I would consider it a problem. I do like to look at the trot to be able to pick up subtle signs of lameness, but I wouldn't rely on how a dog trots to tell me anything about its soundness for work. I agree with Denise: comparing horses to dogs with respect to the trot as a gait to evaluate is comparing apples and oranges.

 

I also think that taking a dog and evaluating it piece by piece and then using that piecemeal evalution to determine if the dog will be structurally sound is a huge mistake. As Denise said, you miss the big picture (how the parts work in concert for *that particular* dog), and it' the whole package that gets the job done, not the shoulder or the hock or the ribcage.

 

Kelpiegirl Julie, it's unfortunate that you chose my Jill to be an example of a dog with great structure because Jill has terrible hips. She has not been unsound as a result of those bad hips (her unsoundnesses have been due to physical trauma, not breaking down as a result of structural problems), and she's 9 this month. But she was also spayed years ago and is now basically retired.

 

Folks would probably look at my Kat and say ohmygod look at that funny looking little dog! But she's a dog who goes 200% when she works, and at 5 1/2 has had no soundness issues. Should I discard her as a working dog or breeding prospect just because she's not pretty in the classic structural sense? So far all structural tests I have had done are fine. Structurally she's quite different from my Twist, who also has good hips. But should I say Twist is a better dog because she's prettier (strucurally speaking)?

 

I'll find one of the threads in the gallery with a bunch of working dog pictures and bump it up to the top. Then we can all look at different working dogs and make whatever structural comparisons we want....

 

J.

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Originally posted by juliepoudrier:

And don't call me fishbreath! :rolleyes:

 

J.

Now just admit it Julie, you have baited breath because you are secretly working on getting continous eye contact from your dogs, so you can compete in obedience!

 

Megan Q.

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hi julie

YOu know, I figured, once I pointed out a dog, it would probably have something wrong! Oh well. I don't think that there is a correlation though.

Too bad about her hips. I would love to see the different dogs- even the ones everyone says are horribly put together

Julie

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Those pictures were breathtaking from an artistic point of view - but I also felt them to be magnificently enlightening. To wit, I think I saw two dogs that were captured in a moment when they were standing foresquare or moving in a straight line. The rest were shown in acrobatic feats that would be labeled "Do Not Attempt This At Home" here in the US. Interesting.

 

I thought it was really interesting in light of Denise's statement that the integrity of connective tissue was of primary importance for the work pictured in these images. I was thinking you could see why - words like twist, weave, torque, and pivot, are what spring to my mind first, looking at almost all those dogs. Even the ones poised quietly at pens - is there a single shot of one standing four square?

 

I really respect the professional and expert contribution people like Denise, Eileen, and Sally Lacy, and others have made to the breed in terms of their service to the members of the ABCA and particularly work on the Health and Genetics Committee. I think it's important for people to know that the breed isn't entirely shaped by a bunch of no-nothing, selfish, shortsighted farmers (actually, I don't know any those myself).

 

Right from the beginning there has been in some circles a concerted and concious effort to balance known challenges to producing healthy dogs with maintaining the highest possible standard of working.

 

The case was made long ago, and has been supported by many generations of healthy working dogs, that breeding for a conformational ideal and breeding for the highest standard of function are mutually exclusive goals. I think it's responsible to use the tools of science that we have available to identify or diagnose disease - but beyond that I feel comfortable restricting my guesses about how well a certain dog might hold together performing a function over time, to actually observing it perform that function over time.

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Interesting that "tissue" has been brought up. One of the things a "structure expert" checks for is joint stability. For example, slipped hocks is a tissue problem, not an orthopedic one. Barrel hocks is due to over-development of muscle on the outside of the leg. Balance of muscle should be considered ideal by anyone (ask Dr. Regina for those who go to her!).

 

Yes, we should look at the whole picture, and all the moving parts together. However, the whole dog is only as good as it's parts. Would you pick a dog who is weak in an area, and therefore misbalanced by overcompensating, over one who is perfectly balanced (all else being equal)? If a dog is over-stressing the good joints to compensate for the weak ones, the dog will eventually break down over time if worked hard enough.

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Long ago I was heavily involved for awhile in issues of employment testing. I saw then how easy it is for people to assume that factors like a high school diploma or a high score on a standardized test are good in themselves, without any real evidence that they are a predictor of superior job performance. It was next to impossible to get people to test job candidates using actual tasks they would have to do on the job (content validation) or to hire/promote people with and without the selection factors and see if there was any difference in their actual job performance (criterion-related validation). They KNEW that those factors showed who would be good in the job, and often clung to that belief even after actual validation studies had shown that they were NOT good predictors -- that people without the diploma or the high test scores performed on the job just as well as those who had them.

 

Maybe it's because of that experience, or because I have no background in horses or in dog conformation, that I put more faith in how the dog does the work than in whether the dog has the theoretically best structure to do the work. Or maybe it's because my dog who best meets the physical demands of working livestock, and is by far the fastest, also has the funniest-looking structure.

 

BTW, elsewhere on this site (at http://www.bordercollie.org/scotnat.html ) is an account by Sally Lacy of the first time she went to the Scottish Nationals, which includes the following:

 

We had ample opportunity to see many of the dogs close at hand; and we frequently scratched notes in the margin besides numbers pertaining to those dogs which particularly struck us as promising or unpromising due to particulars of their construction: sway backs, flat backs, lean hindquarters, apparently muscular hindquarters, east-west front feet and very close `wrists,' straight forward front feet moderately spaced apart, cow hocks or no cow hocks. I say, we did these notes; in fact, it was Jamie who first made these observations; and they had nothing to do with aesthetics, as far as he or we were concerned; it just seemed logical that the better constructed, better balanced dogs should have been best suited to the stamina and speed required to carry out the challenge set for all.

 

As the dogs we'd particularly noted ran, we compared our notes with the efficiency of the performance. There appeared to be no correlation.

 

Jamie reminded me of this, thirteen years later, when we watched a Cheetah arrange himself on a hillside for an attack on a Wildebeest crossing the valley below. The Cheetah was profoundly sway-backed, his shoulders, far from being laid back, were set almost forward of his chest, his `wrists' were virtually glued together, and his big front paws pointed east and west. And, of course, away he went at better than seventy miles an hour! Admittedly, a prowess that cannot be sustained, but extraordinary all the same!

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