10 Years
Sep 28, 2009
I have been showing birds for three years and after the last show I attended, it seems that there are favorites or top names that win at all the shows every year even with birds that are not up to the standards. I had also talked to several other people that are fairly new to showing (4-6 years average) that have also noticed the same thing. Maybe I am jumping to conclusions but something is not right.
Has anyone else out there in the showing business seen this?
and what can you do about it with out looking like an XXX?
any input would be great.

Edited for using profanity. Please do not swear on BYC.​
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Any sport of activity that can be judged can be judged dishonestly. Just try to find venues with good judging.

Good judging should offer up good and bad points, and overall be of help in improving stock. It should not be a popularity contest, nor should awards be handed out because of connections or past reputation.

I know nothing of poultry judging, by the way, but I expect it is the same there as with any other critter.

As far as "not looking like an ass", see if you can find some old hands who have been showing for a long time. Tell them that you're new to this, and ask where you might find judging that would help you with selecting your stock and improving your breeding program, and judges that offer useful feedback. They may be able to offer up some help as to where to show, and you'll probably pick up some info as to which judges are good.

Sometimes there really are things that make a difference, and you're missing them. I was at a field trial for dogs once quite a while back, and I was surprised at the low score one dog received. I thought he had worked quite well, and I was wondering if it was a bit of discrimination against the particular breed. I mentioned this to our training director, who had decades of experience, and he was able to point out several details I'd missed, and one item where the dog was consistently not up to where he should have been. I was giving the dog far too much credit for his energy level, and I was missing some key points. So, use your show opportunities to find people who know things you don't know, and learn from them.
What kinds of shows are you referring to? If the shows are sanctioned APA/ABA with licensed judges evaluating the birds, the winning birds are going to be pretty close to the standard providing the birds being shown actually are SQ. If you're talking fairs, anything goes.
You also need to take into account understanding how birds are judged--which issues are worth a great deal and which count little. The judge has each bird in his/her hand, and may well be seeing things that one misses when looking at the bird through the walls of the cage.

I have always had judges quite willing to explain why one bird is better than another--but you need to use care in framing the question. Mentioning your inexperience and wanting to learn are good points to include.
in anything that involves competition there's always someone who wants to buy their way to champion row and always someone who will take that money. I know a guy who used to be a poultry judge and he got so tired of people trying to bribe him all the time that he quit judging and showing altogether. So yes, it does happen, even in the "big leagues". Just find places with consistant record of hiring honest judges or if you like how a judge judges go to those shows.
Showing is definitely not a "pure" hobby. Politics are just a thin fragment of what is encountered.

The reason the birds that belong to one exhibitor seem to win, are probably because you can easily tell a "line". When a person is known for their line of birds, it is pretty much impossible NOT to be able to tell their birds apart. This does not mean that the person who wins is a favorite of the judge, superintendent, etc. it simply means the person has good birds.

Then there's the judging behind the judging. I will PM you with more info if you would like, but like any hobby/sport/whatever you want to call it, there are politics at play.
I'll echo those comments about line. I've seen that with dogs many times. One of our German Shepherds was out of a famous line, and when I'd take him to trials as a young pup, just to get him used to the environment, old timers would walk up just to chat about him. They knew who he was out of just by the look of his head. Floored me. I never did get that into dog trials ... kids came along, something had to go ... but it was an interesting experience.

So anyway, I would not be surprised at what Rodriquez said ... if someone's got stock from a readily identifiable line, they're probably already way ahead.

I thought that any form of dog judging was totally corrupt when I first got into it, but the longer I was around it, the more I saw that it was nearly always above board, with the oddity in judging here and there. I still don't claim to understand it, but the more I got to know people involved in it, and learned from them, the more I started being able to figure out for myself. Talk to the old-timers, ask a lot of questions, ask judges for advice, etc.
My perspective from about 8 years showing rabbits:

Well known lines are obvious, however most of the time the judges are being honest. I bought from three local big time breeders and three nationally known breeders and I would get winner when I bred rabbits from the same lines together but not if I crossed them. The reason wasn't that the animals weren't recognized as a certain line but because in the cross a balance was lost. Over the last couple of years I have attuned my eye to seeing the balance of all the traits and now have my own recognizable line. While it is my line, the oldtime breeder can still see traits from their lines and often even know what breeding I did to create an animal.

The second big thing is that each judge does the job differently. The judges who are considered to be the best look at the animal's type first and then differentiate the best body typed animals by how pretty the package is. There are also the "literal judges", the ones who try to use the points break down in the SOP and deducting partial points for minor flaws. These are the most erratic judges because there is no way to say how much one shade of color, a slight wavy marking or difference in fur texture should cost in a deduction. And my third category of judges is the "fetish judge". This judge looks at one thing to determine their winning animals and then sort out the rest in one of the previous fashions. These judges usually raise a breed or types of breeds that have this thing as a high importance in the SOP and they can't see past that in breeds where it is considered to be of low importance.

Then these sets of judges can be separated into two more categories. There are the old fashioned judges who interpret of the SOP for the breed they way the animals were at the time it was written and there are the "current judges" who follow the new fashions and look for more extreme animals (see the Bulldog for a great example of this).

So get involved with the show people and learn what is going on with the breed(s) that you are interested in (don't dilute yourself, you can only do one or two breeds really well unless you are rich and hire a barn manager and maintenance people. Even then you can't be sure that your animals will be in peak condition come show time). Then take notes on all the judges and when you are going to show under a new one ask the other breeders about what the judge's preferences are. The other breeders will have their own system of classifying judges but they will be able to give you some idea as to what they will be looking at so you can bring the best matching animal to the show.

But most of all, remember the judge is still an imperfect person and you are getting their opinion on what animals are better than others. You should still breed for animals that you like to look at first and for the judges second. If losing upsets you, then you need to try something less arbitrary than showing animals.

That said, there is no way I'm going to lose the online Welsummer show, mine is the best roo by far.
I think there's a lot of variables going into it.

I spoke to a judge who said that he was asked to judge 500 birds in a day. If he was there 8 hours, thats 62.5 birds per hour--even 10 hours, that's 50. I went to one large show, and for a standard class the judge did not take the birds out of the cage.

I think sometimes if you are showing a rare breed, the judge may not be up on the intracies of coloring or type. I have a friend who is a master exhibitor of a fairly rare breed. The judges ranking of the birds looked really random when you walked the line and had the exhibitor walk the line and talk about the birds.

So I think yeah, you've got a judge handling almost twice as many birds as they really should in a day, rare breeds ect., if they see a line they recognise and know it is usually of good quality--I can see them going that way. I don't know that they do it on purpose, but I think they are human.
I hear this all the time but I have never had anyone offer me a bribe & I have talked with dozens of other judges who also have never been offered a bribe. IMO this is a "rural legend" w/o basis in fact.
Do the same people often win at shows? Yes, but it's not because they bribe the judge it's because they have developed a solid breeding program that consistently produces good birds.
I know many of the more successful breeders in the North East & when I see them at a show I know what to expect when I get to the class they show in. Usually I know their birds when I get to the class because usually they stand out as compared to others in the class.
Tho OP referred to birds winning "that are not up to the standards". With all due respect after only 3 years showing you may not be in a position to make that judgement. For one thing many people like to "judge from the aisle' but you can't in most cases. To really evaluate a bird you have to get it in your hand. There are obvious exceptions. At a show I was at last weekend in a Black OEGB class there was a pullet with only one tail feather in a class with 20 nice pullets in show condition. It was obvious that she wouldn't place. Why this person wasted $2.50 entering her is beyond me. The rest of the class however looked very good from the aisle. The judge had to handle each one & evaluate fine points to make a decision.
Now, do I agree with every judging decision I see at shows? No, I don't but I don't believe for a minute that those decisions represent "fowl play" :-].
Yes, there is a standard but there are subjective elements subject to interpretation. What exactly constitutes a short back or a medium comb? What these look like to me may look different to you. Then there's the fact that a bird has only a minute or two to make an impression on a judge. If it's tired, about to lay an egg or distracted by something it's opportunity may pass.
Judging looks easy, it did to me until I entered the apprentice program & began to learn what was actually involved.
To everyone who criticizes judges I have one suggestion. Get in the apprentice program, take the tests & become a judge. I'm sure you'll be good at it.

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