Merle Mania - Xmas Spectacular. 12th December 2021, Bowlers Exhibition Centre, Manchester

Merle Mania ended the show season in spectacular fashion as predicted with another Bowlers Exhibition Centre show exceeding class entries at an impressive rate.



After a two year break from my judging roles, it was quite refreshing to avail of this opportunity travelling to the UK for my third Bully Breed Specific Show as breed specified and Best In Show judge.


Subsequently, this let me view every individual dog literally for the first time with no previous misconceptions or prior wins or attained titles, enabling my many years of judging formalities to the task at hand.


Primarily, my Best in Show winner was the very impressive XL variety male ‘Brave’ from the Cosa Nostra Kennels, handled by Bella of Cloudnine Kennels.


I was delighted to be informed this adult male had previously taken another Merle Mania Best In Breed, as was not my immediate choice as class winner as he was not the most masculine in size or type in comparison to another few fine examples, however he is perfectly balanced and in proportion with no single exaggeration and his many breed qualities could not be denied. He is certainly fit for function and his energy was boundless, so credit due to all involved as this is essentially a dog worthy of note, displaying key attributes mentally and physically, promotive of this breed during controversial times. Very much a real showman, biddable and so eager to please with drive which should be noted in emulating future progeny. The dog was totally in tune with handler alike, who made an excellent team. Correct moderate expression exuding masculinity, adequate head proportions, defined stop and pronounced cheek bones with correct almond shape eyes. Full dentition and scissored bite, with a well defined jaw displaying strong depth of underjaw alike, with no exaggerations of haw or jowel (which is a prominent flaw in many Xl on the day sadly so something to watch for future as not to deviate away from fundamental breed type ie Mastiff and Mastino type was common themed)


Overall medium to large in size displaying fantastic substance and bone structure, deep brisket and layback of shoulders with perfectly placed length of forearm displaying full range of motion to rear. Forelegs perfectly pillar set straight and muscled with strong pasterns and cat like feet (one of


the best ive seen to date in the breed) Slight turn in front left paw but nicely maintained by his handler on the day but I don’t miss too much.


Also nice to see a medium to short length of loin which fundamentally compliments his strong topline, which never weakened once on the move, so credit again to owner for a finely balanced, exercised and nutritional routine whilst keeping peak muscle mass and condition. This leads to my critiques conclusion, where his strongest point had its time to shine after a long day in a stressful show arena. This well muscled and parallel ‘rear’ had almost flawless muscle depth including second thigh development , fantastic bend of stifle to a strong parallel hock. Not many flaws I can mention without being over critical at this point, perhaps one negative i might add in conclusion , is that he isn’t at home on my sofa.


All in all some wonderful exhibiters on the day, but more importantly the huge passion within these breeds are at a paramount in the UK, so we need to focus on improving the quality are not just physically attributed , but overall function and form must not be compromised if we wish to move forward with these breeds in the positive light that they deserve.


Id like to thank the management at Merle Mania for inviting me over and making me feel so appreciated, especially Mikki whos work ethic and morals around these breeds are fundamental.


Also to all the exhibitors for their willingness to learn and accept constructive criticism throughout and since the show, I am always happy to help and offer advice where I can and always will.


Happy New Year to each and everyone and I hope 2022 brings you many rosettes and accolades, ill see you all at the next one.


Dr Ivan McCLean Vinastino - Show Kennel Ireland

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