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Home » Appearance of the pumi

The shape of my head

Submitted by on Apr 17, 2010 – 3:46 PMNo Comment
Tags: ,

Here is the recipe for a long and busy afternoon:
1. take a group of pumi folk,
2. ask them what the ideal proportions of a pumi head are like,
3. sit down and enjoy.

Congratulations! You have probably just started one of the most heated discussions breeders can have about pumis. Funny thing it is, we are actually talking about 5-15 mms at most, in either this or that direction.

So what is all the fuss about? Well, the proportions of the pumi head have always been a very sensitive issue. Looking back at the evolution of the breed we see that this is one of the main characteristics that will eventually differentiate pumis from pulis and give the breed its identity.

Let’s see what we are talking about:

The pumi has a mesaticephalic skull (of medium proportion), which is neither too long and narrow like the skull of a barzoi, nor too short and wide like that of the pug. The basic question is the proportion of the muzzle to the head.

Muzzle length is measured from the cavity between the eye-sockets following the stop line (line of the forehead to muzzle transition) to the nose lap.

Head length is measured from the top point of the inion (the most prominent point at the back of the head) to the edge of the nose.

We know that the heritability of the length of the jaw (which in turn gives us the length of the muzzle) is actually very high, over 60%. It is no wonder then that the head proportions are probably one of the most heterogeneous traits today in the Hungarian pumi population. Puli-like head-shapes still continue to haunt pumi breeders all over the world and often re-appear even in litters of parents with phenotypically ideal heads. As a reaction, some breeders (encouraged by unenlightened judges at dog shows) push to the extremes to produce almost “horse-faced” pumis in the hope of never seeing one of those round-faced puppies again.

Let us quickly recap what we know about the development of the skull of a dog (thanks to Stephen Budiansky):

A source of dramatic variation is inherent in all organisms, and that is the astonishing changes that occur from conception to adulthood. A two-day-old puppy is not a miniature version of an adult dog; in fact it is barely recognizable as a dog at all. Its proportions are all different, and for the first hundred days or so of its life those proportions change in a highly nonlinear fashion. Biologists call this allometric change, as opposed to isometric change, in which the initial proportions are preserved.

During the allometric growth phase, length grows faster tan width, and this is perfectly illustrated by the way the puppy skull changes to adult shape. Skulls of very young puppies are almost as wide as they are long, in contrast to the elongated shape seen in most adult dogs (see illustration below).

Puppy vs. adult head shape

Alterations that determine the timing or rate periods of allometric growth can result in vastly different adult forms. It is interesting to see that the ration of muzzle length to total head length is pretty much constant in all adult dogs (with the exception of outright mutations like the Pekingese), in fact, in all members of the dog family including wolves. So dogs are not short-faced wolves, like many theories hold.

So what is the ideal pumi head like then? Well, it has always been clear that the pumi has a slightly “elongated” muzzle, when compared to the puli. But putting this into numbers (percentages) has always been difficult, and very few people tried it.

In a 1935 proposed standard Anghi stated that “the length of the muzzle is longer than the cranial region”. We might have a slight problem with terminology here, because it has never been the goal to have pumis with such head proportions.

In the 1966 standard Ócsag determined the proportions in exactly 45%, i.e. “the length of the muzzle is 45% of the length of the head”.

According to the current standard we know that “the length of the muzzle is slightly less than half of the total length of the skull” and that a muzzle “shorter than 40% of the total length of the head” is a disqualifying fault. Now, this is a rather vague description and leaves us with basically anything between 40% and 47% or between 40% and 49%, depending on how you interpret “slightly”. What is interesting here is that proportions below 45% are definitely included in the acceptable region.

According to the newly proposed standard (or old-but-misinterpreted standard) “the length of the muzzle is 45-50% of the total length of the head”.

In a study of 100 pumis in 2003, György Németh found the following distribution of muzzle length:

  • 40% – 6 dogs
  • 41% – 10 dogs
  • 42% – 16 dogs
  • 43% – 29 dogs
  • 44% – 26 dogs
  • 45% – 9 dogs
  • 46% – 4 dogs

He found that, at least to his taste, the most “handsome” pumis had 44-46% muzzle length.

NO DOGS ABOVE 46%! Was it a coincidence? Was it a deliberate selection of study “material”? Or was it the reality? Where does 50% come from in the “new” standard? If you look around today you will find that quite a few breeders prefer to put a lot of emphasis on the head proportion, both by breeding with long-muzzled dogs and also by shaping the hair on the head in a special terrier-like way. It carries a kind of “modern” air as opposed to the old, rustic type dogs and thus differentiates new kennels from old, and is often encouraged by judges.

It goes without saying that older breeders prefer slightly more “traditional” head proportions, and dislike too much muzzle length because – although it gives the pumi elegance – at the same time it also seems to ruin the playful, sweet expression we love so much in pumis. They become too serious, too “grown-up”. And this is the main reason why I do not like recent trends in head proportions.

So, as in so many cases, it is better to stay on the golden middle road and target 45-46%. I think we should try to avoid totally reshaping the pumi’s skull into something it has never been like. Fashion is not a good adviser when it comes to breeding.

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