Judging large classes
My methods and procedure
I have been a judge of Yorkshire canaries since 1983 and judged my first specialist show in 1985. Having judged over 50 specialist club shows including eight occasions at the Yorkshire canary club (YCC) and a further eight at the Midland Yorkshire canary club I guess I would be considered to be an experienced judge.
Our specialist shows unfortunately no longer enjoy the entry level of the past when the YCC and Southern YCC both toped 1000 exhibits with full classes both in the champion and novice sections. Even so the larger class numbers were in the 50’s which were considered to be a large class.
Today we are fortunate if a class stretches nearing the 30 mark yet on the continent class numbers have been considerably higher.
In recent years I have had the pleasure to judge in Italy with large classes and in the past three years have judged the Edremit Yorkshire Canary Club (EYCC )of Turkey who have taken Yorkshire canary entries onto new levels with size of classes that some fanciers have actually said to me are impossible to judge.
So I thought it would be of interest to read of my method of judging these classes.
My method and procedures are really self taught having been able to watch the top judges of our day while stewarding at our shows I my younger years.
Having judged my first invitation show locally at the age of fourteen and moving onto open and specialist shows in my early twenties I soon developed a system that worked for me.
My first observation is the time and effort that an exhibitor puts into breeding and preparing a bird together with the time and cost of travelling which can be great and therefore every exhibit deserves its chance.
Time is not of the essence when judging but wasting too much time on inferior birds, which could be seen as indecision, distracts from the comparison of the better birds in respect to time and concentration. So a balance is always needed.
I have two major objectives when judging large shows. The first is that the best bird in the hall wins the top award and that the best seven exhibits represent the breed in respect to the standard and are therefore similar in type.
Classes at the EYCC show can now exceed two hundred with the biggest to date being 226. So combined with a high level of concentration and belief the following procedure works well for me.
Firstly the judging bench at that show can hold 24 exhibits so that is the number that I have at any one time before me. My methods allow for each bird to be viewed four times before any are discarded.
I always wait until all the birds have been placed onto the judging bench and give them a short while to settle. This time extends for the birds at they are viewed.
My first inspection is not about quality but is to ensure that the bird has been entered in the correct class and that the bird is complete, not missing any toe nails for example and is in good condition.
With my second view of the 24 I am looking for the good qualities of the birds. Looking to access how many may be competing for being retained and which birds are of poor quality and therefore not likely to progress. I may move the cage slightly according to my initial thoughts.
On my third view I am looking to group the better birds together at this stage to ensure that there are a minimum of seven birds from the 24 that may be retained.
Once the better birds have been grouped the lesser quality birds can gradually be returned to the show bench having been marked as viewed.
The remaining birds are the provisionally placed one to seven and all seven birds are moved onto another bench and retained.
This is carried out with each batch of 24 always retaining the best seven from each batch.
These birds are then judged again in groups of 24 retaining the best seven from each group until you have your final line up to place the first seven positions in that class.
The reason that seven birds are always kept behind is because you cannot possibly know which batch contains the best seven birds.
I am therefore judging several classes of twenty four exhibits instead of judging a class of 226. I also believe that this way lessens the chance of missing a good bird, which a judge should never do.
Any other method is simply selecting birds, picking them out at random.
Although we of course have the standard of excellence to judge to we are judging by the comparison of the birds placed before us and by this method gives every bird a chance to show.
The first two classes at the 2018 show contained 226 and 215 birds and took me six hours to complete using this system.
By todays entries in the UK that would be equivalent to judging at two specialist shows, so on average that proves to be the correct time to pass judgement on that number of shows.
The proof is in the effort afforded by the judge with four birds from these classes finishing within the best seven in show line up.
I consider this to be a thorough method and it’s the system that I have always used at the shows that I have judged.
The exhibitor can help give their birds a chance but staging the bird in the best condition as well as having show cage trained their team. A judge can only do so much with untrained exhibits placed before them but this seems to be improving with each year now.