Saturday, June 16, 2018
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Lesser-known breeds included in dog shows this week at Florida Classic Park

BROOKSVILLE — German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and poodles. All popular purebred dogs.

But what about the Saluki hound or the Polish lowland sheepdog? Though not particularly popular in the United States, both breeds have been around for a long time. In fact, the Saluki, also known as a Persian greyhound, is among one of the oldest breeds in existence.

Folks will get a chance to see both breeds this week at the Florida Combined Specialties shows, which kicks off Thursday and continues Friday at Florida Classic Park, east of Brooksville. Larger, all-breed shows, sponsored by the Hernando County Kennel Club, take place on Saturday and Sunday.

It will be a rare opportunity to see some breeds. For instance, the Polish lowland sheepdog, popular for centuries, was once on the brink of extinction during World War II.

The specialty shows will feature several other breeds of dogs, including poodles, collies, Shetland sheepdogs, Boston terriers, dachshunds and afghans.

"The Salukis are a new club with our show, and we're very excited to have them," said Karen Toth, assistant show coordinator for the Florida Combined Specialties. "Salukis are a very old breed, and very few people know about them, which is unfortunate because they are a very good breed."

Folks can expect to see about 42 Salukis participating in this week's shows.

"Some are coming from as far as California," said Caroline Coile, president of the Central Florida Association of Saluki Hounds. "But in all the places in this country, we have more (Salukis) in Florida than just about anywhere else."

Toth, of Pinellas Park, shows standard poodles and has been teaching dog obedience for 18 years. She and her dogs will also be participating in this weekend's all-breed show.

"They keep me very busy," she admits. "It is very rewarding. … And if I can educate the public on how to be a responsible canine owner, then I've done my job."

Coile said showing dogs becomes addictive.

"You start out thinking you'll just go to local shows," she said. "But it doesn't stop there. … Part of the fun is just doing things with your dogs. Taking a trip, staying in a motel room, camping out. … They love it. It is so much fun, and they get lots of attention and liver treats. They don't know, or care, if they win or lose."

After the specialty shows, the weekend's all-breed show is expected to include more than 1,000 dogs, with about 170 breeds represented.

"It is amazing to see everything run so smoothly," said Deborah Rocco, a board member of the Hernando County Kennel Club. "The judges keep things running on time, and the dogs aren't barking. … It's amazing how well behaved the dogs are."

Rocco said those who show and breed purebreds are often criticized. "What about adopting a shelter dog?" is a common question, she said.

Rocco, who breeds Rhodesian ridgebacks, said she encourages people to check out the shows.

The shows are a good opportunity for people who are thinking about owning a particular breed of dog, she said.

"They can spend the day and talk to owners, breeders, handlers, and get a feel for the kind of dog they would like for a companion," she said.

And for breeds like the Polish lowland sheepdog and the Saluki, the shows might be a lifesaver.

"There are a lot of breeds that are extinct," Coile said. "Do you just let that piece of history go? … I think that there is a place for both purebreds and mixed breeds, rescues. … These shows give people an opportunity to learn about these dogs."

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