Italian Judges in America

Dogs In Review sent some questions to a few Italian judges who officiated at shows in the United States during 2012. Their answers follow.

1. Your name, hometown and background in dogs: When did you start? Which breed(s)? Kennel name? Any famous champions?

2. When did you start judging? Which groups/ breeds are you FCI approved for? Which shows/breeds have you judged in the US?

3. How do you feel American dog shows compare to Italian shows? Was there anything you like better at AKC shows, or anything from Italian shows that we could introduce in America?

4. Which breeds in the US did you think were best? Which were the most different from what you are used to at FCI shows?

5. Which breeds do you feel are the strongest in Italy at the moment?

6. Please mention one or two dogs you have seen in the US that you really admired (regardless of breed). Also please mention a few favorite dogs in Italy, or in the rest of Europe.



1. I was born in Milan, but I’ve lived for many years in Sicily. I have bred Dogo Argentinos since 1993, and I am an enthusiast of the Molosser breeds in general. I’ve produced a number of Italian and foreign champions; noteworthy among them is Indio De Angel o Demonio, who, after winning various European championships, went to seek his fortune in Argentina. It seemed a good opportunity to see how the dog compared in South America, in the breed’s country of origin. As a result, he became the top Dogo Argentino there in 2007, finishing a number of South American championship titles, including Argentine champion and grand champion.

2. I began judging in 2004 and am licensed to judge FCI Groups 2, 4 and 5, as well as Bull Terriers. In the United States I’ve had occasion to judge the United Kennel Club’s Cane Corso national specialty in Washington, D.C., and a large AKC regional specialty of Neapolitan Mastiffs in Pomona, California, held in conjunction with the USNMC national specialty in 2010. Shows in the US are very well organized and are very important events in and of themselves, in the sense that everything that revolves around the conformation evaluation of the dog is held in high esteem. So I’ve found excellent organization, perfect judging times, dogs that are always well presented and in optimal condition, and exhibitors who not only don’t need to be chased out of the ring but who also present themselves at the appropriate time for judging.

3. Even the role of judge is seen in a very professional light; not for nothing do organizing committees pay attention to the way judges comport themselves in the ring and the professionalism they show. It would be opportune if American shows introduced written critiques so that exhibitors would know what is correct and incorrect about the dogs they are presenting.

4. I haven’t had the chance to judge many breeds in the United States, and so my knowledge in this regard is limited to the Cane Corso and Neapolitan Mastiff. At any rate, regarding those breeds, I’ve seen dogs that could easily win in Italy. In particular, the Neapolitan Mastiff that I put up in Pomona, Ch. Bruno della Vecchia Roma, was one of the most beautiful Neos that I’ve seen in my life. Regarding the difference between FCI and AKC, what comes to mind is the St. Bernard, which in Europe is of a type that is rather different from that in the US.

5. In Italy at the moment we have some beautiful Great Danes, Dobermans, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers and Dachshunds.

6. I come back to Ch. Bruno della Vecchia Roma, an exceptional Neapolitan Mastiff with a stupendous head, great bone, wonderful correctness of general construction and fantastic character. In the end, he’s a solid dog who isn’t a bowl of pudding, which is what we are becoming more and more accustomed to seeing in the Neo ring. Regarding another dog that has made a tremendous impression on me, I remember the fantastic head of a gray Cane Corso named Ch. Leonitis Big Show Sargent. It was exactly “a cube on a cube,” a beautiful, angular head with a jaw of excellent width, well-developed frontal sinuses and a perfect Cane Corso expression. Among the many dogs that I have had the pleasure of judging and that have really struck me, another that comes to mind is the Cane Corso to which I gave Best of Breed at the most recent FCI World Dog Show, Ch. Stanley Pat Tornado. I haven’t seen a Cane Corso this beautiful in many years, a worthy representation of his breed and a true World Champion. Another dog I remember with enthusiasm, having judged him recently in Portugal, is the beautiful Bullmastiff Ch. Ruppert da Casa Alto Cristelo. And I had occasion to judge some superb Dachshunds in Russia this September, though I don’t recall their names. Translation courtesy of Denise Flaim.



1. I was born and lived in Naples for 28 years of my life, then moved to Rome in 1985. In 1982 when I was 15 years old, I got as a gift from my parents my first Basset Hound, imported from a famous English kennel of that time, Wingjay’s. A year later my father purchased for me my foundation bitch, which also became my first Italian Champion, from the late Mr. Giuseppe Benelli (Del Canedoro kennel). Benelli had purchased some of the best Basset Hounds in the world of those times, including the great Am. Ch. Lyn-Mar Acres M’Lord Batuff, bred by the late, world-famous Mrs. Margaret “Peg” Walton. Mr. Benelli was my first mentor. [Mr. Benelli also co-owned the Crufts BIS Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Brookewire Brandy of Layven with Paolo Dondina. — Ed.] In 1975 I obtained from FCI my registered kennel name “Luna Caprese.” I bred on Del Canedoro lines for some years and finished a few champions; when later I moved to Rome I started all over, importing exclusively American and Canadian bloodlines. I have imported about 20 Basset Hounds over the years; some of them were American champions. SBIS Am. Ch. Woodhavens Go For Broke (Stud Dog of the Year, Southern California BHC) was my dream come true, a very special Basset to me and sired my very best ones. Among those are Multi SBIS Ch. Easy Going Della Luna Caprese, owned by my Danish friends Kresten and Birte Scheel, top Basset Hound of the year and Club Champion in Denmark. He also sired a World Winner daughter. I also wish to mention my top-winning Multi Ch. EW ‘90 Olympos Classic Cadillac (imported from Denmark but coming from famous American Tal-E-Ho and Jercat lines). She set a new record in Italy finishing her Italian Junior Champion and Champion titles undefeated with multiple Specialty BIS and Group wins, becoming top Basset of the year at 20 months of age. In 1989 I also started breeding Longhaired Miniature Dachshunds, specializing in dapples that were a very rare pattern at that time in Europe. I have finished around 30 Italian Champions, European Winners and one World Winner — Multi Ch. Lemon Tea Della Luna Caprese, to my knowledge the first dapple to get that title in the history of the breed. I also had the first SBIS multiple Group-winning dapple ever in Italy, Multi Ch. Kaleidoscope Della Luna Caprese, who also sired a World Winner multi-champion dapple daughter in Russia. Five years ago I judged a chocolate dapple Mini Longhair at a Hound specialty in Canada, Ch. Eriska’s The Phantom ML, fell in love with him and discovered he was linebred on my favorite American Packer and Wagsmore lines. A year later I went back to Canada to buy and bring him with me to Italy. He has sired some of the top Multi Champions, World and European winners of recent years in Europe. A few months ago, while I was in the US to judge a Basset Hound specialty, I bought an Am. Ch. silver dapple Mini Long stud dog, who had been RWD at the DCA nationals from the puppy class, was a multiple specialty winner and sire of AKC champions. That Dachsie, whose name is Am. Ch. Peace Hip JP Meru Silver Prince, has a very interesting history, as he was bred in Japan from American, English and Australian lines, was bought by a very famous Canadian breeder-judge, who noticed him in Japan and took him to Canada, where he was shown successfully and then sold to the US — and now he lives in Italy with us! I hope he will have the same impact on the breed in Europe that Phantom has had.

2. I started judging about 20 years ago. My first breed was Basset Hounds (of course!), and a couple of years later I was licensed to also judge Dachshunds, Bloodhounds and Beagles. Since I soon realized I prefer to judge those breeds I breed myself and have a personal involvement with, I decided not to apply for more breeds. What I like most is judging specialties. I have been lucky to be invited to judge at six specialties in the US so far. The first one was the Western Regionals of the BHCA in 1997; then I judged at Emerald Empire BH Fanciers, Valle Del Sol BHC, Southern California BHC, Badgerland BHC and last July the BHC of Portland Oregon specialty. I also have judged Basset Hound specialties (we call them Club Shows in Europe) in most of the European countries, the national of the Basset Hound Club of Canada and Basset Hound Club of Victoria (Australia).  3. The major difference is in the timing. We have to write a critique on each dog we judge and assign a rating (Sufficient, Rather Good, Good, Very Good or Excellent) reflecting how we feel that dog represents the standard. All this obviously takes time, so we can’t judge as many dogs per day as you can in the US. On the other hand, I think our way of judging gives judges more chances to express their point of view on the dogs and gives exhibitors a reason for the judge’s decision.

4. In my opinion all the breeds I judge are very well represented in US, and all of them are of a more or less different style from what we see in Europe. I would say that something in between the two styles would be best for me in most cases. I have always been a fan of American Basset Hounds, but I have to say I liked them on average better in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s than today. Many American Basset Hounds are getting too small and refined, closely resembling the French breed Basset Artesien Normand from which the Basset Hound originated. But the Basset Hound was meant to be heavier-boned, lower to the ground and bigger sized than the Artesien Normand. Anyway, I still think some of the American Basset Hounds are the best in the world.

5. Speaking of the breeds I judge, we have some really nice Bloodhounds and Dachshunds, while there are also some nice Beagles and Basset Hounds. However, the average quality of these breeds was higher years ago than nowadays.

6. I was very impressed by a Basset Hound that I judged at two big specialties in the US and was very pleased to give him BOB both times, the second a few months ago from the veteran class at 81Ú2 years of age and still in great condition. That was his 40th SBIS! He is GCh. Showtimes Shock and Awe, ROM (‘Sarge’). A really outstanding Basset Hound, he has great overall balance of elegance and substance, which to me is not easy to find in the breed nowadays. Too often there is too little or too much; as I said I have lately seen many refined and small Bassets in the US, while in Europe they are often too big and too heavy. Sarge to me represents the happy medium. Moreover, he sports a very nice layback of shoulder, proper length of upper arm, and a very well developed forechest and ribcage, all features that are not easy to find. It was a pleasure to go over him and find just the right amount of everything I look for. I also liked very much his sire GCh. & Can. Ch. Foxglen’s Special Forces, ROM, a very well-put-together, sound and balanced, very nicely moving Basset, but I prefer his son because he has more substance and masculinity. One of my favorite dogs in Italy, the gorgeous Bracco Italiano Multi Ch. Axel del Monte Alago, is known all over the world, a fantastic dog. From the past I loved the Afghan Hound Multi Ch. Xenos Joselito, also a dog known all over the world for his outstanding quality. 



1. I am Swedish but have lived in Rome since 2001. I grew up in the Sobers kennel and started breeding and showing Italian Greyhounds and Greyhounds with my grandmother, the late Mrs. Astrid Jonsson, as a very young girl in the early ‘70s. Astrid was the founder of Sobers in Sweden in 1957. My interest started early and my love for all dogs, especially the sighthound breeds, just became stronger when being active in the Swedish Sighthound Club and some breed clubs for many years. I had the fortune to meet many important breeders and had some really nice mentors in different sighthound breeds. I have also been handling most of the sighthound breeds, which really gave me a great chance to know these breeds even better. Currently, our breeding also includes Whippets and the Italian Pointing dog, the Bracco Italiano. First with my grandmother, and today with my husband Pierluigi Primavera, Sobers is responsible for more than 350 champions and many exports around the world. We have bred and shown BIS winners in all four breeds, including BIS at the World Dog Show in 2006, Reserve BIS at the European dog show 2006 and BIS at the Eukanuba World Challenge 2009. We have had several Crufts BOB winners (Greyhounds, Whippets and Bracco Italiano) since 2004, as well as at Westminster (2008) and at the AKC/Eukanuba National show (2007 and 2008). We won Top Dog all breeds 2008 in Italy with our Bracco Italiano Ch. Axel Del Monte Alago, top Whippet in Italy 2010 and top Greyhound in Italy every year since 2001. We also had an Irish Wolfhound and Deerhounds, and today we enjoy the company of a Borzoi and a young Beagle here at Sobers. I have been working as a veterinary technician for more than 20 years. 

2. I became a judge in Sweden in 1992 and am approved to judge Group 10 (Sighthounds) and Podengos Portugues, Ibizan Hounds, Pharaoh Hounds and Cirneco dell’Etna in Group 5. I just recently became approved as an “Italian” judge. I have been judging all these breeds at international level around Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, and in Russia (including specialties). I have also judged in the US and Great Britain and have invitations to Australia and Japan in 2013. I have no wish to expand my “judging range,” but I might eventually add a few breeds that interest me and that I have been following for many years. Although I very much like many breeds from different groups, I do not see it as necessary to judge them; there are great people with much more knowledge and experience who should do so.

3. I do like American shows because they are always very well organized and punctual, something that we are not often used to in Italy. The system is easy and quick, but I personally prefer the written critiques of the dogs like it’s done here in Europe, which explains to the owner-breeder the judge’s opinion of each dog. I feel that shows in the US, and also in Europe, have become more a “game” about rankings and BIS wins, instead of being an evaluation of breeding stock or about each breed’s specific qualities and shortcomings. When judging at European shows, I like to also have “open” critiques, explaining to handlers and spectators why certain dogs are placed as they are. Of course, this is only possible when the entry is not too large, but it’s usually appreciated.  Italian shows are usually a bit chaotic (seen from a Swedish and American perspective), and we are used to sitting around waiting for a long time, both as exhibitors and as judges! There are some shows that are very well organized and, to name just one, I think the international show in Varese/Busto Arsizio, called “Insubria Winner,” is one of the leading shows here. Normally an international show in Italy would have about 1,200 to 1,500 dogs entered. We do have a few professional handlers in Italy (I think only UK, Spain and Russia have more professional handlers in Europe), and they are usually successful both here and abroad. Otherwise most dog people here choose to show their own dogs, and the shows are often a family event, where you meet other breed enthusiasts.  We usually finish the day “the Italian way” with a nice dinner and a glass of wine in good company before traveling home! Italian dog people are very active and successful at the big, important shows all around Europe (the World Dog Show, European Winner show and Crufts). We have several important Italian breeders who have been writing breed history by producing high-quality dogs (Irish Wolfhounds, Labradors, Collies, Greyhounds, Whippets and American Staffordshires, just to name a few). The entry fee at dog shows in Europe is increasing everywhere, especially at the big international shows (like the World Dog Shows and European Winner shows), and entry figures are slipping. We see this trend all over Europe. This sport/hobby costs a lot of money today, and travel expenses and fees make dog people in all of Europe more careful when making their show plans. 

4. Speaking about the breeds I judged in the States, I think Whippets and Salukis were the strongest among the sighthounds. (This of course depends on the entries at the show.) Among other breeds, I saw some really lovely Molosser breeds that really impressed me — they are actually much sounder and more correct than what we see over here. I have admired several Terriers in the US, especially Smooth Fox Terriers, Sealyhams and Airedales, and also some of the Toy breeds. Many of the hunting dogs, like Setters, Spaniels and Retrievers, are totally different. It’s important to remember that the AKC and FCI breed standards are quite different in several breeds, but even in breeds where the standards are quite similar, the dogs in the US often tend to differ in type, shape and size from what I’m used to. Some of this might be because judges often put up dogs that are stacked and move exactly the same way, no matter what breed it is. Somehow the dogs’ showmanship and attitude have become increasingly important, and very often breed type gets lost on the way. All the dogs run out in front of their owners, no matter if it is a Pug or a German Shepherd. Many handlers today (in the US and increasingly in Europe) often run like crazy around the ring, no matter what breed they are showing. That, sometimes and for some breeds, denotes an important lack of breed-specific knowledge. A typical example of breed standards that differ is that for the Italian Greyhound (Piccolo Levriero Italiano), which describe little dogs that are quite different between the two continents (US vs. Italy). This sometimes makes it very difficult for breeders to cooperate across the continents.

5. Particularly strong breeds in Italy: FCI’s Group 1 (Australian Shepherd, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, German Shepherd), Group 2 (Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Doberman, Cane Corso), some breeds in Group 3 (Terriers), 4 (Dachshunds), 5 (Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky), 9 (Toys), as well as in Group 10 (Greyhounds, Whippets and Irish Wolfhounds have been doing great in and outside of Italy). 

6. My favorites in the US: Sealyham Terrier Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo At Goodspice (‘Charmin’), a fabulous dog that made you turn your head even if you didn’t know the breed. The Giant Schnauzer Ch. Galilee’s Pure Of Spirit (‘Spirit’), stunning, with such lovely outline and style both standing and moving. Favorites in Italy: Bracco Italiano Multi BIS Multi Ch. & Working Ch. Rivana del Monte Alago. She is the reason I fell in love with this classic Italian breed. She was Top Dog (all breeds) in Italy 2002. I was lucky to get one of her sons, who later became the world-famous Axel, mentioned earlier. A favorite elsewhere in Europe: Grand Basset Griffon Vendeén Multi & BIS Multi Ch. Jour de No‘l van Tum-Tum’s Vriendjes, a fabulous dog always moving around the ring with such energy and happiness. Although I don’t know the breed, he’s still a dog that remains on my mind.



1. My name is Michele Carmelo Palazzo and my hometown is Molfetta, Bari. I recently modified the standard for the Neapolitan Mastiff, and the modifications were published in Modern Molosser magazine in the US this past year. I started in 1980 with Neapolitan Mastiffs. My kennel name was Illimani. Champions, all Neapolitan Mastiffs:

  • Nerone was a male with the titles of Italian Champion, International Champion and Reproduction Champion ¥ Rea was a female with the titles of Italian Champion and ATIMANA Champion (ATIMANA = Associazione Tecnica Internationale Mastino Napoletano) ¥ Ida was also a female with the titles of Italian Champion and ATIMANA Champion
  • King Kong was a male with the title of Italian Champion
  • Rio was also a male with the title of Reproduction Champion
  • Agamennone, a male who was an ATIMANA Champion

My Illimani breeding branched out to several countries:

  • Tiberio, a male, became an American Champion
  • Lima, a female, was World Champion and Champion ATIMANA in Mexico
  • Fenice, a female, was Jr. Ch. ATIMANA in Venezuela
  • A female, Cuba, was Jr. Ch. ATIMANA in Palma de Mallorca

2. I started judging in the 1990s and am FCI approved for Group 2 (Great Dane, Boxer, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Doberman, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, Fila Brasileiro, Hovawart, Mastiff, Pyrenean Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Spanish Mastiff, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Shar Pei, Tibetan Mastiff and Black Russian Terrier). In the US I have judged the following: March 2009, New Brunswick KC, a New Jersey Neapolitan Mastiff specialty, Doberman, Great Dane, Mastiff, Bullmastiff and Rottweiler. After the show, I gave a seminar on the Neapolitan Mastiff and was interviewed, which was then published in Modern Molosser magazine. In 2007 or 2008 I went to Fort Worth, Texas, to judge a Cane Corso specialty. After the show, I gave a seminar on the Cane Corso. A few years earlier I judged a Neapolitan Mastiff specialty in Los Angeles, California, and gave a seminar after the show referring to this breed. The next day I caught a flight to judge in Indianapolis, Indiana — another Neapolitan Mastiff specialty.

3. I admire the American dog shows for their professionalism because a majority of the dogs are presented by handlers. It adds “polish” to the show. I like the AKC shows for their precision in organizing the event itself, giving importance to the word “show.” At Italian dog shows the focus is concentrated on the judging of the dogs, which is more detailed and technical.

4. Best breeds in the US: English Bulldog, Great Dane, Doberman, Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Tibetan Mastiff. Most different from FCI shows: the Boxer.

5. The strongest breeds in Italy at the moment are the Labrador and Golden Retriever, Boxer and Rottweiler.

6. Among the dogs I have really admired in the US is a fawn Great Dane I gave BOB to in California; it later went on to Best in Show. I can’t remember the name. [The only Great Dane to win BIS in California during the years Mr. Palazzo was there 2002 to 2004 was Ch. Harley D’s Eat Your Hardt Out, TD, BIS at Sacramento KC. Mr. Palazzo is not able to confirm that this is the dog he saw, however. — Ed.] My favorite FCI show dog is the Bracco Italiano Ch. Axel del Monte Alago, who was a champion in Italy and later went to participate (and win) at the Eukanuba World Challenge in Long Beach, California.

From the November 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the November 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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