This is a common question and is confusing here in the US.  A show breeder is simply a breeder who breeds their animals to a set of specified show standards.

Now that we’re done with the simple definition, we’ll attack the hard part of this question.  There are many sets of standards which are in use.  Most have a lot of similarities, but some have rather odd variations on seemingly common terms.  They can be confusing.  Thus, a hamster that might win by one set of standards might not have a chance (or could even be disqualified) by another set of standards.  Hence the need for a unified set of standards (one of the key goals of the AHA).

Thus, when someone claims to be a show breeder, the first question  you need to ask is which standards they are breeding toward.  Most of us in the US  now accept the BHA standards  Standards from organizations like the AHA and the CHA are essentially the BHA standards with a couple of additions due to genes which are common here but not there (like the Opal standard).  These differences are clearly spelled out on the CHA site.

If the breeder cannot tell you the standards that they breed to, I would not consider them a show breeder.  They are not breeding toward a set of show standards.  They are a hobby or pet breeder.  This does not make their animals any better or worse than a show breeder’s animals.  It just means they’ll be less likely to win at a serious show.  If that is your goal, look elsewhere.

I’ll give an example.  A woman wrote to me saying she was a show breeder.  Since I did not know of any clubs in her region, I asked which standards she bred to and which shows she showed at.  I thought we might have found a new club.  She replied that she did not know what the standards were.  She only knew that a couple of hamsters she had sold to kids had won at the County Fair.  The criteria she described were an exact match with our “Best Pet” award.  I would consider her a pet or hobby breeder but definitely not a show breeder.

Other breeders are claiming they breed to the BHA standards but have never been to a hamster show which uses those standards (or been to any hamster show at all).  This is not surprising since there are so few hamster shows in the US.  It does, though, make me wonder if they have the experience and understanding of the standards to be able to adequately breed to those standards.  Reading them is not the hard part.  Applying them if far harder.  Without the experience of showing the animals, having them critiqued by an experienced show judge, and being able to compare the animals against those raised by others for the same purpose, this breeder is at a distinct disadvantage.  Be very careful in these instances.  Find out who has trained them in the application of the standards in their animals.  See if a qualified judge has mentored them in the process.  Speak with that qualified judge to see how their animals compare to others they have seen and judged.  That will give you a much more objective opinion of their animals.

Lastly, many people claim they know the standards since they show dogs or rabbits or some other animal.  Although showing another animal will help them understand the judging concepts like type, it does little else.  Having discussed this with many judges who keep multiple species, all claim that you must learn each species separately.  Knowing one does not come close to meaning that you know another.  Even rat judges that I know claim total incompetence with hamsters.  The colors are entirely different making it hard to switch between species.  Even dwarves and syrians have a lot of differences which is why the BHA and other organizations train judges in one species at a time.

So don’t be lulled into complacency by someone’s claim of being a show breeder.  Delve in.  Ask them a lot of questions.  Ask them what standards they breed to, how long they have been breeding to those standards, what features they are focusing on in their animals (ie the strengths and weaknesses), who trained them in the application of the standards, etc.  No serious show breeder will mind these questions.  Actually, many will welcome someone who doesn’t accept everything on blind faith.
What is a Show Breeder?
by Linda Price
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