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Interview: Chris Levingston and Lesley Dellar-Levingston

(At the time of this interview, the Levingstons lived in Adelaide, Australia. We sent them a list of questions which they have answered for us, along with some "side" comments).

I am Chris Levingston. My wife is Lesley Dellar-Levingston, and we are owned and loved by Australian Champion Delmagyar Lanze ("Lanza").

Lanza just finished eating the remains of our dinner, which was stew with LOTS of chillies and other hot stuff, so has headed outside for lots of water!

Q. What type of hereditary problems are you aware of in the breed. What type of testing is regularly done?

A. Australians generally only worry about HD (hip dysplasia). MANY breeders do not test, and we have seen the results, with unfortunate people getting lovely puppies who end up with HD. Breed clubs are beginning to crack down. The Australian club will no longer accept stud information from people who do not supply HD scores. We use the British system (BFA), and rename it to AFA.

For example, Lanze is 8 (3 and 5), which is a low, good score. The lowest that we have seen is 0, in an English boy. At the moment, no one talks about elbows. However, we saw that vet lectures are being done on elbows, so stand by for discussions on that subject.

By the way, we will try to get our baby boy (silly, isn’t it, to think of a two year old as a baby?) tested for all five of your tests. It has not proved easy, in the short time since we returned from Miami, to arrange.

Q. Do you see skin problems frequently in your dogs? Is thyroid function regularly checked?

A. We do not see many skin problems, and thyroids are not checked (yet!).

Q. What breed standard is used? How does it differ (if at all) from the English or American standard?

A. We use the English standard.

Q. Do you think that showing produces fads in the breed for a particular type? Are these fads perpetuated by breeders in order to win.

A. Yes -- showing DOES produce fads! Dogs go from rare to interesting to popular to common to indiscriminately over-bred, altered and spoiled. And, when we have puppy farmers (your "puppy mills") who make lots of money by mass-producing "interesting puppies," then the problem will continue. (Here goes Chris on his soap-box!) At the moment, Australia’s "winningest" dog is Calcavalier Fire and Rain (Griswold -- known to his friends as "Grizzy"). Grizzy is a beautiful dog, and his owners are the same. Lanze is not yet grown up, being only nearly two years old, so Grizzy has that adult body to his advantage, as well as his staggering good looks.

Now, we reckon that we have managed a dog (our first mastiff, by the way, after Lesley’s 26 years of Weimaraners) who is capable of being the best mastiff around, for the short time that it will take for a better one to be bred and shown. We joke about that to Grizzy’s owners, who we reckon are great folks. However, if Lanze never beats Grizzy, then we will accept the umpire’s verdict, and agree that our love for our boy has clouded our judgement. However, in the interim, Lanze has been winning all of the time (and finally got a Group), so we have been approached by our happy puppy farmers. We have absolutely refused to consider them, on two grounds.

First, the bitches offered are garbage, and we would rather Lanze died unmated, than have him father rubbish. Second, we were approached before he was HD tested, and the breeders knew that, and did not care. It feels good to get that off my chest.

Q. Is there a main breed club for mastiffs in the country (like MCOA)? Are there regional clubs, if so how many?

A. We have an Australian Club (and are members), plus the Victorian Club. There are no other regional clubs, to our knowledge.

Q. Are most dogs owner-handled at shows or do you use professional handlers to a greater extent?

A. There are NO professional handlers.

Thank you Chris and Lesley for providing some insight into the Australian Mastiff fancy. Our original list of questions also included ones relative to feeding methods, vaccination programs, veterinarians, training methods, therapy programs, breeding methods/use of A.I., frozen or chilled semen, etc. These will be answered in another issue.

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