The 2018 World Show at Cesena promised to be a year of change with the introduction of an expanded classification and the imposition of a new Scale of Points for Lizard canaries. In Part 2 of my World Show report, I will examine the impact of these innovations.
The first question to ask is did the new classification result in more birds being exhibited? If you compare the number of birds entered at Cesena with the last World Show held in Italy at Bari (2014) you will get the following results:
There is no breakdown of the type of cap at previous world shows, but my impression was that no more than 10% of the Lizards were broken caps. The percentage of broken caps entered at Cesena was 40.8%, a substantial increase, yet the total number of Lizards rose by only 17.4%. This suggests that breeders were substituting broken caps for clear caps and non caps, rather than augmenting them. Furthermore, we have to remember that Cesena attracted a record entry of 32,068 birds, a rise of 23.8% over Bari. Was the growth in the Lizard section due to the new classification, or did it just follow the general trend in rising numbers? I suspect we will need to analyse the figures from several World Shows before we can answer that question.
A concern voiced by many people ahead of the 2018 World Show was that the proliferation in classes would devalue the competition. With 36 medals on offer for classic Lizards, how could you tell who was the real World Champion? The answer proved to be surprisingly straightforward. According to the medal table (see Part 1): Giorgio Massarutto was clearly the best, Jules Etienne came second and Domenico Mungiguerra third; but what if we look at that question from a different angle? If we compare medals against the number of birds bred by these fanciers, a different picture emerges. I’m told that Giorgio breeds around 300 Lizards a year, Jules about 150, while Domenico bred 50 Lizards in 2017. On that basis, Domenico’s results are quite outstanding. To use a boxing analogy, Domenico Mungiguerra was, pound for pound, the campionissimo at Cesena (1).
The critics were right in one respect though. Competition was almost non-existent in some of the stams. Gold medals were awarded to two stams that included a bird with only 88 points. Another class contained only a single stam. It is not the fault of the breeder that he had no competition, but it undoubtedly diminished his achievement. It would have been better if the expanded classification had applied only to the classes for single birds, but COM doesn’t work like that, and this unsatisfactory state of affairs is likely to continue.
I had speculated that the definition of clear cap, broken cap and non cap might have caused problems for both judges and exhibitors. Based on what I had seen at the Lizarddag and Bologna, I thought the 10% rule (as per the LCA classification) might apply; others predicted that there would be zero tolerance. In practice, the judges allowed some latitude and exhibitors used their common sense. No birds were disqualified.
Cesena also saw the introduction of the new Scale of Points for the Lizard canary, a controversial change pushed through by COM in highly dubious circumstances. A further complication arose because the new show scale does not match the show standard in two important respects: there are no points for the eyelash, and the size of the bird differs in the two documents. Would we see a repeat of Almeria when birds with missing eyelashes were awarded medals? Would we see a return to the small snipey birds that prevailed at Tours in 2011?
One judge told me that he appreciated the greater range of points awarded for spangles and rowings. Not all judges took advantage of this opportunity. I noticed that in the stams almost every bird was awarded 13 points for rowings regardless of sex or colour; a curious consistency when you consider the disparity between gold cocks and silver hens. An exception was this gold hen with outstanding rowings from Domenico Mungiguerra which was awarded 93 points in her stam .
Two aspects of the judging stood out: firstly the judges were not enamoured of the reduction in size that was permitted in the new score sheet; they all favoured birds of substance. The best way I can explain ‘birds of substance’ is to repeat this description by John Scott which Ernest Gracia quoted in his article Fine Form:
“Lizards are not judged on their shape, but common sense dictates that if the spangling and rowings are to be seen to advantage, they need a bird of cobby appearance, with deep rounded breast and width between the shoulders. The skull should also be broad and nicely rounded to set off the cap.”
This is the type of Lizard that I was taught to appreciate when I was a novice; the type of bird bred by all the top breeders of the day, not only John but also Keith Knighton, Norman Reeve, Albert Durrell, David Newton and Stan Bolton. Nowadays this type of Lizard is associated with the best Italian and Belgian breeders too. It was no surprise that the three most successful fanciers at the show came from those two countries.
The other notable feature of the judging was the rise of cock birds as prize contenders. It was not always so, but things started to change in 2014 when Fabio Macchioni entered a non cap silver cock with excellent rowings at Bari. It didn’t win, but it caught the attention of breeders, particularly those in Italy, Belgium and Great Britain. At Cesena there were several cock birds on show, both gold and silver, and one of them, a clear cap silver cock from Giorgio Massarutto, won a gold medal (illustrated in Part 1).
However, it was Domenico Mungiguerra’s birds that best demonstrated why silver cocks can make such good show birds. Their rowings are improving all the time, even though they can’t match a good silver hen yet. They have two advantage however: deeper ground colour and a boldness that many hens lack. You can see his clear cap cock at the head of this article, and another eye-catching bird, a non cap silver cock, above.
So was the new scale of points a success? Like the new classification, it is too early to say. While the judging was generally sound, there were problems that overshadowed the event and made it impossible to assess the impact of the new score sheet. I will discuss them in Part 3.
- Campionissimo translates as ‘champion of champions’, a term I associate with Fausto Coppi, one of the greatest racing cyclists ever.