Leg Length

An early lesson in evaluating dogs warns against “parts judging,” another way of remembering to look at the whole dog when sizing it up. That said, there are caveats that help us appraise dog’s ability to do the job for which its breed was created.  In breeds built for speed, we refer to those immortal words sung by ZZ Top, “She’s got legs, she knows how to use them.”  Up to a point, a longer leg increases speed, but beyond that point, speed actually decreases because of the muscle power needed.

At what point are long legs, “too long?”

Accepted wisdom is that in sighthounds, the best leg length is approximately 1.3 times the depth of the dog’s brisket – the front part of the dog’s body between his forelegs and below his chest. Any longer than this requires more power to keep the legs moving.

To state the obvious, sighthounds have a greater leg-length-to height ratio than other breeds that fall in the guardian dog, herding dog or gun dog category. Having more upright shoulders and croups helps them in their double-suspension gallop when they essentially “fold in half” and then stretch out.  The shorter the dog’s breed, the lower will be the leg-length-to-height ratio.

Image: “Three Dogs” metal print by Richard Williamson is available as home decor and lifestyle items here.

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