Oblique Eyes: Does Your Breed’s Standard Call for Them?

Dogs have the greatest variation of eye and orbit structure of any species in the world, but even in the dog world, one doesn’t often hear the word, “oblique” used much to describe eyes. When it comes to dogs and eyes, “oblique” typically describes an eye in which the outer corners of the eye are higher than the inner corners. Put another way, it usually indicates where the eyes are set on a dog’s face.

In the Collie, for instance, a Collie’s fore face must be chiseled to form a receptacle for the eyes because of a combination of a flat skull, arched eyebrows, a slight stop and a rounded muzzle. The eyes, then, are necessarily placed obliquely to give them the required forward outlook.

Other breeds in which the eyes are oblique according to their AKC breed standard (written between parenthesis):

Basenji (Eyes-Dark hazel to dark brown, almond shaped, obliquely set and farseeing);

Ibizan Hound (the eyes are oblique and small);

Bichon Frise (obliquely set eye);

Chow Chow (Eyes dark brown, deep set and placed wide apart and obliquely);

Finnish Spitz (Eyes – Almond-shaped with black rims. Obliquely set with moderate spacing between…)

Keeshond (Eyes should be dark brown in color, of medium size, almond shaped, set obliquely and neither too wide apart nor too close together);

Alaskan Malamute (The eyes are obliquely placed in the skull);

American Hairless Terrier (Eyes are expressive, set obliquely);

Bedlington Terrier (Eyes – Almond-shaped, small, bright and well sunk with no tendency to tear or water. Set is oblique and fairly high on the head);

Bull Terrier (Eyes: Should be well sunken and as dark as possible, with a piercing glint and they should be small, triangular and obliquely placed);

Miniature Bull Terrier (the eyes should be well sunken and as dark as possible with a piercing glint. They should be small, triangular and obliquely placed, set near together and high up on the dog’s head);

Rat Terrier (Eyes: They are obliquely set wide apart and are oval in shape).

In some breed standards, the eyes need only be set “somewhat,” “slightly” or even a “trifle” obliquely according to their AKC breed standard (written between parenthesis):

The Bergamasco (eyes are large, oval, and set just slightly obliquely);

Borzoi (Eyes: Set somewhat obliquely);

German Shepherd Dog (eyes of medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely);

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Eyes – The eyes are set well apart, slightly oblique and almond in shape);

Pembroke Welsh Corgi (eyes set somewhat obliquely);

Sheltie (eyes medium size with dark, almond-shaped rims, set somewhat obliquely in skull);

Spanish Water Dog (eyes are slightly oblique);

Portuguese Podengo Pequeno  (Eyes: very lively expression with small almond shape set slightly oblique);

Great Pyrenees (Eyes – Medium sized, almond shaped, set slightly obliquely);

Portuguese Water Dog (Eyes – Medium in size; set well apart, and a bit obliquely);

Siberian Husky (Eyes almond shaped, moderately spaced and set a trifle obliquely), .

Interestingly, an obliquely set eye is a severe fault in the Coton de Tulear, and no toy breed mentions the word, “oblique” with regards to the eye at all.

What does it matter?

Dogs have two eyes which gives them binocular vision, the area within a dog’s total field of view. It’s what gives a dog the depth of perception they need to pursue prey. The exact degree of binocular vision for a dog’s total visual field depends on the shape of the dog’s head and the exact placement of the eyes. Few toy breeds we know of actually are called upon to hunt, and perhaps this is why no toy breed calls for oblique eyes. Eye set matters, as well, because it helps us understand our dogs: The Chow Chow, for example, has such deep set eyes that its peripheral vision is reduced, a good thing to know for the person thinking of approaching a Chow Chow from the rear.

Standards matters in ways that have nothing to do with a show ring.

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