Boxer - inteview to Antón Moscoso
1. How did you start in boxers?
I was 28 years old, single and fully dedicated to competitive sport and everything that generally goes with it like going to the beach, sunbathing, tanning, long walks on the beach, allowing girls to admire me, etc. when I met a very young and very pretty woman who quickly made me realize what a fool I was.
She worked at a car company as a secretary and bought, with a month’s salary, a german shepherd puppy bitch. She wanted a male but she could not afford one as males were more expensive.
That was my first contact with dogs. This was back in 1962 in Bilbao, Basque Country, where my girlfriend -now wife- and I were born.
Unfortunately this little bitch was gone soon, but she had made a dent, we were hooked on dogs and replaced her with a brindle boxer of English origins -Gremlin-, which we bought in Madrid at a multi-breed kennel which is no longer active.
2. When and how did you decide to become a boxer breeder?
Following the above, I retired from sport at 30, I married this beautiful woman and had a not-so-beautiful boxer with an excellent temperament, loving, but a terrible fighter with other dogs, characteristic that I myself -my ego- promoted, with the result that outside the home the dog almost became a danger, and I could only take him for walks to lone rural areas or to the mountains in order to avoid the chances of meeting another dog.
At that time we still did not think about breeding. Just after our first daughter -Natacha- was born we started to go to dog shows and soon we had our first litter, still without a kennel affix, which we got years later.
3. What first attracted you to boxers? What was the state of the breed back then?
The first thing that appealed to me was the appearance, and if you allow me, I will tell you how it happened. I had never seen a boxer ‘live’ or in any other way, but in those times smokers -I was a smoker back then- used matches and match boxes used to have some sort of illustration. There was a series portraying dog breeds, and one day I got one with a red ‘boxer’, cropped and sitting facing me. This caused such a visual impact on me that I was almost KO.
It seemed to me a proud, superb creature, almost majestic. I said to myself: ‘this is my dog’, and the rest is history.
Regarding the state of the breed back then, I did not have any knowledge to allow me to evaluate its situation at that particular time, and it took me many years to be able to do such an assessment. This is why I have always been surprised by these clever novices that in 3-4 years and after reading a couple of books are ready to give lectures to those of us that have already forgotten what they may never get to know!
4. How did you choose your breeder affix?
At that time we lived in a valley called ‘Urkabustaiz’, which means ‘waterfall valley’ in Basque language and I thought that was a suitable name and as pretty as any other.
5. The first experience as a boxer breeder? And about showing?
After some time I bought a female from the same kennel and I had my first litter, without kennel affix. We kept a brindle female, quite nice, but she died at 2 years old from an intestinal obstruction caused by swallowing a chestnut that did not come out and had to be taken out by surgery, unfortunately the bitch did not overcome it and died. For some time we limited ourselves to entering/attending some shows while we pursued our other hobby which was riding horses, we had two horses of our own at a private stable near Bilbao.
6. Which were your best boxers at that time?
That is when we moved to a cottage in the Urkabustaiz valley with our horses, and there we thought it was time to have better dogs than those we had had till then. With the help of Kurt Gendrung, famous judge specialist in boxers -still active as an all-rounder now- I got to know Horst Rethage, owner of the kennel affix ‘von Heideloh’ who did not have any puppies at that time and directed me to Günter Schlömann, affix ‘von Greffen’. I will never thank Mr. and Ms. Schlömann enough for their excellent demeanor in our relationship that lasted several years and who taught me important things about the breed. From him and his breeding I got my first quality boxers, which became some of the most notable imports in Spain in those days. Those were Cay v. Greffen, Delphi v. Greffen, Dux v. Greffen (all of them by the great Carlo v. Henningshof) and Gigi v. Greffen (by the also great Carlino v. Nassau-Oranien).
Cay was the first real quality boxer I had and my first Spanish Champion, he won the Madrid International Show twice in a row. He was a litter brother to Cliff v. Greffen, perhaps the best stud dog in Germany at the time.
7. Have you ever been a large scale breeder’?
We already had 7 horses by then, I was keen on riding them with my daughter Natacha and taking care of quality horses became a huge amount of work, so even though in theory I had an excellent bloodline as a basis for my boxer breeding, I did not feel like adding much more work with the dog breeding like one must when you breed dogs. So I spent a few years breeding one litter per year, which is approximately what we breed now, because in 40 years we have bred some 40 litters. With all respect for others of a different opinion, I firmly believe that breeding a lot and breeding well with all that this entails is incompatible. This is why I am not in awe when I get to know that some kennels that dominate the show scene due to the sheer number of dogs they produce each year and get to the show rings –some of which are indeed quality dogs- have produced that year 15 or more litters, 50 or more puppies. How many mediocre or deficient ones have they produced and sold through pet shops, etc. at low price even without papers? I believe it is more difficult and worthy to breed well breeding less.
8. Asess the boxer scene then and how you evolved as a boxer person.
When I got into boxers in Spain, the world of pedigreed dogs here was just starting, there were shows with only 4 boxers entered, and the knowledge boxer people had was similar to mine, that is, almost nothing, and came from the few publications available then. In this sense, I was almost a self-taught person. When I really started to learn was when I visited the v. Greffen kennel and started to attend the Jahressieger, Europasieger at Dortmund and other important shows in Europe, just as a spectator then as I felt my dogs were not up to par to compete there.
From 1975 on I started to attend such shows regularly, but I did not enter any dogs in Germany until the mid- 80’s. Nevertheless, I was already showing outside Spain: France, Portugal, Switzerland - my bitch Gigi won her class in Laussane, and my male Cay in Lisbon and Santarem.
9. Which have been the most important kennels in your opinion?
From the old affixes I will mention with no doubt v. Nassau-Oranien, Bereler Ries, Heideloh, Springbach (incredibly beautiful Xora v. Springbach, perhaps the most beautiful specimen of the breed that in my opinion has not yet been surpassed or even matched), etc. Among today’s affixes I will not mention some in order to avoid making any more enemies than I already have, but anyway I will mention the kennel v. Hause-Rehberg, whose owner Hedwig Schädel is in my opinion the best breeder in the last 15-20 years, besides being a serious person, efficient and reliable as a dog trainer. In the last few years, who has gotten so many quality dogs and champions breeding so little? It has been surprising her intuition to find and use the dog that would produce, which would afterwards be ‘found’ by everybody …
10. Describe your ideal boxer.
Red or brindle, large, with not much white, relationship muzzle:skull 0.90:2, neck a bit longer than is usual in the breed, elegant cropped ears, front and rear legs like those English boxers have -and I do not mean angulation-, short tail with 3 or 4 vertebrae, a beautiful underline -different to those similar to dobermann’s, so common today-, and above all, a proud attitude, class, protagonism, this specimen that gets into the ring and seems to ask: Who’s second?. The sort of boxer that could result mixing Apoll v. Bereler Ries (nose to whithers), Urkabustaiz'tar Merlín (whithers to tail) and the personality and brilliantness of Eicko v. Herforder Ring. What a dream!
11. What were the problems the breed faced then? And now?
I do not know what the breed’s problems were back in the 60’ and 70’ as I was not that deeply involved then, but it is evident to me that the lesser beauty of the dogs then was compensated by a higher vigour and better health than those of today’s dogs -this even with the advance of veterinary science now-, al least this has been my experience.
About today’s problems, I firmly believe they come from the terrible inbreeding within the boxer breed. Independently of the higher or lesser capability of any given stud dog to pass on conformation traits, it is almost impossible to get away from this inbreeding, as in the pedigrees of nearly all of today’s boxers you find the same dogs.
12. Mention some important boxer people.
I guess I would mention the same names everybody mentions, so that is a given. But I want to take the opportunity to mention Dr. Bruce Cattanach, a notable geneticist, who in my opinion has achieved an unprecedented feat in the boxer breed, which is to develop the bobtail boxer. This alone puts him well above the typical breeder.
If, as seems probable, the docking ban expands to my country, his wonderful work will allow me to keep having boxers with a short tail and with a minimum of inbreeding as is desirable.
13. Do you think it is feasible to breed the perfect boxer?
The problem would probably lie in the fact that what I find perfect may not be perfect for somebody else, as the concept of beauty and perfection is in part subjective and differs from person to person. Some people do not have any sense of beauty but as they shout so loud they are sometimes able to make prevail their ‘lack of criterion’.
14. What breeding system is more effective? Which do you use?
I believe the breed type is sufficiently fixed so that we can go on perfecting it without resorting to inbreeding at all. I do not believe in complementarity, that is, use on my bitch the characteristic she does not have, I prefer to use a male that has the same virtue and thus allows to fix it, once this is achieved in her progeny, it may be pursued to fix another desired virtue and so on till there is nothing else to improve – What a laugh!!!
15. Between two defects, how do you decide which is more serious?
It depends on the degree in which any of them is present. At any rate the one that sets the dog further away from breed type. As an example, some or a lot of loose skin under the throat is less serious to me than the absence of a black mask.
16. What are the necessary basic virtues in a boxer?
All those that make the boxer a unique breed. This is like american cars, in their day it was said that when you had had one, you did not want to have a different car. Just look who has introduced in the market those types of cars that then everyone has copied like 4x4, SUV, minivans, big engines, etc.
17. What is your opinion about dog shows? Do you think they help breeding better dogs or just the contrary?
I believe they are necessary as dogs shows are a venue for breeders and breed lovers to see dogs and assess the general state of the breed and its improvements or setbacks, this would otherwise be almost impossible to do and at any rate would only be accessible to a few. Another matter of course is the commercial aspect of shows, that in my opinion should abandon certain things and improve on others. I will not list these things as it would make this interview too lengthy and turn it into a book. Besides, it would be rejected by most of those that make a livehood of it, including club officers, judges, big breeders (those that breed 6, 10 and more litters/year) and would only be accepted by some devoted amateurs, and this only if they do not have a very big ego.
18. Who are the best breeders today?
I leave that to each person’s criteria, doing it would imply that all those I do not mention are breeding poorly or not as well.
19. What do you think is more important in a boxer, conformation or temperament?
A more or less beautiful boxer or even an ugly one can be a wonderful companion that one remembers with love and heartache. A boxer with no temperament or a poor temperament will become an unbearable animal that will ruin your days. So, just as it is said about humans, ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ (a sound mind in a sound body).
20. And your opinion about the breed’s health issues?
I do not know if boxers have more or less problems than other breeds, but I feel that in the past they needed less veterinary care. What I have noticed too is that today there are reproduction problems that did not exist then. But maybe this is just my observation or bad luck I have had lately.
21. What is your stance regarding white boxers?
I believe they should get a pedigree and even be allowed to breed but not be shown. What a genetic waste! I refer you to my website where you will find a lenghty and well documented article about the white boxer written by my daughter Natacha.
22. What is your opinion about the bans on ear cropping and tail docking?
I like cropped ears and docked tails, to the point that if in the future I were not allowed to show my dogs this way, I would quit showing and breeding altogether, and would limit myself to just owning a couple of boxers that would produce an ‘aesthetic pleasure’ to me. The pleasure that I have enjoyed since I discovered boxers till today. But I hope that Dr. Cattanach’s feat can spare me having to take such a decision.
23. And about diet, what is best, natural or dry food?
Of course a natural well balanced diet. Would you feed your children some sort of Eukanuba for humans if it existed? Though it would certainly be more convenient.
24. What do you think is the best place for a boxer?
The best sofa in your living room.
25. Do you know the American boxer? What is your opinion about them?
I had the opportunity to judge them in Brasil. I had a difficult time and will not judge them again.
26. What advice would you give to new fanciers and breeders?
That they enjoy doing it and are in no hurry. Success will come sooner or later and they will have their ‘day of glory’.
27. What is the future of the breed? Where is the boxer heading as a breed?
Taking into account that at my age I do not have a great future but a wonderful past, I do not waste much time predicting things -which is something I have never been good at anyway- but I suspect it will depend more on fashion than on reason.
28. What are your plans for the future?
I hope to not suffer from hip pain after the surgery I will undertake in the near future.
19. Short bio. Other hobbies.
Name: Antón Moscoso Bilbao, born on 7th March 1934. Married to the same woman for 40 years, two daughters.
Spanish Olympic Weightlifting Champion 8 years in a row, one of my records was undefeated for 23 years, I do not like team sports but individual ones like boxing, athletics, gymnastics, sumo, in that order.
I like my family, boxer dogs, working little, not having responsibilities. I like music, particularly opera and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to listen ‘live’ to the best opera singers of the past century. I would give an arm and a leg to sing like Corelli, Bjorling, Pertile, Rufo, Galeffi, Warren, London, De Angelis, Reizen, Siepi, Christoff and now the Spanish singer Carlos Alvarez. Among others.
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