The Expert’s Expert , 
    by Doreen Kent (november 1982 Gazette)

    "This article first appeared in the November 1982 AKC Gazette and is posted on this site with permission." (AKC Gazette)

    Based upon three days of exposure to Major Thomas C. Hawley, I concluded that he is the formost authority on Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the world today. Those of you who disagree probably were not afforded the privilege of watching this man judge and listening to him speak.
    It’s been 19 years since Tom Hawley judged the breed in this country. To a great many of us who weren’t at the Rhodesian Ridgeback Specialty Show in New York City in 1963, he has remained an enigma; indeed for a few years after I obtained my first Ridgeback, I wondered if he really existed! Maybe he was no more than a legend made up a long time ago by a handful of Ridgeback fanciers. Perhapes they wanted to make sure that future generations, like themselves, never lost faith in the breed they selected.
    In September, 1974, world travelled quickly to the East Coast that Major Hawley was in Los Angeles on personal business. By the time any of us figured out a way to sponsor a trip East for him, he had already returned to his home in Johannesburg, South Africa.
    The only exposure the majority of Rhodesian Ridgeback fanciers in the United States had to this man was possession of a slim book authored by him in 1957. My particular copy of that book was acquired the day I purchased my first Ridgeback. His command of the English language in describing the feats and ability of a Ridgeback goes beyond good writing style – it’s pure poetry. The years since have weathered the pages. Ball point pen margin notes, red line underscoring, scores of pedigree notes only add to the character of this ”bible” of Ridgeback knowledge. The contents have been memorized. And the photos are permanently etched in grey matter. His efforts to describe the breed in definitives have been waxed eloquent. Each year the information contained in his book takes on new meaning. May the day never come that I know it all. I reserve that privilege for Major Hawley.
    In 1977 we learned that Major Hawley and his wife, ”Blackie” were leaving their lifetime home in South Africa to resettle in Perth, Australia. Now the prospect of ever getting to see this man seemed futile.
    The year 1982 brought change to the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States (RRCUS). For the first time since early in the club’s history, we were returning to one National Specialty a year. This year it was to be held in Santa Barbara, CA. The Show Committee was hard at work to ensure the biggest and best show the club had ever had.
    The biggest draw for any dog show is a good judge. Who to judge, that was the question. Margaret Lowthian, one of the fortunate few who was ”there in 63”, piped up at a Board of Directors’ meeting, ”How about Tom Hawley?”. Reactions varied. Some said he was too old, others wondered if he was still alive – it had been so long since any of us heard any word about him. Could he still be judging Ridgebacks? ”Good God, Margaret, the man lives in Australia.”
    After all the doubts were expressed, it was decided to ”Go for it”. Going for it, however, was not so easy. The communications, red tape, logistics, and general problems solving might have discouraged a lesser person. But Margaret Lowthian persevered, as she has never learned the meaning of the word, ”no”. In April, 1982, the final stone was set in place. It was official-Tom Hawley would judge the Rhodesian Ridgeback entry at the 51st RRCUS National Specialty Show in Santa Barbara, CA on July 29 and 30.
    We didn’t know what to expect. Australia was such a long way away. Would the plane trip be too tiring? Was the entry too big – 174, a club record? Were we expecting too much from a man whose age we were only guessing at? Wasn’t it appropriate for a World Heavyweight Champion to retire with his crown intact?
    I clearly remember sitting at ringside and seeing Major Hawley for the first time. He’s a man of at least six feet tall and built like a good Ridgeback – handsome and upstanding, strong and agile. A full head of white hair and stell blue eyes, healthy complexion, and an easy smile all but completed the picture. He wore a Safari style suit and a floppy brimmed hat. He strode into the ring with the conviction of a man who knew exactly what he was doing. If any doubt existed in our minds as to his capabilities, they were immidiately dispelled.
    So many things about him impressed me. Uppermost was his judging style. He told us later that he trusts his eyes more than his hands. After all, what could be hidden from a view on a Ridgeback? He used a point system, taking notes on a clip board pad. He started his judging at the end of the line and worked forward, moving dogs he liked up the line as he proceeded. He told us that he started at the end of the line because pushy people struggle to get into the ring first. ”But the dogs came in in arm band order,” we reminded him. He reminded us that arm band numbers are awarded according to receipt of entry-first received, first armband numbers.
    What did he want to see in a Ridgeback? A chief concern was the ridge. He told us that we had the best quality Ridgebacks in the world but the poorest quality of ridges. The highest number of points, out of a possible 100, he awarded to any Ridgeback at the Specialty for the ridge was 85. That was achieved by only two dogs. 25% of his entry received between 75 and 85 pts. 30% received between 50-74, and 45% below 50 points. He wanted a long ridge, starting at the shoulders and ending at the hips. He looked for a fully developed fan with two symmetrical crowns within that fan – not attached to the top of it. He penalized narrow ridges. Later he told us that narrow ridges and short ridges were the first step to breeding no ridges. He stated flatly that there was absolutely no reason or excuse to show or breed a Ridgeback with a faulty ridge.
    There’s a dog under the ridge, and he didn’t discount that. But it can be said with no uncertainty that any dog with a faulty ridge did not receive any consideration for an award. All of his selections were within the height standard. He told us that if he had to, he’d opt for undersize rather than oversize. He was a stickler for substantail leg bone and leg lenght. He wanted to see strong, well padded, tight feet. ”The feet can never be too big.” he remarked.
    Coat color did not seem to be a conscious consideration; however, he did stick to the middle range wheaten colors. When he narrowed 56 specials down to 8, it was interesting to note that 5 were brown nosed. And his Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex were brown nosed.
    It’s safe to assume that one of the dogs Tom Hawley holds most dear to him is his Tau of Voortrekkerhoogte. Tau was a good sized, but within standard, brown-nosed male. In 1959, Fielding Lewis, who was very active in the breed convinced Major Hawley to sell his beloved Tau to him. Tau could be of much benefit to the breed in the United States. Tom Hawley agreed. It was some three and a half years later that Tom got to see Tau again. After he completed judging the 1963 Specialty, Fielding Lewis paraded Tau into the show ring for a reunion with his former master. Tom patted Tau, and Tau responded by rubbing his face against Tom’s pant legs, but since that was standard operating procedure for any Ridgeback, Tom knew that Tau had not yet recognized him. Tom bent down, held Tau’s head in his hands, looked him in the eyes and said, ”Hello, my boy.” The result was pandemonium. A quick thinking photographer recorded the event. When Major Hawley related that experience to us, his voice quivered and tears clouded his eyes. Very few of us kept a dry eye either.
     Tom Hawley held court through two days of judging. His method of judging never changed. No matter how large the class, he never got lost. He knew what he wanted and set about finding it or the closest thing to it. We who exhibited under him never felt overworked. He was the essence of courtesy putting us at ease with his laid back style of judging.
     Beyond his ability to judge well, it must be remembered that Tom Hawley saw his first Ridgeback in 1929. He acquired his first ridged dog in 1939. If each one of us were to go back in our dog’s pedigree, chances are the name De Holi appears in many of the older generations. Tom Hawley’s De Holi kennel produced some of the finest specimens of the breed.
     Soon after World War II, he became the Security Manager of the South African gold fields. He replaced many of the Alsatian breeds that had been used by guards with the Rhodesian Ridgeback. It was quickly learned how versatile this young breed was.
     The wealth of knowledge aquired over a half century has to be regarded as awesome. Private interviews and conversations as well as public forum he presided at one evening just weren’t enough to absorb all he knows.
     A few things come to my mind. I asked him why he placed so much emphasis on the ridge but didn’t seem to be concerned about white. Weren’t they both purely esthetic characteristics? He told me that white most definitely is, but the ridge is not esthetic – it is functional. When Cornelius Van Rooyen went on a lion hunt, he didn’t care what color the dog had. But he soon found out that it was the ridged dogs that came home from the hunt. Tom Hawley justifiably concludes that it was those ridged dogs who were most closely related to the Hottentot ridged dogs that possessed the tenacity and ability to stay alive. He stated again and again that the ridge is the single most important characteristic of the breed. He pulled no punches in telling us that we should spend more time perfecting the ridge. We had such an enormous selection of quality dogs with good ridges, we shouldn’t be breeding or showing anything less.
     A somewhat controversial subject amongst Ridgeback owners and judges is how much white a Ridgeback should have. Major Hawley is not a proponent of excessive white.* However, he does not consider four white feet a fault. He doesn’t want to see the white bleeding up past the wrist or ankle, but he reasons that white freckles up in a mature dog and that too many breeders and judges pay far too much attention to the subject. He is concerned about wide blazes of white extending up the neck and underside of the chin. Large patches of white on the belly are of equal concern to him as well. However, white below the sternum, covering the chest does not alarm him. According to Tom Hawley, white is purely esthetic. The absence or presence of it served no purpose other than to remind the owner of the roots of the white – the Bull Terrier. Tom Hawley pointed out to me that the Ridgeback would not have become the fearless hunter it is without the ancestry of the Hottentott dog (the ridge) and the Bull Terrier (the white).
     Tom Hawley has returned to Australia. I pray that he returns so that those fanciers of this wonderful breed yet to come may experience the aura of this man. Years from now it will give me great pleasure and comfort in being able to say, ”I was there in ’82.”
    * from the Rhodesian Ridgeback official Standard approved 11/55: Color –Light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the chest and toes permissible but excessive white there and any white on the belly or above the toes is undesirable.

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