Objectives of the Futurity System

The objectives of the Futurity System, created by the Futurity Re-Evaluation Committee, headed by Connie Beckhardt in 1984, are the same today as they were then:

  • To bring together each year as many young animals as possible from different bloodline combinations so that the fancy can share and learn by the accomplishments of each other.
  • To provide all club members, large breeders or single puppy owners alike, the opportunity to compete year after year under conditions equally favorable to all.
  • To provide an incentive to improve Shepherd bloodlines and add to the excellence of the breed as a whole. The Futurities provide the breeder with the opportunity to nominate his/her litter as a statement of faith in his/her breeding program.
  • To provide a means of early identification to breeders of the strength and weaknesses of current stud dogs.
  • To provide a Judging environment that will promote the highest level of sportsmanship, thereby eliminating direct perceptions of unfairness.

What is a Futurity?

by Gail Sprock

From the 1972 Red Book

Fifty-four years ago the Shepherd Club of America sponsored a sweepstakes that was the forerunner of our present Futurity system.

The planning for today’s multi-regional Futurity organization began in 1926 when the first Breeders’ Futurity Sweepstakes was held in conjunction with the National Specialty. Only members could enter dogs. There were two classes – Junior and Senior, and sexes were not separated. Fees were high for 1926 – $10 nomination for each dog entered and two later payments of $5 each. The first three placings in each class took home a share of the purse. There were 18 young German Shepherds entered at that first show. Sixteen competed.

In 1927 the sexes were divided and forty-three animals out of the seventy initially nominated were shown. According to old Shepherd Reviews (The Shepherd Dog), it actually took years for members to understand Futurity rules. They didn’t nominate brood bitches in time, forgot to keep puppies eligible etc.

Breeders of other kinds of animals found Futurities to be an important tool in their plans, too.

Some cattle “specialty” clubs have had Futurities in the past that were similar to those early Shepherd Futurities. The only cattle organization still sponsoring a major Futurity is the American Angus Association. That show is in its 26th year. There are seventeen classes in the two-day show, around 500 entries and over $25,000 in prize money. The “Supreme Champion” of the Futurity takes home more than $5000. Seventy-five percent of the entrants win some money – 30th place in a class may get $40. Contestants appear in the catalogue and in their classes in order by age.

Futurities are more important in horses today than they are in cattle. John M. Kays, writing in a book simply called The Horse, talks about Futurities:

“The term Futurity in the case of draft and saddle horse shows, as well as in the case of racing events for speed horses, involves the nomination of in-foal mares whose colts, when dropped, will be kept eligible by the payment of entry fees to compete on show day or race day, as yearlings, two-year-olds, or three-year-olds, depending on the specific rules of each futurity competition.

“Futurity events at the shows and on the race track have catered to the needs of horse breeders in the following ways: First, they have emphasized in the minds of breeders the necessity of mating their mares to the best stallions available. Futurity shows have done much to help identify the best sires. Futurity colts, to win, must be both well bred and well fed. The breeder who wishes to win on show day must mate his mare with discrimination and then grow the colt.

“Second, futurity shows have taught breeders how to fit their colts. The underfitted, half-starved entries which appeared in number at the first futurity shows now appear infrequently. Exhibitors have learned that colts whose fitness is mute testimony of neglect have a tough row to hoe on futurity day. The have also learned the penalty of overfitting…

“Third, – futurity shows bring colts together in numbers where prospective buyers may see them at a minimum expenditure of time and money. A great many yearlings have participated in futurity shows which have changed hands before the week is over…

“Fourth, the futurity show makes a strong appeal to the small breeder who may have only one colt to show, for the futurity classes afford him a splendid opportunity to advertise his offering.”

But even in horses, Futurities have lost some of their importance. The reason is thought to be because there are objective ways of testing inheritability of the traits considered most important in horses and cattle. It doesn’t have to be subjectively judged. A track record is an objective measurement. Weight gain tests are scientifically measured. At a bull testing station X number of progeny of each herd bull are raised and run through a myriad of identical, measurable tests while they’re growing up.

German Shepherd Dog breeders have no scientific, objective means of evaluating their dogs. They may think they’re objective – but that’s a subjective opinion. Consequently, Shepherd Futurities have developed instead of losing importance.

Other breeds of dogs too have nationally organized Futurities. The Collie Club of America has either a Futurity or a Sweepstakes with its National Specialty each year. Bitches are nominated before they whelp. The Shepherd club, though, is the only one whose national Futurity has spread all over the country. In the late 40’s there were only two regions – the East and the West. By 1952 there was talk of four regions and 20 years later there are the ten we have today – including Hawaii.

What lies ahead for German Shepherds and the people who breed them is only conjecture, but the continuing expansion of the breeders’ Futurity and the development of an undertaking like this stud dog/brood bitch compilation makes it obvious that the Futurity will play a major role in shaping tomorrow’s German Shepherd Dog.