Today our Technical Manager, Paul Threapleton is featured in the Yorkshire Posts’ My Passion section, talking about his passion for animal breeding which he describes as being a lot like architecture! Have a read to discover more…
A lot of people think my wife and I are mad about animals and we love to collect pets for fun, but the truth is much more mindboggling! Sue and I actually breed and show our animals which include a range of smaller livestock, three breeds of cavy (guinea pigs) and Savannah cats. It’s not just a hobby – but a real passion. We are both very competitive, so keeping animals for exhibition purposes allows us to compete – and win – with other like-minded ‘Fanciers’.
Growing up I always had a fascination with animals and my Dad kept cavies purely as pets, but my first taste of competing was with mice. I loved it and I still have a few boxes of mice around some 35 years later, even though I rarely have the time to show them these days. Over the years, we’ve kept most small species of livestock and we’ve been very fortunate to have Best in Show wins with mice, rats, Belgian hare rabbits, cats and dogs.
Everyone knows about Crufts, but most people are totally unaware of the fact that equivalent shows exist for almost every domesticated animal from mice and cats (obviously not together!) to horses and cattle. As well as showing, Sue and I also serve on the Bradford Small Livestock Society Committee, where I have been both Chairman and President. Our Committee stages the ‘Crufts equivalent’ show for Small Livestock, called the Burgess Premier Small Animal Show, which is held annually. January 2015 was our 93rd event. The show caters for mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, cavies and rabbits and is extremely popular.
We often get asked ‘what makes the perfect animal?’ It’s actually very simple; an individual specimen is assessed against a theoretical standard of a perfect animal by an officiating judge. The judge then places those animals in order as to which is closest to that breed standard. Often tiny characteristics can make a huge difference when you are striving for perfection, but even when you work hard eradicating these faults through breeding, a temporary drop in condition or a moult mark can still cost you a win.
We’re currently taking a break from actively showing as we take a couple of years to develop our lines and improve our breeds – it’s not a hobby for those who expect instant success! There’s never a day off either, as animals need constant attention to keep them in tip-top condition.
Exhibiting animals is also a way of expressing myself. Some people choose to do this via sport or music, but for me trying to create the ‘perfect’ animal gives me a real buzz. Size, proportion and balance are all key features in livestock breeding, so it’s a little like Architecture and you need to have an appreciation of these, as well as an eye for the smallest detail. I have never bred the perfect animal but I reckon I’ve been 99.9% of the way there once, but ‘absolute perfection’ is a nigh on impossible task, and it’s the thrill that maybe one day we might just do it that keeps us going.