From the ISSR Breed
Bushy with the last vertebra extending past the hock joint.
It is set smoothly into the croup and should appear to hang as a plume. At
rest the tail hangs in a slight curve like a saber. When the dog is excited
or in motion, the curve is accentuated and the tail is raised, but it should
never curl forward beyond the vertical line nor above the level of the back.
The tail should never be carried straight out or rolled up over the back.
tail that is raised above the vertical line and/or past the horizontal line
of the croup is a DISQUALIFYING FAULT. Tails that are too short,
thin, or ratty should be severely penalized."
The following quote from pages 223-226 of McDowell Lyon's
book The Dog in Action should prove illuminating.
"The tail is also a barometer to the set
of the pelvis and the value of the muscles attached to the pelvis and
croup. Furthermore a normal tail or any part of it will tell us several important
things about the dog in front of that tail.
"Examine a normal tail and you will find
that the vertebrae are progressive in size but that the members taper
from one juncture to the next and that each one observed will give you a
good idea as to what to expect of the next closest one. Just as one bone
in the leg will give you a good mental picture of the adjacent one and
from there on to the full structure of the dog, the base vertebrae of
the tail will tell you volumes about the spinal column. One or two bones
taken at random from any animal will enable you to construct a full
skeleton of a normal specimen.
"Many old-timers picked their dogs by the
size of the tail at its base. 'A dog is no better than his tail,' has
been said often. Another old time comment was, 'A dog thinks with his
tail.' Certainly its carriage and action indicates the dog's mental
"Two muscles activate the top side of the
tail and one the bottom. If the tail is curled, 'sickle,' or
'squirreled' continuously when this is not characteristic, it is not
that the top muscles have become more tense but that the one on the
bottom has lost or did not have sufficient tension. The tail that takes
a corkscrew turn has normal tension on only one of the lateralis
muscles on top.
"These lateralis muscles are the
continuation of muscles which start at the back of the rib structure and
play an important part in tensing the loins. You will note that a dog at
play, throwing a gay tail will have slightly more than the usual arch to
his loins. The wry or twisted tail indicates that one of the
lateralis muscles is weak. Unless these conditions have become
characteristic over generations, it is safe to conclude that muscles
which are not functioning correctly at their terminals are not doing any
better along the spinal column.
"The length and cross section of all the
vertebrae in the spinal column are quite important and should be
considered in any dog, particularly those used in breeding. The diameter
of the body of the dorsal vertebrae decreases from the first to the
eighth, the longest vertical spire coming on the second or third. From
the eighth the cross section increases. The lumbar or loin vertebrae
decrease in vertical diameter and increase in transverse diameter
progressively from the back to the croup.
"The ruggedness of these bones provide
substantial anchorage for the attached muscles and indicate the size and
length of the ribs that spring from the dorsals.
"A number of breeds have altered the tails
by mutation and developed the drop, hook, kink, rabbit, screw, and
spike. One has to watch for one trouble in these: mutation does not
always stop where it is visible but tends to cast an influence to bones
beyond this point.
"The vertebrae of the croup and the pelvis
bones are apt to reflect the mutation of the tail and manifest this at
whelping and other times. Whatever condition you have in one vertebra
will be extended to the next in milder degree. So, if mutation is to
be the fashion it is more safely practiced if it is not permitted
to enter the last visible vertebra at the base of the tail.
"Even as the dog begins with his head, he
ends with his tail, and by it many a story is told for it expresses
health, mental attitude and what may be expected in the rest of the
spinal column. Beware of any type tail that is not normally
characteristic of the specific breed."