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Thread: conformation, revisted

  1. #1
    Daihonmei
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    conformation, revisted

    Conformation is the key to any show koi. (I think it was Shakespeare who said “the conformation is the thing!") The Japanese breeder calls it "body", the student judge calls it "volume" and the established working koi judge calls it "body line and conforming to standard for body type".

    There are many levels of conversation regarding conformation. We can talk about ideals or we can talk about conformation as it exists in males and female or as it exists in age groups (remember the ZNA teaching of three stages of koi at koi shows).

    Often we are reduced to talking about conformation in terms of short comings or negatives. This is where Japanese standards show clearly higher than the standards we are forced to apply here in America.
    First let’s talk about a few unpleasant realities of koi shipped to the west--- many many good show koi are sold to the west because they have a slight congenital defect that is now very obvious in the adult body - OR- the high Japanese grade fish has developed a defect in the conformation and it is a time to remove it from the Japanese 'menu' and send it to a home in America. When I was a young exhibitor at the koi shows and in the first five years or so of judging shows, it upset me to know that many koi were sold to our dealers as a way to dump the fish as they were no longer acceptable to the Japanese show world. But today, I understand and accept that this is all part of the koi show game and one must learn and be a knowledgeable consumer. And in this respect is no different than any other aspect of 'koi'-- it is not easy and often quite risky to the wallet or pocket book.
    Some of the most common body defects we see at almost all shows now are;

    1) asymmetrical body – this can demonstrate in one side rounded and the other side of the koi flat in bodyline tapper.

    2) Curled or protruding gill plate bone or gill sealing structure of the fleshy part of the gill
    3) Asymmetrical eyes, missing eyes (DQ), small eye, large eye, sunken eye etc
    4) Bend in spine
    5) Twisted head
    6) ‘Two section’ dorsal fin
    7) Abnormal sized pec fins, asymmetrical or non matching pec fins
    8) Weak tail tube- short, bent, hanging, misaligned
    9) tumor ( not to be confused with asymmetrical eye mass or egg carrying style of a body type)
    10) head distortion, head size and proportion to body ( varies with body types so body type MUST be understood before judging head issues)

  2. #2
    Tategoi bobbysuzanna's Avatar
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    JR
    Would you mind commenting on conformation as viewed from the side of the fish. It is amazing to me the variances one can see especially when a koi is being lifted out of the water for transfer to another tank,etc. I realize this is not a standard view for judging, but is there a standard for lateral line views?

  3. #3
    Daihonmei
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbysuzanna View Post
    JR
    Would you mind commenting on conformation as viewed from the side of the fish. It is amazing to me the variances one can see especially when a koi is being lifted out of the water for transfer to another tank,etc. I realize this is not a standard view for judging, but is there a standard for lateral line views?
    sure. Koi were bred to be viewed 'from above' and many an enthusiastic new pond builder is stunned after putting in a viewing window at just how unflattering a side view of a carp really is! Just look at all those fishing photos of carp fishermen holding their 'prizes'!
    Having said that, koi are BEAUTIFUL! And they not only come in all sizes, they also some in one of four basic shapes and then mixes of those four different shapes!
    Part of the explanation is that koi foundation stock ( wild carp) were isolated for long periods and developed their own unique gene pools. Another is the huge dose of 'food carp' used to build what we know today as Nishikigoi. Especially the doitsu strains from Austria.

    So the ultra tall or unusually short or 'Cobby' body, might be a disadvantage in a koi show or even, in the extreme, a deal killer in competition. But then again, it might just also be one of four types of bodies. Humps, head shapes and length are all indications of a body type but these things are ultimately revealed when :
    1) they are lifted out of the water as you noticed and noted
    2) the water in the blue bowl is drained down and the fish is allowed to be half in water and half out
    3) holding up a plastoc bag with fish in it
    4) ( a tip for judges) watching the fish swim AWAY from the viewer in a deep show tank-- very telling for many things

    A collector can be well satisfied with a 'favorite' look in the body type. But a judge must develop an appreciation for all body types and leave personal preference on the other side of the show ring.
    There IS an standard of course and an 'ideal' and you will see that look alot in Big Japanese shows as it is expected and achieved in numbers of entries. But in the west we still have a great tolerance for all body types as this is what makes up American shows. All koi are beautiful! Best, JR

  4. #4
    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasPR View Post
    But in the west we still have a great tolerance for all body types as this is what makes up American shows. All koi are beautiful! Best, JR
    Of course we do. We are conditioned to overlook these slight problems because as you mentioned these are the koi that are readily available to us westerners.
    Koi-Unit
    My personal koi page Updated 7/8/07
    ZNA Potomac Koi Club

  5. #5
    Daihonmei
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnorth View Post
    Of course we do. We are conditioned to overlook these slight problems because as you mentioned these are the koi that are readily available to us westerners.
    True DAT!

    we could also look at conformation in other ways

    1) by body type
    2) by line type
    3) by age

    and would could look at defects as :

    1) by birth
    2) by injury or disease ( scales, eyes and head)

    And then the judges go to work---
    In that assessement a judge will or should treat congental defects in young severly as a way to remove the fish from both competition and any future thoughts of breeding the fish as a good example of a variety. Fortunately in modern times most obvious congental defective fish are culled in Japan. But minor or missed congental defects or deficiencies can be missed or are not as easily seen on tosai during mass cullings. These fish might even slip by a judge or two in the very tiny sizes. But eventually the fish will be large enough or the defect pronounced enough that a sharp judge will see it and DQ or mark down severely, the entry.
    In the case of a healed injury that deforms a fish-- you will notice that juvenile fish are treated very severely for these things, yet an adult might not be judged as harshly. Things like general body accomplishment and quality accomplishement might be enough to keep a large female in competition whereas in a tosai it might push a koi to fifth place. This takes time to understand but the rational for the decisions are well understood by the advanced judging team. One the reasons for this is the fact that working koi judges ( say more than 25 shows in all parts of the US) will have seen the same defects over and over many times. The perspective gained is one of understanding severity and common-ness of certain conformation traits and their negative implications. the exhibitor should ask the judges on the Sunday morning walk around to go over there fish and point out to them any defects, deficiencies, or deformities that might be there than the owner is not seeing. Then ask the judge to point out the different body types that are different yet normal within the koi gene pool ( there are four and a blend or combination of all the four types in variations)
    Our ZNA trainee judges are now assigned this study at their first judging outing ( 1st level) and will be glad to join into this discussion.

    More to koi than first meets the eye! JR

  6. #6
    Oyagoi Lam Nguyen's Avatar
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    One of the worse thing that can happen is you purchase a koi with the understanding that it does not have any defects only to notice it weeks or months later when it is in your pond. This is why I always believe in, "if it sounds too good to be true, then it is". There is no such thing as a cheap good koi, is there? Over the years, I have learned to not trust anyone but myself when purchasing koi. I have also learned that it is important to physically look at a koi in person first before purchasing it. Why make a haste decision on an expensive koi when that koi will stay in your collection for years to come? So learn to sex the koi yourself and to learn how to judge quality.

  7. #7
    Daihonmei
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lam Nguyen View Post
    One of the worse thing that can happen is you purchase a koi with the understanding that it does not have any defects only to notice it weeks or months later when it is in your pond. This is why I always believe in, "if it sounds too good to be true, then it is". There is no such thing as a cheap good koi, is there? Over the years, I have learned to not trust anyone but myself when purchasing koi. I have also learned that it is important to physically look at a koi in person first before purchasing it. Why make a haste decision on an expensive koi when that koi will stay in your collection for years to come? So learn to sex the koi yourself and to learn how to judge quality.
    yes, and some people don't notice it for a year or two! One of the benefits of being a ZNA member is your general knowledge of koi appreciation improves and as it does, you become a more aware consumer.
    Its not personal, its just the koi business. But we need our members to be respected by the dealer and breeder community. I hope that someday when a hobbyist announces they are part of ZNA America, that dealers and breeders will think carefully before showing the fish they have for sale. What a wonderful thing that would be. JR

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