APPROACHING THE CLASS: When it comes time to approach the Muscovy classes, I find it necessary to do a walk-through before each bird is evaluated and judged. The class needs time to stand up and show what they got, or in other circumstances some birds may need to calm down and relax a bit. This process also gives a judge a chance to get familiar for what's ahead, and see what birds stand out. A good clerk should also inform the judge of numbers in the class and if any birds are located in another place that may be missed out because they were cooped in another row with another breed. A good class of ducks can be ruined by poor cooping conditions. Birds being judged at different levels are a good example. Birds on the floor, with the exception of geese and turkeys, are at an extreme disadvantage. A judge needs to physically get down on the floor with the bird. Looking down at them or even squatting to see them tells me the birds were not evaluated correctly. Colored birds need to be where the light hits them correctly. In many cases a colored bird can appear silhouetted due to exterior lighting and color is very difficult to evaluate. I do realize that placing classes where the lighting would compliment them would require a team of lighting engineers and could probably take a setup crew months to plan out. That's why we judges need to handle the colored birds, when these circumstances are present. Take a walk with the bird and examine the color under better lighting. I personally check them in sunlight. The color flaws pop out at you.
THE JUDGEMENT: First, I have to say I believe in placing all birds, even if you have a class of 30 black Muscovy hens. An exhibitor has paid an entry fee, and felt the bird they were showing was worth bringing to the show, they deserve to have the bird judged. I always like to comment on the coop tags. In many shows I've judged a bird that placed 5th. The bird didn't win because of circumstances of the day. I know the bird is probably the best in the class. This is where condition plays to win when all other factors are added in. A small comment on the coop tag explaining the placing helps the exhibitor and competitors realize why the judge did what he did. I will not cover the knowledge of a judge's experience with Muscovies. Judges should follow the standard and evaluate every bird shown. After the Muscovies have been judged and all Best and Reserve of varieties have been chosen, it's time to choose Best and Reserve of breed. Again, good condition is a key factor. All contenders should be handled and critiqued thoroughly. It happens to many times that a white or black bird is chosen. The Black Muscovy is a beautiful looking duck and looks good on championship row. It should not be that easy of a choice for a judge. Each color should compete without any favoritism. Muscovies often get overlooked when it is time for the judge to choose champion duck or champion waterfowl. Some judges refuse to handle the bird. We all know a Muscovy can be a monster in the hands of an amateur. Due to low representation at some shows, a good bird can get lost because of the larger representation of other classes at the same show. I have to really credit the Muscovy club for drawing some large numbers to the shows. When a Muscovy is considered to go up for champion duck, there is a good chance its competition is going to be a Call or Indie. I've seen this happen at several shows, and the Muscovy usually loses out. Some of the arguments I've come up against:
The caruncling is too much or too little
Caruncling is out of balance
Caruncling shows too much dark pigmentation
Blindness caused by caruncling
Smooth or damaged caruncling
First, I'll argue the point that we have a Bantam duck vs. a large duck. The large duck has 2 added features that the Bantam duck doesn't: crest and caruncling. The larger ducks also display more space and probably have fewer frayed feathers from its handling in the process of transport from home to Champion row. Any reputable judge should not penalize the bird if overall appearance and feather luster is equally matched by its components. Again, using the crest as argument is irrelevant because most judges don't even deduct or add points for crests on a Muscovy. The caruncling is the deciding argument. When the bird is magnificent overall, the caruncling is what's left. It is the toughest argument besides size that I've encountered in Muscovies. I have my taste and opinion on the subject. It is good to see Muscovies climbing back in popularity and quality that should make them contenders for Champion Row. This article was written and printed in the Fall of 2000. The article has already been read by others, and a couple of years have passed. As a breeder, exhibitor, & judge, I'm still learning. I was questioned on several topics mentioned in the article. The question most asked was about the handling of Muscovies. This is not a required practice! If the classes are large and deep in quality, handling may be necessary for proper evaluation. Another comment was about Muscovies having a crest. I guess that is just a technical fact. As mentioned in the original article, it would be irrelevant to use the crest for argument of placements. One very important fact that I missed in the original article, was to turn the bird to view each side. Just because the bird looks good on one side, doesn't mean that it will on the other. It is very important that this be done, as we are looking for balance of caruncling and overall appearance. As some closing thoughts on Muscovies, I would like to shed some light on new concerns.
Many larger Muscovy males look huge over a back view, although when checking the depth they are very shallow birds.
Larger old hens show very loose underlines. I actually have seen one old female disqualified- 'keel'. This should be overlooked, as a productive female has tremendous weight fluctuations. Cutting for this defect should only be considered to break a tie decision.
Black in Bean of White males - very common disqualification.
Double cooping of males is a must. A great male single cooped in competition often gets overlooked.
A young Muscovy really has a disadvantage over older birds.
Some may agree, or disagree on the comment that Muscovies have definitely 'arrived' and are now respectively reaping the awards of "Best Heavy Duck," and even several "Super Show Champions." Congratulations to all the beautiful Muscovies, to all of the dedicated breeders that have brought them up the ranks, and to the Judges who put them there.