An Interview with Bob Hawkins – The Founder of the Hawkins System
This article was originally published in the Collie Club of America’s Summer 2020 Bulletin. Special thanks to Bob Hawkins for sharing his time and insight.
Bob Hawkins awarding GCHB. Wyndlair Island Vacation – 3X Hawkins Top 10 Winner – Best of Breed at the 2012 Northern Wisconsin Collie Club show.
In the early 1960s, Bob Hawkins set out to create a more objective ranking system for his beloved breed, the Collie. His project became the model that has determined how the Collie Club of America ranks Collies for nearly 60 years. The Hawkins System recognizes the top Collies in each variety that triumph at the most significant shows, over the toughest competition, and under the most respected judges.
Bob Hawkins graciously shared his time and knowledge providing background and context about the Hawkins System. Some of this story has never been told the larger CCA membership. The goal of this interview is to share Bob’s story and the purpose behind the Hawkins System.
Question: Bob, can you share your history and experience in the Collie breed?
A: I became interested in the Collie breed as a child after reading Big Red and the Albert Payson Terhune books. I bought my first Collie, Lochinvar III, “Prince,” around 1952, and showed him to a Companion Dog (C.D.) title. While at Capital Dog Training Club I saw my first show quality Collie, owned by Shelia Taynton. The dog was bred by Glen Twiford (Wind-Call Collies).
After Prince died, I bought a puppy from Steve Field (Parader Collies). It was from a Bold Venture/Dancing Girl brother-sister litter. Knowing little about shows, we got 10 or more points, but stupidly, I did not use a professional handler to earn the majors.
In the mid-1950 I attended a meeting with W.R. Van Dyck (Honeybrook) at Corriedale Kennels. Mr. Van Dyck was asked to advise us as we were starting a new Collie specialty club. I became a charter member of the Mason-Dixon Collie Club. I later served as club president as well as Maryland’s CCA District Director. I served on the board of the National Capital Kennel Club. When PRA raised its ugly head in the breed, I brought in the Honigs’ ophthalmologist, Dr. Donovan, and hosted the first eye clinic in the Washington, D.C. area.
As a breeder, I bred 4 champion collies under the Lynloch prefix and co-bred 8 or 9 others, primarily with Kathy Vinyard. I also co-bred a few Australian Shepherd champions.
I am licensed to judge eight herding breeds and Junior Showmanship (all-breed).
Question: What inspired you to create the Hawkins System? Can you explain the research process for creating the system?
A: From inception, the Hawkins System was intended to provide an objective breed ranking system. At the time, Collie Cues selected the best Collie in four sections of the country without any objective rationale. Some thought the selections were related to advertising or other subjective criteria. The Phillips System was another ranking system that was around in the late 1950s.
The Hawkins System was something I began developing in college when I should have been studying. As a History & Criminology major at the University of Maryland, I applied both my appreciation for history and statistical data modeling from criminology classes to the project. The research process was extensive, including multiple visits to the Library of Congress as I attempted to determine top winners going back to the early 1900s. My goal was to create an objective Collie ranking system to recognize the best Collies.
The model was based on the successful show careers of Ch. Parader’s Bold Venture and Ch. Hazeljane’s Bright Future. They were top specialty winners that also won in serious all-breed competition. I tested various data modeling plans until I developed one that would guarantee those dogs would place at the top of the rankings. But, the system was also designed to allow exclusively all-breed or specialty dogs to place highly if their records were spectacular.
The Hawkins System reflects the judges’ opinions at shows with quality entries. It was designed to give credit to the Collies that beat the strongest competition. Later, adjustments were made to reward the Best of Opposite Sex. At different points in breed history, the depth of quality in one sex (quantity) has greatly exceeded that in the other. That prevented dogs of virtue from receiving their fair due. The validity goal was to reward Collies of both sexes that could win both at major specialty and all-breed shows.
Question: What was the intention of the bonus point models for both specialty and all-breed wins?
A: They are methods to weigh results and provide balance. All-breed bonuses (Group and Best In Show wins) were created to reward those significant accomplishments. Specialty bonuses (Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed) were created to reward the most dominant specialty winners, even if they weren’t campaigned extensively.
Question: What was the first year the Hawkins System was calculated? Has it been published anywhere outside of CCA Yearbooks or Bulletins?
A: The Hawkins System was first calculated was around 1960. It was first published in the 1963 CCA Yearbook. It was also published in Collie Cues after Sandra Tuttle (Kasan) acquired the magazine.
Question: What do you view as the primary benefit the Hawkins System provides for the breed?
A: The Hawkins System remains objective and performs the job it was designed to do – to accurately rank Collies based on a model that rewards the most successful winners. It must be understood the Hawkins System reflects the opinions of expert judges without rewarding the accumulation of minor wins.
Question: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with Collie fanciers?
A: Outside of my role with the Hawkins System, I haven’t accepted any positions with CCA to avoid a conflict of interest. I do wish that there was a way everyone could agree about which dogs deserve recognition. As Peter Knopp said after winning Westminster Best in Show with Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm, “The truly best dog was probably resting at the bedside of someone who does not show.” (paraphrased)
Les Hutchins has calculated and managed the Hawkins System since 2004. I am grateful it is being capably administrated by someone who values the model and its purpose. He works under a lot of pressure and scrutiny. I’m grateful for the service he continues to provide to the Collie.
Through the years, there have been various requests for updates. The system has been updated in the past, however, what most don’t understand that any change requires extensive data modeling to understand the impact of the change on the results. Arbitrary updates based upon opinion or self-interest rather than data must be rejected. The Hawkins System is an empirical system based upon data, reflecting the judges’ decisions.
Conclusion: Thank you to Bob Hawkins for sharing the background of his remarkable ranking systems and the personal mark he’s left on breed history. Six decades after its development, the Hawkins System remains a treasure of the Collie breed.