DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                     5.1.05                        

Anatomy of the forequarters
by Stephanie Hunt Crowley

Chandhara Afghan Hounds


A lot of people get confused about shoulders but it is a lot easier when you get a grasp of the basics of anatomy before worrying about what is good or bad, right or wrong. Once you understand just what bone joins on to which and what they hang from, the rest starts to fall into place. You must have seen dancing skeletons at Halloween - and how bones can be pushed and pulled into different positions relative to one another. That is how it is with a dog's conformation. The forequarter is a complete unit and the shoulder is only a PART of it - but a common mistake is to take it completely out of context as if it had no connection with other bones. The shoulder blade (or scapula) lays against the body at an angle, joins on to the upper arm (the humerus), which slopes back in the the opposite direction to meet the elbow, the foreleg bone connects to the pastern, which connects to the foot. Why don't they just hang down in one long chain of bones? Because of the tension of different groups of muscles pulling in different directions and which tie the forequarters on to the dog's body like so much packaging tape.

So what are the forequarters tied on to? The head is connected to the top end of the spine, and the spine continues all the way to the end of the tail. The neck is made up of 7 cervical vertebrae, which are connected to 13 thoracic vertebrae from which sprout 13 ribs. The 7 lumbar vertebrae connect with the fused bones of the sacrum which leads to the tail. And why doesn't the head just plop down between the dog's feet? How does it stay UP? Muscles, without which the whole thing would collapse like a Halloween puppet without a string.

The shoulder blade lays against the rib cage with the upper edge at the base of the neck. Where the other end connects to the upper arm is commonly referred to as the point of shoulder. The ribs join underneath to enclose the body cavity. Where they join is the sternum, and the front-most point of the sternum is known as the prosternum. A well developed prosternum is what gives a dog a forechest.

At this point don't even worry about the standard - we'll get to that in a future article. For now, we are just looking at what joins on to what.

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