Madison Square Garden, located in New York City, holds a massive crowd every February, as the contestants battle in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The competition brings together thousands of dogs and their handlers, almost two hundred distinct breeds. These canines are all registered under the American Kennel Club (AKC) an universal program for purebred dogs in the United States. Each breed is carefully placed in one of the AKC’s seven groups: Sporting, Terrier, Hound, Herding, Toy, Working, and Non-Sporting. Each category contains between twenty to thirty different dogs. The AKC hosts many events throughout the year, their biggest being the Westminster Dog Show. Last year, a 15-inch Beagle from the Hound Group, named Miss P, won the show. After a waiting for a year, on February 15 and 16, the 140th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was held.
On night one, four of the seven dog groups were showcased, while on night two the last three groups took the spot. Each cluster performs one at a time and once all the dogs go up, the judge will pick a handful they like, and watch them prance around the ring one last time with their handlers, before choosing the top four. The number one champion will be picked, earning the title of the winner for their group. At the end of night two, the seven group winners will compete to try for best in show.
The Hound Group was the first to go up. These dogs were typically bred as scent hounds, who use their strong noses to hunt down animals rather than their sight. Some popular breeds in this group include the Dachshund, the Basset Hound and the Bloodhound. The Cirneco dell’Etna, which originated on the Italian island of Sicily, was able to compete at the WKC for the first time in this category. After the Hound Group was exhibited, Judge Virginia Lyne elected Lucy, a Borzoi, as the winner. Following her trail was the Whippet in second place, the Saluki in third, and the 15-inch Beagle in fourth.
Next was the Toy Group, a selection of tiny dogs, who are perfect for apartment residents or people who would prefer a smaller-sized companion. Some breeds in the Toy Group are the Pug, the Yorkshire Terrier and the Chihuahua. Judge Jason Hoke favored Panda, a Shih Tzu, and gave her top prize. The Pekingese received second place, the Pomeranian third, and the Italian Greyhound fourth.
The Non-Sporting Group was the third category on night one. This is the most diverse class of the American Kennel Club, made up of breeds who don’t fit into any of the other six groups. Both the French Bulldog and the Chinese Shar-Pei are Non-Sporting dogs. One breed, the Norwegian Lundehund, had not a single canine compete in the competition. According to Judge Luc Boileau, Annabelle, a memorable Bulldog, deserved first place; the Dalmatian got second, the Standard Poodle was given third, and the Boston Terrier got the ribbon for fourth.
To end night one of the 140th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was the Herding Group. These breeds have a natural instinct to move a large flock of animals, such as cows and sheep, from one location to another. A few well-known dogs in this group are the Old English Sheepdog, the Collie, and the Shetland Sheepdog. This unit added four new breeds in 2015: the Bergamasco, the Berger Picard, the Miniature American Shepherd and the Spanish Water Dog. In the end, Judge Dorothy Collier awarded Rumor the German Shepherd with first place, the Australian Shepherd with second place, the Border Collie with third and the small but unforgettable Puli with fourth.
The Sporting Group was the first class on night two. The high energy dogs tend to be great swimmers and retrievers. The Golden Retriever and the Irish Setter, along with both the American and English Cocker Spaniels, are just some of the pedigrees who make up the Sporting Group. For the Lagotto Romagnolo, it was the first time they got to be in the WKC. Once Judge Bonnie Threlfall finished calculating her results, California Journey, aka CJ, the German Shorthaired Pointer won. The Clumber Spaniel received second prize, succeeded by the famous Labrador Retriever in third and the Brittany in fourth.
Then it was the Working Group’s turn at “center-ice.” The massive breeds of this unit perform jobs such as guarding property, performing water rescues, and helping service people. The most popular dogs in this group include the Great Dane, the Newfoundland, the Siberian Husky, and the St. Bernard. The Boerboel was the last dog to enter the WKC ring for the history’s first time. Meanwhile, not one handler registered their Chinook to compete at Westminster. After Judge Norman Kenney studied the dogs, he picked the Bogey, a Samoyed for first place, followed by the Boxer, the Rottweiler, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in second, third, and fourth.
The final assembly to perform at the WKC was the Terrier Group. The dogs in this group were originally bred to track and hunt down vermin, such as rats, mice, and dangerous bugs. The Scottish Terrier, Bull Terrier and West Highland White Terrier (Westie) are all part of this classification. Judge Geir Flyckt-Pedersen decided upon Charlie, a Skye Terrier, as the best of the Terrier Group. Proceeding was the Border Terrier in second, the Wire Fox Terrier in third and the Lakeland Terrier in fourth. Infact, Charlie happens to live on Long Island, in Oyster Bay Cove.
It was now time to pick the best in show winner. The competition involved Lucy the Borzoi (Hound Group), Panda the Shih Tzu (Toy Group), Annabelle the Bulldog (Non-Sporting Group), Rumor the German Shepherd Dog (Herding Group), California Journey the German Shorthaired Pointer (Sporting Group), Bogey the Samoyed (Working Group) and Charlie the Skye Terrier (Terrier Group). Dr. Richard Meen of Toronto was selected to judge Best In Show; however, he has a history of breeding Borzois and Skye Terriers. He gazed over the seven dogs and their handlers as they ran around the circle one final time. Then he walked over to his panel and officially wrote down his winner. When he spoke to America, he announced the Reserved Best in Show, which went to Lucy the Borzoi, and her handler Shota Hirai. Next Meen broadcasted the Best in Show winner of the 2016 140th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
“This is the pinnacle of what we as breeders, owners and handlers strive for. Winning Westminster is exactly as I imagined,” says Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, the owner and handler of California Journey the German Shorthaired Pointer.
Just a few days later, on February 22, the American Kennel Club released their 2015 list of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. The Labrador Retriever became the nation’s most registered dog for the twenty-fifth consecutive year. German Shepherd Dogs were second, with Golden Retrievers third. The French Bulldog, currently America’s sixth favorite buddy, has jumped up three spots since 2014. The breed is the most popular dog in urban areas, such as New York City and San Francisco.
“The versatile, lovable Lab has firmly planted its paw print in AKC’s history,” AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo said. “But keep your eye on the French Bulldog. The Frenchie has risen 32 spots over the past decade and shows no signs of stopping.”