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Wasabi the Pekingese Wins Westminster

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show [Facebook]

The name Pekingese gives you a clue to the origins of this breed.  At one time, these small dogs (usually 7-14 pounds) could be owned only by the royal family of China, where they lived in the palace and even had their own servants.  In the late 1800's, they were brought to Britain, and later to America.  In 1906, the American Kennel Club registered its first Pekingese.  This is a breed that bonds with its owner, but can still have an independent (some might say "royal") personality!


The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected many events, so it’s no surprise that the historic Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was one of them. Usually the competition is held in February, but it was postponed and finally held in mid-June. Unlike prior years, there were no spectators – you could not get a ticket to attend the show. Another change – for the first time in its 144-year history, the show was not held in New York City but instead at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York.

None of that stopped the dogs from strutting their stuff. More than 2,400 dogs, representing over 200 breeds, competed to be judged the best. Here’s how it works. Each dog competes against others of the same breed. Then the winner of each breed competes in one of seven groups. The seven group winners then compete for the coveted title of Best in Show.

A Pekingese named Wasabi was not a tried-and-true champion. All the top ranked dogs are “pre-invited” to Westminster, so the fact that his entry was even accepted was surprising. That he won his breed, besting thirty other Pekingese dogs; then he won the Toy group, beating out a Pomeranian, a Havanese and an Italian Greyhound. In the final event of the show, the winner of each of the seven groups competed for the top prize.

The group with the most winners at Westminster is the Terrier group with forty-seven wins. The Toy group, by comparison, has won only twelve times. And Wasabi is only the fifth Pekingese to win Best in Show.

As he made his way around the show ring and into the Winner’s Circle, this tiny dog with all that explosion of fur looked like a shampoo commercial. The breed has been described as a pillow with legs and a mouth. But at heart, Wasabi is still a dog – and watching the dogs of Westminster reminds me of the tremendous variety of size, shape, color, and temperament of the wonderful animals we call our best friends, when we’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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