In 1877, a group of sporting men in New York decided they should hold a dog show in Manhattan. They named their group after their favorite bar, the Westminster. When the club staged its first dog show, the light bulb had not yet been invented, or the automobile. In fact, Westminster Kennel Club is even older than the American Kennel Club!
During the Super Bowl last Sunday, dog lovers who were not football fans might have tuned in to Puppy Bowl XVI on Animal Planet, as Team Fluff managed to beat out Team Ruff and win the coveted “Lombarky” Trophy. Dogs of all shapes and sizes competed, but the real goal of the game is to encourage pet adoptions by giving viewers an opportunity to see shelter dogs playing and having fun. It works, because every year, all of the dogs on both teams have found new forever homes.
The dogs you see competing this week definitely have homes, as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show takes place at Madison Square Garden. There will be more than 2,600 dogs representing over 200 breeds.
Westminster actually begins today with the Masters Agility Championship. Tomorrow the breed judging begins, with each breed assigned to one of seven groups. First the dogs compete against others of their same breed. Then the winners of each breed compete against others in their group.
So Monday night, you will see winners named in the Hound, Toy, Non-sporting and Herding groups. Tuesday night, winners in the Sporting, Working, and Terrier groups will be chosen. Then later that night the seven group winners will compete for the highly coveted title of Best in Show.
One surprising thing about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is that in more than 140 years, certain breeds popular with pet lovers have never won. They include the Dachshund, the Chihuahua, the Dalmatian, the Labrador Retriever and even the Golden Retriever. The Terrier group has the most wins, with the Wire Fox Terrier alone winning more than a dozen times.
There is no cash prize for the dog who wins Best in Show at Westminster, but the many organizations who receive contributions to support pet health and rescue efforts will tell you the Westminster Kennel Club, and its annual Dog Show, have helped to make the world a better place, when you’re speaking of pets.