Westminster Dog Show Facts and Trivia

The 144th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is about a week away. In my last post, I went over some of the basics for this year’s contest. Previously, I have covered other aspects of the competition (see past posts) including a look at past winners (2019 Westminster Kennel Club & Dog Show Primer).  Today we will go over some facts and trivia to get you prepped for the big event.
 

DOGS DOGS EVERYWHERE

The number of canines roaming the competition has indeed grown over the years, but that figure might not be as enormous as one would expect considering it has been going on for nearly a century and a half. And it certainly has not kept up with inflation. While $1 in 1877 is now worth more than 24 times that in today’s value, the number of participating dogs in the Westminster Show has increased a little less precipitously. A total of 1201 dogs entered the 1877 competition while there were about 2,800 dogs, consisting of more than 200 different breeds or varieties, in last year’s event.
 

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS

Sorry, but there is no gender equity in the high-stakes world of dog shows. Since the “Best in Show” title was first awarded in 1907, male dogs have won the title at an almost 2:1 rate as their female counterparts – 72 to 39. Are the judges showing favoritism? Probably not. One reason for this discrepancy may be due to logistics. According to Reuters, “the main reason for the divide is that a dog’s peak age for competition is 3 to 5 years old. This age group also happens to be the best time for bitches to breed. Accordingly, after a female dog successfully shows, she’s typically retired to become a mom. Male dogs, meanwhile, can be used as a stud and continue to compete at the same time.” [source]

Another reason why female dogs lag in the success department, according to Wendy Kellerman, a handler and breeder, is that “that when a bitch is menstruating she can be “moody” and that being in heat causes changes in hormones that make her shed her coat. Because the goal of dog shows is to pick out the best example of a dog’s breed, those changes can hurt a dog’s chances at a win.” Others note that handlers may prefer to show males “because because they are fluffier, which, is a difficult thing to argue. Fluffiness is very good.” [source]
 

A FEMALE PIONEER

Anna H. Whitney was the first woman to judge a dog show in the United States, and she did it at Westminster in 1888. Her first assignment was 117 Saint Bernards and when she was done, she was handed a bouquet of flowers. She was among the first judges to be AKC approved and would officiate various shows until 1918. When she died in 1922 at the age of 77, the newspaper that reported her passing wrote, “A brave spirit has left us.” [source]

Anna H. Whitney


A BRAVE SPIRIT: Anna H. Whitney in 1897.
She became the first woman to judge at Westminster in 1888, officiating a total of 16 times through 1913.


 

TERRIERS TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS

If you had to put some money on the line and pick from which group the eventually winner would emerge, the smart money is on the terriers. In fact, they have won about 42% of the time – 2019 notwithstanding when the Working Group put one in the books.

  • Terrier group: 47
  • Sporting group: 18
  • Working group: 15
  • Toy group: 11
  • Non-Sporting group: 11
  • Hound group: 6
  • Herding group: 3

 

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

So who is the oldest dog to win Best in Show? That honor would go to a Sussex Spaniel named Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee at age 10 during the 2009 competition. “Stump” as he was affectionately known, was also the first of his breed to win the award. Sadly, he passed three years later age 13.

The youngest Best in Show winner was Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, a Rough Collie, at the tender age of just nine months in 1929. To this day, he is the only Collie to finish first. You can read more about of him here.
 

MULTIPLE WINNERS

Only one dog has won the top prize three times (Ch. Warren Remedy in 1907-1909). But six other dogs have won the title twice with Ch. Conejo Wycollar Boy being the only one to do it in non-consecutive years (1917 & 1920).

  • Ch. Warren Remedy | Fox Terrier (Smooth) | Terrier Group | 1907, 1908, 1909
  • Ch. Matford Vic | Fox Terrier (Wire) | Terrier Group | 1915 & 1916
  • Ch. Conejo Wycollar Boy | Fox Terrier (Wire) | Terrier Group | 1917 & 1920
  • Ch. Pendley Calling of Blarney | Fox Terrier (Wire) | Terrier Group | 1930 & 1931
  • Ch. My Own Brucie | Spaniel (Cocker) Black | Sporting Group | 1940 & 1941
  • Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm | Doberman Pinscher | Working Group | 1952 & 1953
  • Ch. Chinoe’s Adamant James | Spaniel (English Springer) | Sporting Group | 1971 & 1972
Ch. Warren Remedy
Ch. Matford Vic Ch. Conejo Wycollar Boy Ch. Pendley Calling of Blarney
Ch. My Own Brucie Ch. Rancho Dobe's Storm Best in Show - Ch. Chinoe's Adamant James

 

ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID…

While several breeds are regular visitors to the winners’ circle, some of the most popular ones have never earned that big purple ribbon at the end. They include:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • French Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Rottweiler
  • Shih Tzu

 

SORRY MUTTS – DO NOT PASS ‘GO’

Mutts are known officially as “All-Americans.” In 2014, these mixes were finally allowed to participate for the first time, albeit in Westminster’s Agility Championship. However, they are still ineligible for “Best in Show.”
 

THE LUCKY SEVEN

As a quick reminder, dog breeds are divided into seven groups. Best in Breed winners compete with others for Best in Group. From there, just seven will get the opportunity to trot around for the judges in the final event. Here’s the list and a brief description:

  • Sporting dogs bred to hunt game birds: Pointer, Retriever, Setter, and Spaniel
  • Hound dogs bred for hunting other game: Beagle, Basset Hound, Dachshund, and Greyhound
  • Working dogs bred to perform services: Akita, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, and St. Bernard
  • Terriers bred to kill vermin: Airedale, Cairn Terrier, and Scottish Terrier
  • Non-Sporting dogs, bred for other reasons, often companionship: Chow Chow, Bulldog, Dalmatian, and Poodle
  • Herding dogs, bred to herd livestock: Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog, and Old English Sheepdog
  • Toy dogs bred for household companionship: Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Pug

 

WHAT YOU TALKIN’ ‘BOUT (WILLIS)

To appreciate the goings on of the actual competition on the floor as well as appear like you are not a total rube, here are some basic terms you might want to know:

  • Angulation: refers to the angles created by bones meeting at their joints.
  • Bait: a tasty treat of liver or cheese used to get a dog’s attention
  • Bench Show: a dog show at which the dogs are kept on assigned benches when not being shown in competition, so they can be viewed and discussed by attendees, exhibitors, and breeders.
  • Best of Breed: the award for the dog judged as the best representative of the breed.
  • Best of Variety: an award given in lieu of Best of Breed for those breeds divided by varieties. There are nine breeds divided by variety: Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Dachshunds, Bull Terriers, Manchester Terriers, Chihuahuas, English Toy Spaniels, Poodles, and Collies.
  • Best of Winners: the dog judged as best between the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch. In the dog show world, the term “dog” refers to an intact (not neutered) male canine. The term “bitch” refers to an intact (not spayed) female canine.
  • Best of Opposite Sex: the best dog that is of the opposite gender to the Best of Breed Winner.
  • Breed Standard: the official written description of the ideal dog of each American Kennel Club, or AKC, recognized breed, as specified by the breed’s parent club. The breed standard includes characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred and outlines the structure, form, movement, coat, and temperament of the breed. Dog show judging is a comparison of dogs to this established standard.
  • Bred-by-Exhibitor Class: a regular class for dogs that are owned or co-owned by one of the breeders and shown by one of the breeders or a member of the breeder’s immediate family.
  • Breeder: the person who owned the dam (mother) at the time she was bred to produce that dog.
  • Breeder-Owner-Handler: someone who exhibits, owns, and handles the dog they bred.
  • Champion: an AKC title conferred upon a dog that has earned 15 points in competition as a result of defeating a specified number of dogs at a series of AKC dog shows.
  • Conformation: the form, structure, shape, and arrangement of the parts of a dog, as they relate and conform to the written standard of the breed.
  • Conformation Dog Show: an event held under AKC rules where championship points are awarded. The purpose is to allow breeders to evaluate the success of their breeding program, with the goal of achieving structure and temperament necessary for the breed’s function and to evaluate dogs for use as future breeding stock.
  • Dam: a dog’s mother
  • Exhibitor: aomeone whose dog is entered and shown at a dog show is an exhibitor.
  • Expression: the general appearance of all features of the head is known as the dog’s expression.
  • Fancy: the group of people who are especially interested in purebred dogs or in a specific breed are a fancy. Fanciers usually are active in the sport of purebred dogs.
  • Feathering: the longer fringe hair on ears, tail, or body.
  • Field Trial: a competition for certain Hounds or Sporting breeds in which dogs are judged on their ability and style in finding or retrieving game or following a game trail.
  • Free Stack: to get a dog to pose for a judge in a manner that shows off its strong points
  • Gait: the pattern of movement of the dog. The dog’s gait can be described as gallop, trot, walk, or hackney. Gait is a good indicator of structure, temperament, and condition.
  • Grooming: the practice of making the dog’s appearance adhere to the standard by bathing, brushing, combing, trimming, etc.
  • Handler: a person or agent who takes a dog into the show ring or who works the dog at a field trial or other performance.
  • Hand Stack: to physically arrange a dog in a pose for a judge
  • Junior Handler: a person between the ages of 10 and 18 who competes in an AKC-sponsored class called Junior Showmanship. Junior handlers are judged on their ability to show and handle their dog, not on the quality of the dog.
  • Match Show: an informal dog show at which no championship points are awarded.
  • Miscellaneous Class: a transitional class for breeds attempting to advance in full AKC recognition.
  • Pedigree: a written record of a dog’s family tree of three or more generations.
  • Points: credits earned toward a championship are called points.
  • Purebred: a dog whose sire and dam belong to the same breed and are themselves of unmixed descent since the recognition of the breed is termed purebred.
  • Professional Handler: a person who shows dogs for a fee.
  • Register: to record a dog’s parentage with the AKC.
  • Sire: a dog’s father
  • Soundness: refers to mental and physical well-being of the animal.
  • Stack: to position the dog in a natural standing position or pose.
  • Type: the characteristic qualities distinguishing a breed.
  • Winners: an award given to the best dog (Winners Dog) and best bitch (Winners Bitch) competing in regular classes. The Winners are the only dogs of that breed who are awarded championship points on that day.

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME

Last year’s top dog was affectionately named “King.” However such a terse moniker will never do when you are a show dog. The Wire Fox Terrier is officially called “GCHB CH Kingarthur Van Foliny Home.”

There are rules for the length and content of these elaborate names though. “The AKC allows 37 instances of the same name within a breed; sometimes it assigns Roman numerals to differentiate dogs, like popes. As with easy-to-crack passwords, people usually rely on a pattern. The owners of Boulder, dba GCH Night n’ Barrett’s Pioneer Mountain Man, break it down: earned titles (like “Ch.” for “champion”) + kennel name + “litter theme” + something related to the dog’s “call” name (what its owners call it) + more titles.” [source]

 

RESOURCES:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Kennel_Club_Dog_Show
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Best_in_Show_winners_of_the_Westminster_Kennel_Club_Dog_Show
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/75307/15-well-groomed-facts-about-westminster-dog-show
https://qz.com/1546377/your-westminster-kennel-club-dog-show-2019-fact-sheet/
https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/13/us/westminster-dog-show-fast-facts/index.html 
https://www.dogingtonpost.com/fun-facts-about-the-westminster-dog-show/
https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/dog-facts/ 
https://earthbath.com/dog/fun-facts-trivia-about-the-westminster-kennel-club-dog-show-134th-annual-is-feb-15-16-2010/
https://www.inverse.com/article/53184-westminster-dog-show-male-win
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-dogshow-gender/glass-ceiling-for-dogs-males-win-westminster-almost-twice-as-often-idUSKBN1FT1FB
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2019-02-13/popular-dog-breeds-that-never-win-westminster-best-in-show
http://www.chelsea-collies.com/laundloyalty.html
http://www.thedogpress.com/DogShows/Westminster/WKC-History-first-century.asp
https://books.google.com/books?id=_asKBgAAQBAJ&pg
https://www.petcoach.co/article/dog-show-terminology/

 

2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Preview