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Dog fanciers await crowning of Westminster Kennel Club’s ‘Best of Show’

A Puli named Spaetzle is judged at the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, U.S., February 10, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

BY GABRIELLA BORTER

A Havanese, a standard poodle, a Shetland sheepdog and a whippet are among the seven finalists that will vie for the title “Best of Show” in Tuesday’s grand finale of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.

The remaining three finalists will emerge on Tuesday from competitions among breeds in the terrier, sporting and working groups. They will join the top dogs selected on Monday in the hound, non-sporting, herding and toy groups.

The prestigious event will culminate on Tuesday evening with the selection of a grand champion at Madison Square Garden.

Now in its 144th year, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show bills itself as the second-oldest sporting event in the country, behind only the Kentucky Derby horse race.

Monday’s finalists included Conrad the Shetland sheepdog, who spun around in joyful circles when he was proclaimed the winner of the herding group over a corgi and a German shepherd. It was the sixth “Best in Group” win for Shetland sheepdogs.

“He loves this, this is all he wants, and we do everything in his entire life planned around this,” Conrad’s owner, Tyler Crady, said in an interview in the ring.

Bourbon, a whippet, beat out a beagle and a basset hound, both crowd favorites, to win the hound group.

In the non-sporting group, a black standard poodle named Siba maintained a tradition, becoming the 31st member of the breed to win the group after she wowed the crowd with her towering crest of fluffly black fur.

The toy group’s title was seized for the second year in a row by Bono the Havanese, drawing shouts of glee from the crowd of thousands as he trotted around the ring, his floor-length silk coat flowing behind him.

This year, the winner of the annual showcase will come from a field of more than 2,600 dogs. Once crowned champion, the lucky dog’s life will become a whirlwind of television appearances and celebrity photo shoots. Sometimes the champion even meets the U.S. president.

Last year, a wire fox terrier named King won the terrier group and then took “Best of Show,” the 15th member of his breed to take the top prize.

The prestigious dog show grew out of an 1870s gathering of sporting gentlemen who regularly chatted at a bar in the long-gone Westminster Hotel in lower Manhattan. While trading stories about hunting and their dogs’ exploits, they decided to put on a dog show named after the meeting spot, according to the club’s website.

Reuters