BY GABRIELLA BORTER
Judging at New York’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show begins in earnest on Monday, the second day of competition in the annual showcase for pedigree canines, which culminates with the awarding of “Best in Show” on Tuesday evening.
The event, considered the alpha competition for show dogs in the United States, puts on display the skills and good looks of more than 2,600 dogs from 49 U.S. states and 19 other countries, including Japan, Australia and Thailand.
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.
On Sunday, “Best-of-Breed” competition began in the hound and herding groups, when judges select dogs that best exemplify the standards of his or her breed.
Monday will bring the start of the “Best-of-Group” competition, in which the “Best of Breeds” will vie to be named the sole winner of their respective groups – hounds, toys, non-sporting, herding, working, sporting and terrier.
The seven dogs that emerge victorious at the group stage then compete for the top prize – the single “Best in Show” trophy, awarded on Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden.
Last year, a Wire Fox Terrier named King won the terrier group and took the top prize. He was the 15th member of his breed to take the “Best of Show” title.
For the first time this year, the show will feature the Azawakh breed, described by the club as a “slender sighthound and ancient companion of desert-roaming nomads.” With six dogs competing to be named top Azawakh, the total number of competing breeds increases to 204, including perennial favorites like the Labrador, golden retriever and the corgi.
The Westminster Kennel Club has its roots in New York City in the 1870s, when a group of sporting gentlemen would meet at a hotel bar near Union Square in lower Manhattan to trade stories about hunting and the exploits of their dogs, according to the club’s website.
One night, the men decided to put on a dog show, and they named it after the gathering spot, the long-gone Westminster Hotel.