Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The 132nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

This year's show will be broadcast Monday Feb 11th and Tuesday Feb.12th at 8:00 PM on the USA Network.

Opening Night
Best of Group Competitions:

  • Hound
  • Terrier
  • Non-Sporting
  • Herding

Closing Night
Best of Group Competitions:

  • Sporting
  • Toy
  • Working
  • Best In Show Judging

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a two-day benched dog show that takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City every year. Dog owners from around the world come to show their dogs. Dogs are judged closely by eminent American Kennel Club (AKC) judges. It is considered by many to be America’s most prestigious dog show.

History The first Westminster show was held in 1877. No other continuously held sporting event in the United States is older except for the Kentucky Derby, which predates Westminster by only two years. The show originated as a show for sporting dogs, primarily setters and pointer (dog)|pointers, initiated by a group of hunting men who met regularly at the Westminster Hotel at Irving Place and Sixteenth Street in Manhattan. They decided to create a kennel club called the Westminster Kennel Club specifically for the purpose of holding a dog show. The prizes for these first shows included such things as pearl handled pistols that would be of use to the hunters and terriermen who worked these dogs in the field. Since that time dog shows have drifted away from a focus on working dogs to a focus on the appearance of the dog alone.

The first show took place in May of 1877 at Gilmore’s Gardens (the Hippodrome) on the site now occupied by the New York Life Building, which also contains the AKC headquarters. The first show drew over 1200 dogs and proved so popular that its originally scheduled three days became four. It remained 3 or 4 days until 1941, when it changed to its current two-day format. Gilmore’s Gardens at the time was an old railroad depot, which two years later became the first Madison Square Garden.

Dog breeds listed for the first show include the Long-haired St. Bernard (dog)|Saint Bernard, the Esquimaux Dog, and the Siberian Bloodhound; most dogs had simple names such as Duke, Rover, Mungo, Nellie, and Rex, compared to today’s fancier and longer breed registry#registered names|dog names (although among today’s ”call names” there still number many Dukes, Nellies, Rexes and the like).

The advent of Westminster predates the creation of the AKC, so breed standards were still rough and hard to find. The Westminster Kennel Club was the first club admitted to the AKC after AKC’s founding in 1884.

In 1905, with an entry of over 1700 dogs, Westminster surpassed even Crufts to become the largest all-breed dog show in the world.

Television coverage of the event first occurred in 1948, and continues through the present time. Television condenses the showing of more than 2500 dogs in well over 150 breeds in multiple rings over two days into a usually two-hour show, primarily focusing on the General Specials (featuring winners from each breed competing for the title (animal)|title ”Best In Group”) and the final ”Best In Show” (chosen from among the winners of Best In Group).

Requirements for entry In 1884, the AKC began requiring that all dog participants be registered with the AKC. This eliminates hundreds of less-common breeds recognized by other kennel clubs both in the United States and abroad.

Because of the show’s popularity and prestige, starting in 1992 the AKC limited entries by requiring that dogs must have already earned their breed Championship before appearing at Westminster. Still, in 2005, 2,581 dogs were entered.

Although not required, most dogs are handled at Westminster by professional dog handlers who earn good fees for being able to bring out a dogs’ strengths in the show ring. Although few dogs have won more than once at Westminster, several skilled handlers have managed the feat with different dogs of different breeds.

Winning breeds The prestige of Westminster is so high that breeds winning Best in Show can actually become too popular, resulting in overbreeding, often by puppy mills or simply inexperienced backyard breeders, in an attempt to meet the increased demand for the breed. A serious decline in the quality of Cocker Spaniels in the 1940s was generally thought to be attributable to the rare double win of a single Cocker Spaniel in 1940 and 1941. The Irish Setter was another dog that became the darling of the show ring. Critics pointed to the degeneration of the hunting abilities and trainability of this dog as proof that too great a focus on appearance of the coat to the exclusion of other characteristics could be detrimental to the long term health of a breed.

As of the end of the 129th Westminster show, in February of 2005, Best in Show had been won by terriers 43 out of the 97 times that the prize has been awarded (first given in 1907 and not awarded in 1923 due to rule changes), disproportionately high since only 27 of the 157 dog breed|breeds fully recognized by the AKC are terriers.

Winners are often, although not always, retired, and can command tremendous fees for breeding. As of 2003, only 6 dogs had ever won Westminster twice, and only one dog has ever won three times. Fueling arguments that the AKC focuses only on dogs’ appearance and not on their intelligence or suitability for particular work, only one dog who has won Westminster has ever also earned an obedience championship. Only two dogs have ever won both at Westminster and at Crufts.

References *Westminster show history
*Barnes, Duncan (ed.) (1983). ”The AKC’s World of the Pure-Bred Dog”. Nick Lyons Books. ISBN 0-87605-406-8.

External links *Westminster Kennel Club
*National Geographic news article about the show

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