Fido fans, rejoice! The world's most renowned dog show is just around the corner. To help you get excited about the event, here's a fun history lesson filled with the most interesting and unusual facts about the Westminster Dog Show. Study up before the big event and impress your friends with your newfound knowledge about the oldest organization dedicated to dogs.
1. OLDEST DOG ORGANIZATION
The Westminster Kennel Club was established in 1877, making it America's oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs. To put it in perspective, think about this: the Westminster Kennel Club is older than the lightbulb and the automobile. Wow!
2. THE MORE, THE MERRIER
This year, the show has decided to increase the entry limit to 3,200 dog participants. This increase is due to the fact that dogs that are not champions can enter. This has not happened since 1991. Good luck, underdogs!
3. HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED
In 1878, the entry fee for each show dog was $2, which included feed and care of the dog. As of 2011, the entry fee has increased to $75. That's worth a whole lot of puppy chow!
4. WESTMINSTER ON TV
The first telecast of Westminster was in 1948. In 1948, the average cost of a new house was $7,700 and the cost of a gallon of gas was 16 cents. Today, the two-day broadcast is viewed by millions in their living rooms. In 2011, the show boasted more than 3.6 million in viewership.
5. PUP-TICIPANTS PILING UP
Since its start, there have been a total of 303,756 dogs entered in Westminster's 136 shows through 2012. In addition, there have been a total of 1,713 judges who have officiated at least once at Westminster.
6. TERRIERS RULE ALL
The winner of the Terrier Group has been selected for Best in Show at Westminster 45 times. The Wire Fox Terrier leads the pack with 13 wins, followed by the Scottish Terrier with 9. The Airedale, Smooth Fox and Sealyham Terriers tied with 4 victories. Sadly, two of the most popular dog breeds in the United States — the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever — have never won Best in Show. That's OK, guys. You're still America's favorites!
7. OLD AND YOUNG
The oldest dog to win Westminster was Stump, a Sussex Spaniel that was 10 years, 2 months and 9 days old. Conversely, the youngest to win was a Rough Collie named Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, a 9-month-old pup.
8. WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Back in the day, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was nicknamed "The Garden," because of the event's location at Madison Square Garden, which was originally called Gilmore's Garden. The founding members of the show used to stay at a hotel called The Westminster in New York City. This was (allegedly) how they came to establish the notable name we all know today. This year, not only will the show take place at Madison Square, but it will also add a new location: The Piers. The Piers is a huge exhibition space overlooking the Hudson River.
9. NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
This year, the Treeing Walker Coonhound and the Russell Terrier are the two newest breeds among the 187 to be shown at Westminster. That's a small addition compared to last year's six new entries. In 2012, Westminster welcomed the American English Coonhound, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Finnish Lapphund, Cesky Terrier, Norweigan Lundehund and Xoloitzcuintli to the club.
10. CANINE CONTROVERSY
Although a portion of Westminster's first show in 1877 went to the ASPCA, many animal organizations have since stopped showing support for the organization due to its exclusivity of purebred dogs. In 2010, two women from PETA walked into the center of the ring with signs that read "Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances." Westminster followed by releasing a statement explaining their firm stance against puppy mills.
11. JUDGES VET WHAT?
As expected, Westminster judges have to examine every inch of each show dog. This includes everything from the tops of their ears to the tips of their tails, and of course, all that's in between. Most people do not know, however, that this thorough analysis includes the dog's nether region (i.e., the male dogs' testicles). It is still uncertain what they are exactly looking for, but a judge did confirm in Business Week that it is a part of the procedure. Thank goodness for latex gloves.
12. CANINE CATEGORIES
If you are new to the Westminster Dog Show, then you may be confused about the different awards that are given out. Isn't there only a Best in Show? Au contraire! While Best in Show is the biggest award of the evening, each dog group has one winner. In total, there are seven different dog groups. They include: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding.
13. DOGGY DICTION
Don't get caught watching the Westminster Dog Show without knowing the proper terminology. Here's a quick rundown:
- BOB: best of breed
- BOS: best of opposite sex
- BIS: best in show
- All rounder: an individual licensed to judge every breed
- Stack: the pose itself or the posing of the dog by a handler in its natural stance
- Variety: division of breed based on coat, color or size (like "poodle")
- Conformation: the structure and physical characteristics of a dog
14. THE VOICE OF WESTMINSTER
David Frei is the Billy Crystal of dog shows. The talented emcee and devoted dog lover has hosted the show since 1990. In addition, Frei is a longtime breeder-owner-handler and judge in the world of purebred dogs.
Next: Westminster Dog Show 2012
15. MEAL FIT FOR A KING
One of the greatest traditions of winning the Westminster title of Best in Show means lunch at Sardi's, a restaurant in the New York City theater district that was frequented by celebrities in its heyday. Last year, Sardi's said Malachy would be the last Best in Show dog to eat at the restaurant, but the health department has extended their waiver so that the restaurant can continue its age-old tradition.