Westminster Dog Show Fun Facts

Check out our Westminster fun facts and wow everyone with your knowledge of Westminster Dog Show trivia.

This year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will feature six new breeds, five of which have never before competed at Madison Square Garden. In the Hound Group, the American English Coonhound, a scenting hunting hound from the Deep South; in the Terrier Group, the Cesky Terrier, a short-legged terrier with a long, silky coat; in the Herding Group, the Entelbucher Mountain Dog, the smallest of Switzerland’s four drover breeds, and the Finnish Lapphund, a densely coated reindeer herder from Scandinavia; and in the Non-Sporting Group, two of the world’s most unique dogs, the Norwegian Lundehund, a double-jointed spitz dog bred for puffin hunting, and the Xoloitzcuintli, originally registered by the American Kennel Club in 1887 as the Mexican Hairless (and dropped in 1959 due to minimal, sporadic registration). Since the Mexican Hairless participated in AKC events for over 70 years, many dogs competed at Westminster in the past, as early as 1884 and including a Group second in 1914. There hasn’t been a Best of Breed winner for the breed since Chinito Jr., owned by Valetska Radke  of the Bronx, New York, won in 1958. Meet the Breeds>>

The Madison Square Garden ring is divided into seven or eight small rings during the day to accommodate over one thousand dogs to be judged by about 20 judges. For the evening Group competition, all of the Best of Breed winners from that day compete for four placements in their respective groups. Four groups are judged on Monday night, and three groups on Tuesday. On Tuesday night, following the judging of the seventh group, all seven group winners meet the Best in Show judge for the final showdown to determine who will be America’s Dog.

Once a dog wins Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club, his name goes down in dog history. The past few winners of this famous show include the Beagle from 2008, “Uno” (Ch. K-Run’s Park Me in First); the  Sussex Spaniel from 2009, “Stump” (Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee); the Scottish Terrier from 2010,  “Sadie” (Ch. Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot); and the Scottish Deerhound from last year, “Hickory” (GCh. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, Hickory). The whirlwind media tour that these four-legged princes and princesses of dogdom undertook in the days following their victories include: visiting the purple-and-gold-illuminated Empire State Building, breakfast with “The Donald,” ringing the bell on the New York Stock Exchange, a “therapy dog” visit to kids at the Ronald McDonald House New York, and television appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Martha Stewart Show, The View, The Tonight Show, and Late Night with David Letterman.

More than any other breed, the Wire Fox Terrier has claimed the Best in Show trophy at Westminster 13 times; in second place are the Poodles (three varieties, claiming a total of nine BIS victories); and in third place, the Scottish Terrier with eight victories. The two breeds that have made it into the Group ring the most times but never emerged the victor are the Greyhound (with 13 Group firsts and no BIS) and the Irish Setter (with nine Group firsts and no BIS).

The winner of the Terrier Group has been selected for Best in Show at Westminster 45 times, with the Wire Fox Terrier leading the pack with thirteen victories, followed by the Scottish Terrier with nine victories, followed by the Airedale, Smooth Fox and Sealyham Terriers, all tied with four BIS wins. The Group in second place is the Sporting Group with 19 BIS victories, with the English Springer Spaniel claiming the prize six times. See all Westminster Winners >>

In most people’s minds, “the show dog of show dogs” has always been the flashy, prancey Standard Poodle, and while the breed has only claimed the Best in Show prize four times in the history of Westminster, the breed has won its Group 28 times, which is the record for any breed. Not far behind is the Pekingese who’s won its Group 24 times (and claimed Best in Show three times) and the Boxer, whose 23 Group first placements and four BIS wins place the breed in great standing. The Wire Fox, the breed who’s won Westminster a record 13 times, has won its Group 21 times. With 62 placements, the Pekingese lays claim to the most Group placements of any breed (first through fourth), followed by the Standard Poodle with 57 placements.

The oldest dog to win Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was “Stump,” Sussex Spaniel CH. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, the 2009 victor. On the day he stepped out of retirement to compete at Westminster, he was 10 years, two months, and nine days old. The youngest, at exactly nine months, was Rough Collie, Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, the 1929 victor.

Dog people call Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, “The Garden,” because it takes place at Madison Square Garden, which was originally called Gilmore’s Garden when the show started in 1877. The founding members gathered at the Westminster Hotel in New York City and named their new kennel club (allegedly) after the hotel in which they convened. Evidencing Westminster as a true New York event, the Empire State Building has been lighting its tower in the Club’s traditional purple and gold colors since 2004.

The first time Westminster appeared on the “small screen” was in 1948, the year Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle premiered with their own shows. Today the two-day broadcast is viewed by millions of people. Last year’s broadcast boasted a viewership of more than 3.5 million, a 56% increase over the previous year’s audience. David Frei has been the “Voice of Westminster” and the television host since 1990.

Westminster Kennel Club is America’s oldest and most prestigious dog show and one of the country’s last “bench shows.” A bench show requires that all dogs entered be kept on their assigned benches when not competing in the ring. The benching area is open to the public so that visitors to the show can see each of the dogs close up as well as meet their owners and breeders. Dogs must be benched no later than 11:30 a.m. on the day of showing and must remain until 7 p.m.

Due to the ongoing renovations at Madison Square Garden, only 2,000 dogs will compete at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, 500 less than the usual entry. As is customary for Westminster, the top five dogs in each breed were invited to pre-enter the show before any other dogs could enter. In order to qualify for the first and only “champions-only” Westminster, the dog must have already earned its championship.  For this year’s 136th annual show, entries came from 47 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, as well as Canada, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Peru, Japan, China and Russia. The most entries came from New York, with 204 dogs entered. All 185 recognized AKC breeds have entered this year’s  show.  For the second year in a row, the Rhodesian Ridgeback leads the pack with 40 dogs entered, followed by French Bulldogs with 39 dogs entered, and America’s number-one breed, Labrador Retrievers, with 38 dogs entered. On the other end of the spectrum, five breeds will be represented by only two dogs; these rarities include American Water Spaniels, Kuvaszok, Harriers, Sealyham Terriers, and Canaan Dogs. Westminster entries by breed>>

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