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16 Surprising Facts About The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

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Get ready for an exciting week in the world of dogs – the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is just around the corner! From May 6-9, 2023, dog lovers from around the globe will gather for this highly-anticipated event, which will be held for the first time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, Flushing NY.

With so much to see and experience, it’s no wonder that this event has captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts for over a century. In this slide show, we’ll take a closer look at some fun and interesting facts about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show!

Westminster Is Older Than The Lightbulb!

Vintage postcard of the Westminster Hotel in NYC.

Westminster, known as WKC, pre-dates the invention of the light bulb, the automobile, basketball, and the establishment of the World Series in baseball.

The Westminster Kennel Club and its world-renowned dog show have a rich and storied history that dates back to the late 1800s. It all began when a group of sporting gentlemen decided to form a club and name it after their meeting place, the Westminster Hotel in Manhattan. They initially raised Pointers for hunting and field trials, but eventually, they helped stage a dog show in Philadelphia in 1876 to celebrate America’s centennial.

The success of this event led to the First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs in 1877, which drew an impressive entry of 1,201 dogs and established the Westminster Kennel Club as a leading organization in the world of purebred dogs. Today, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show remains one of the most prestigious and beloved dog shows in the world, showcasing the best of the best in canine athleticism, beauty, and companionship.

America’s Second-Longest Continuously Held Sporting Event

Kentucky derby
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Westminster, first held in 1877, is America’s second-longest continuously held sporting event, lagging only behind the Kentucky Derby.

There Are 4 Types of Competition Including Dock Diving!

1_Photo Credit: H.Mansfield for WKC
Photo Credit: H.Mansfield for WKC.

The 2023 Westminster Week features over 3,000 top-ranked dogs in four different competitions: conformation, agility (seen above), obedience, and dock diving.

All Of NY Celebrates!

Empire State Building
Photo credit: Empire State Realty Trust.

Every year the Empire State Building celebrates the show by lighting up in the WKC’s signature colors of purple and gold, which are also the colors of the winning ribbons.

Westminster Moves Outdoors!

Photo Credit: J. Grassa for WKC
Photo Credit: J. Grassa for WKC.

The dog show was moved away from Madison Square Garden where it has been held for decades to Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY in 2021 and 2022 in order to be outdoors due to the COVID pandemic. The evening Group and Best In Show judging took place in a large tent. This year it will be held for the first time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, Flushing NY.

Pros vs. Amateurs

2_Photo Credit: S. Surfman for WKC
Photo Credit: S. Surfman for WKC.

The handlers in the ring, running the dogs around the ring are often professionals, but there are “Owner-Handlers” as well. Dog showing is the one sport where professionals and amateurs compete against one another.

Kids Can Compete

Westminster -Freeman.
Photo credit: © Rob Gerity.

Even youngsters compete against seasoned pros. This is 16-year-old Freeman Wilson handling Ch. Winsor’s Hope Springs Eternal ROM, known as Hope, in the Terrier Group competition.

The Most Popular Dogs Are Not Always Winners

Non-Sporting_Winston_Photo Credit: J. Grassa for WKC
Photo credit: Non-Sporting_Winston_Photo Credit: J. Grassa for WKC.

The most popular dog in the U.S. is the French Bulldog, also known as a Frenchie. They have never won Westminster, but “Winston”, a cream-colored French Bulldog, did win Reserve Best In Show in 2022.

Also on this list of never having won Best In Show at Westminster are Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, Dachshund, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Australian Shepherd, Cavalier King Charles, Great Dane, Miniature Schnauzer and Shih Tzu.

The Oldest Winner

Discover the Unique Traits of Sussex Spaniel Dogs on a Dark Bac
A Sussex Spaniel. Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

In 2009, Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, a Sussex Spaniel, became the oldest dog to capture Best In Show at 10 years, 2 months and 9 days of age in 2009.

The Youngest Winner

rough collie
Rough Collie. Photo credit: Getty Images Signature via Canva.

The youngest winner was the Rough Collie, Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, who captured the award in 1929 at the age of exactly 9 months.

The Tallest Winner

Scottish Deerhound
Photo credit: Getty Images via Canva.

The tallest breed to ever win Westminster is the Scottish Deerhound. GCh. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, known as “Hickory” won in 2011. They typically stand about 32-inches at the shoulder.

The Heaviest Winner

Photo credit: Getty Images via Canva.

Josh, a Newfoundland, who won in 2004, is probably the heaviest Best In Show winner. Males of the breed often weigh 150 pounds.

Tiny Winners

Photo credit: bluebird via Canva.

Small breeds that have won Best in Show have included the Toy poodle, Pug, Affenpinscher, Pekingese, Pomeranian, and Papillon, as seen above.

David Fitzpatrick, a skilled breeder, owner, and handler, made history in 2019 when his beloved Pekingese, Wasabi, became the first-ever Toy Dog to win the AKC National Championship. Fitzpatrick’s impressive record continued in 2021 when Wasabi also triumphed at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show. This isn’t the first time Fitzpatrick’s Pekingese have found success at Westminster; in 2012, his other Pekingese, Malachy, also won at the iconic event.

Drama Outside Of The Show Ring

Animal rights activists
Photo credit: Getty Images via Canva.

In 2010, two PETA members stormed the stage during the finals with signs that read “Mutts Rule” and “Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs’ Chances”. In 2013, a Samoyed named Cruz died days after competing at the show; his owner claimed that he had been poisoned by extreme animal-rights activists who had tampered with his food or water. 

A necropsy was not performed, and the cause of death remains unclear. However, the veterinarian who treated Cruz noted that he had symptoms that closely resembled those of dogs who had ingested rodent poison. Despite this, the veterinarian felt that it was unlikely that Cruz had been deliberately poisoned.

Although intentional poisonings of show dogs are rare, such stories have circulated for decades within the competitive canine community. Even the prestigious Westminster Dog Show has a history of poisoning allegations, with incidents dating back to 1895 when eight dogs were poisoned the morning before the competition. The motive was believed to be jealousy, according to a front-page headline in The New York Times.

Trophies, But No Money

4_Trumpet_Photo Credit: J.Grassa for WKC
Trumpet_Photo Credit: J.Grassa for WKC.

Each year, the Best In Show dog walks away with the Westminster Legend Trophy, a hand-engraved crystal bowl. But there is no cash prize. This is all about the love of the dogs and the sport.

Odd Breeds

Bergamasco & American Hairless AKC Breeds
Photo credit: J. Grassa courtesy WKC.

Over 200 different breeds compete at WKC, including some you may never have seen before, such as the Bergamasco, an Italian breed of sheepdog, and the American Hairless, is a breed of companion dog that was developed from naturally hairless Rat Terriers. 

If You Want To Attend….

20180830 BJKNTC Around the grounds - Day 4
August 30, 2018 – A general view of the grandstand during the 2018 US Open.

There is still time to buy tickets for the 2023 event. This year it will be held for the first time at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Corona Park, Flushing NY.

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