The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show presented by Purina Pro Plan has crowned 112 Best in Show winners in tenure, which has spanned three centuries. And on Monday and Tuesday, February 11 and 12, a 113th dog will add its name to that exclusive list of tip-top dogs.
While theoretically, any breed can take home the floor-sweeping Best in Show ribbon at the Madison Square Garden show, the reality is that some breeds win more than others – and some win a lot more. Historically, terrier breeds like the Wire Fox Terrier and Scottish Terrier have won Westminster more than 40 percent of the time. (In fact, those two breeds alone have racked up 14 and eight wins, respectively.)
But as anyone who has sat amid the hooting and hollering of the opinionated Westminster audience knows, some breeds are automatic crowd favorites. Any dog that looks like a regular Joe, with a tousled coat or wrinkly skin, usually gets crowd support. But fussier, more primped breeds? Not so much.
Whether out of fealty or familiarity, Westminster fans also root for the breed that sits on the couch beside them. But chances are they won’t get much satisfaction on that score, either: Of the top five breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, three have never won Best in Show at the Garden.
Below are some canine hopefuls that have yet to best their competitors at Manhattan’s famous dog show. Tune in on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 11 and 12, to find out if they succeed at removing their breed from the list.
This striking black dog with rich tan markings is a real up-and-comer in American Kennel Club registrations, methodically climbing up to number eight in popularity. But while Rottweilers are powerful and robust, no amount of brawn has been able to catapult them to Westminster’s top spot. Instead, the top contenders in the Working Group have been the Boxer and Doberman Pinscher, which have each logged four wins over the years.
Once called the German boarhound (even though its name credits Denmark for its origins), the Great Dane is the Apollo of dogs, as stately as it is supersized. But that impressive stature – not to mention being ranked 14th in popularity – sadly isn’t reflected in the breed’s Best in Show standing at Westminster, which currently is nil. Danes come in a variety of colors and patterns, and a new one – merle – will begin competing at AKC shows in 2019, adding some additional contenders to this noble breed’s dog-show ranks.
Now for the other end of the size spectrum: Immortalized in popular culture in everything from Taco Bell commercials to Paris Hilton photo ops, the diminutive Chihuahua is a lot of dog in a very small package. But Westminster judges have yet to conclude that less is more when it comes to this iconic Mexican breed: Neither of the two Chihuahua varieties – long or smooth coated – have had a chance to strike a pose inside the show’s silver Best in Show trophy.
There are three sizes of Schnauzers, all of which are considered separate breeds. While the Standard Schnauzer won Best in Show at Westminster in 1997, the Giant and the Miniature are still waiting for their moment in the spotlight. The most popular of the Schnauzers, ranking 18th in AKC registrations in 2017, the Miniature Schnauzer competes in the Terrier Group, where more “traditional” terriers have dominated Best in Show for decades.
The luxuriously coated Shih Tzu, with its proudly carried, bow-topped head, has had a perennial bad hair day in the Westminster Best in Show ring, never winning in the five times it has won the Toy Group. But that’s still a record to be proud of in a group that’s home to such stiff competitors as the Pekingese (four Bests in Show) and the Toy Poodle (two wins). The Shih Tzu is 20th in popularity in AKC registrations, which is a far cry from its origins in imperial China, where the breed was closely held and never gifted or given away.
Who can resist the playfully mischievous Frenchie? Westminster judges, apparently. This compact bundle of bulliness has zoomed to number four in AKC registrations, but it has only won the Non-Sporting Group once, in 2010 – a mere 113 years after it was first recognized. A hold-over from the days when AKC breeds were divided into only two groups – sporting and not – the Non-Sporting group today is sort of a catchall for breeds that don’t quite fit anywhere else. And its winningest breed is the glamorous Standard Poodle.
Ah, Doxies! (Just please, please, don’t call them “weiner dogs.”) Scrappy and self-assured, these low-slung badger hunters come in three coat varieties – smooth, long, and wire. But despite that triple-threat advantage, a Best in Show has eluded the German-engineered Dachshund, though the breed has made it to the finals an impressive five times, most recently in 1969.
As good as gold – that’s the opinion owners have about their friendly, enthusiastic retrievers, which is why they are the third most popular AKC-recognized breed. But still, Westminster’s top prize has eluded them, despite the fact that Golden Retrievers have earned multiple first through fourth placements in the Sporting Group since they started competing in 1928. By contrast, English Springer Spaniels are the top winners in that group, with six Best in Show notches in their show collars.
The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed in America – and has been for more than a quarter-century. Still, it’s always been a bridesmaid, never a bride at Westminster, earning four Group 2nd, one Group 3rd and six Group 4th placements over the years. Then again, given the Lab’s unflappable, easygoing temperament, chances are he’d rather be retrieving that slimy tennis ball for you anyway … over and over and over again.