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At the 144th iteration of the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show held in New York City’s cavernous Madison Square Garden, judge Robert H. Slay pointed to “Siba” the black Standard Poodle for Best in Show. That win — in an entry of almost 2,600 dogs — marked the fifth time one of these elaborately (but purposefully) groomed water dogs has taken top honors there. In total, Poodles have won 10 times at the Garden. The two smaller Poodle varieties, Miniature and Toy, have won three and two times, respectively.

Only three breeds: the English Springer Spaniel, the Scottish Terrier, and the Wire Fox Terrier — with a whopping 15 wins, the most recent one earned last year — can boast a better winning record than the Standard Poodle.

Don’t let the poofy hair fool you. The Poodle’s show cut has a purpose — to protect the breed’s important joints from cold and water.

Seven Top Dogs

Reserve Best in Show at the 2020 event went to “Bourbon” the Whippet (Grand Champion Pinnacle Kentucky Bourbon), who closed out last year as the nation’s number-one Hound. The curvy, 4-year-old Whippet comes from quite an accomplished family: Her brother Whiskey (Grand Champion Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey) won the 2018 AKC National Championship by Royal Canin.

Siba – whose formal name is Grand Champion Stone Run Afternoon Tea – was the top Non-Sporting dog in 2019, as well as the winner of her national specialty. She earned her shiny silver-plated trophy by defeating six equally accomplished contenders.

Representing the Toy Group was “Bono” the Havanese (Grand Champion Oeste’s In The Name Of Love), last year’s immensely popular Reserve Best in Show winner as well as the nation’s top dog overall in 2019. In another case of déjà vu all over again, the Working Group winner, “Wilma” the Boxer (Grand Champion Cinnibon’s Bedrock Bombshell), was a repeat of last year. The Terrier Group sent forward that other Westminster perennial, a Wire Fox Terrier named “Vinny” (Grand Champion Irvonhill Voignier). And in the Herding Group, “Conrad” the Shetland Sheepdog (Grand Champion Syringa-Akadia The Corsair) raced to the top in a blur of blue merle.

The often-opinionated crowd at the Garden tends to root the loudest for those familiar breeds that could be napping on their own sofas, which explains the rafter-raising cheers for the Golden Retriever who won the Sporting Group, formally known as Grand Champion Hillock’s Jack Daniel’S RA JH CA RATN CGC. At one point during Best in Show judging, a chant of “Daniel” echoed through the arena.

Standard Poodle Breed Standard Illustration. In conformation dog shows, dogs are not judged against each other, but rather against their respective breed standards. The winner is chosen based on the dog that best conforms to their standard, which includes physical characteristics as well as temperament, expression, and gait.

Siba the Superstar

But in the end, Slay passed up the crowd favorite in favor of 3-year-old Siba, whose meticulously coiffed pompoms actually have a function — to protect and insulate her joints and body cavity from the frigid water in which the breed originally worked. The win marked the first time a Standard Poodle has won at the Garden since 1991.

Siba fueled her Group and Best in Show wins with a fast-food chicken sandwich before entering the big ring on both Monday and Tuesday nights. The day after the show will require just as much stamina, with media appearances on morning TV shows, a photoshoot on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, and — there are those much-needed calories — a lunch of rare steak at the Sardi’s restaurant in the theater district.

As is the case with many victors at Westminster, Siba will now retire, presumably to embark on her next career goal — motherhood.
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