For most people, February’s red-letter event is Valentine’s Day. But among dog lovers, it’s the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show presented by Purina® Pro Plan® that sets hearts aflutter.
Held this year on Monday and Tuesday, February 11 and 12, this world-famous canine competition is the second-longest continuously held sports event in the nation, predating the invention of the zipper and the light bulb. In fact, only the Kentucky Derby is older.
Who will win Westminster Dog Show’s 143rd dog show this year is anyone’s guess — and, for fun at least, anyone’s bet: Every year, Las Vegas casinos publish their odds on the breeds that will win.
Since by looking to the past we can sometimes glimpse the future, here are 11 of the past winners of New York City’s famous hometown dog show, which itself has beaten insurmountable odds. After all, almost 3,000 dogs alighting on the most crowded city in the world during its most blizzard-prone month should be logistically unsustainable.
But Westminster is no ordinary show — and, as you’ll see from this gallery of past winners, its Best in Show winners are no ordinary dogs.
Best in Show 2018
GCh. Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love
“Flynn” the Bichon Frise
As Westminster’s most recent winner, this 5-year-old Bichon Frise is only the second of his breed to win Best in Show there. (The other, J.R., became a household name in 2001 after sitting in the silver-bowl trophy and pumping his paw at admirers.) Flynn’s handler, Bill McFadden, knows the thrill of reaching the pinnacle on Westminster’s signature green carpet: In 2003, he piloted Mick the Kerry Blue Terrier to victory there — a year after the fiery terrier turned in an out-of-control performance that likely cost him the big ribbon and two years after Mick was bested by that powder-puff of a Bichon, J.R.
Best in Show 2017
GCh. Lockenhaus’ Rumor Has It V Kenlyn
“Rumor” the German Shepherd
Maybe it’s the pop-culture echoes of Rin Tin Tin, but German Shepherd Dogs are perennial crowd favorites at this show, though they’ve only captured top honors twice. Those who remembered when the aptly named Manhattan won at the 1987 show rejoiced to see this female Shepherd retake the mantle three decades later. Rumor’s win was arguably all the sweeter because she had been thwarted the year before by CJ the German Shorthaired Pointer. Named after a hit song by Adele, Rumor came out of semiretirement to earn this 2017 victory, prompting a rash of inevitable “Rumor Has It” headlines.
Best in Show 2016
GCh. Vjk-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey
“CJ” the German Shorthaired Pointer
Some Westminster wins are dynastic, and this German Shorthaired Pointer is no exception: His grandmother Carlee won Best in Show at the Garden in 2005. The third GSP in the show’s history to earn that honor, CJ was shown by his breeder and owner Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, who is also a prominent West Coast-based professional handler. She has referred to him an “old soul,” though a commanding one, too: She notes that his nickname at home is “the Prince.”
Best in Show 2015
Ch. Tashtins Lookin for Trouble
“Miss P” the 15-inch Beagle
As beloved as the Muppets may be, Miss P the Beagle was not named for Miss Piggy, but rather her name is a shorthand for “Peyton.” Born and bred in Canada, the 4-year-old hound was the second Beagle to win at the Garden; the first to break the ice was her great-uncle, the inimitable Uno, who won in 2008. The conventional wisdom was that the 2015 show would be won by a top-winning Bloodhound, but Westminster has a tendency to nurture upsets and upstarts, and Ms. P was no exception.
Best in Show 2014
GCh. After all Painting the Sky
“Sky” the Wire Fox Terrier
Bred in England to run with Foxhound packs, the Wire Fox Terrier became a symbol of all that was debonair and dashing in the 1930s and ’40s. (See Asta, canine star of the popular “Thin Man” movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.) Today, these harsh-coated terriers have lost some of their cultural cache, but at Westminster they continue to reign supreme as the show’s winningest breed, taking Best in Show 14 times. “Sky,” the most recent Wire to uphold this record, was “discovered” by her handler Gabriel Rangel, who spent almost a year convincing Sky’s owner to let him take her on the road. As it is with many show dogs who want to go out on top, Westminster was 5-year-old Sky’s final bow.
Best in Show 2013
GCh. Banana Joe V Tani Kazari
“Joey” the Affenpinscher
Joey the Affenpinscher was among the most cosmopolitan of Westminster winners, born in the Netherlands and understanding commands in English, Dutch, Spanish and German. A continent-hopping show dog, Joey scored the sought-after Triple Crown — Best in Show at the world’s three iconic shows: Crufts, Westminster and the AKC National Championship. This win at Madison Square Garden was the first for his breed, which was developed in Germany in the 1600s and whose name means “monkey terrier.” And, like those supersmart simians, Joey had a mind of his own. “This isn’t a breed you train,” his handler, Ernesto Lara, told The New York Times. “He’s like a human. You befriend him.”
Best in Show 2012
GCh. Palacegarden Malachy
“Malachy” the Pekingese
The second time was the charm for this pear-shaped Pekingese, who won the Toy Group at Westminster in 2011, but lost Best in Show to sprightly Hickory the Deerhound — a study in opposites. While critics on Twitter compared 4-year-old Malachy to a Wookiee and even “Snooki” from “Jersey Shore,” they clearly didn’t appreciate this breed’s royal roots: Pekingese warmed the laps of Chinese emperors for centuries. Insider insight: Knowledgeable judges will gently lift a Pekingese during the examination on the table to ensure the dog has the desired density of bone and substance.
Best in Show 2011
GCh. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind
“Hickory” the Scottish Deerhound
“The most perfect creature of heaven” is how this ethereal Sighthound was described by Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, one of the famous owners of the breed; another was General George Armstrong Custer, who hunted buffalo with them on the Great Plains. The Scottish Deerhound’s springy, floating gait helped it traverse the heather-covered Scottish moors, and its harsh coat protected against the cold and mist. Six-year-old Hickory’s win was the first ever for her breed at Westminster, and she retired after the show to go on to her next career — motherhood.
Best in Show 2010
Ch. Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot
“Sadie” the Scottish Terrier
No doubt about it: Westminster is terrier territory. Those scrappy earth dogs have won 46 of the show’s 112 Best in Shows — more than 40 percent of them. Focusing on individual terrier breeds, Scottish Terriers like Sadie have won Westminster eight times, second only to Wire Fox Terriers. While Westminster has a reputation as something of a “giant killer” show — dark, um, horses will often triumph there, despite the conventional wisdom — 4-year-old Sadie started the show as the odds-on favorite and sailed right to the finish.
Best in Show 2009
Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee
“Stump” the Sussex Spaniel
The Sussex Spaniel is supposed to embody the three L’s — long, low and level. And those proportions are what gave Stump his name: He evokes a furry brown log, or tree stump. At 10 years of age, Stump was the oldest dog to go Best in Show at the Garden, after surviving a near-fatal infection years before. His breeder, Doug Johnson, scored another first with this win, being the only person to breed two Westminster winners of different breeds. (The other winner, in 1996, was “Brady,” a Clussexx-bred Clumber Spaniel, which explains the kennel’s portmanteau: Clumber + Sussex = Clussexx.)
Best in Show 2008
Ch. K-Run’s Park Me In First
“Uno” the 15-inch Beagle
Arguably, no other Westminster winner earned quite the celebrity of this bugling Beagle, who traversed the country to visit the White House, ride on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and visit veterans as a certified therapy dog. The first of his breed to win Best in Show at Madison Square Garden — accompanied by the roar of the New York City crowd, which delighted at his impromptu howls — Uno died this September at 13 years old, prompting obituaries in some of the nation’s largest newspapers.
AKC Meet The Breeds
Dog-show folk like to say that the best dog at the show is the one who comes home with you at the end of the day. If you’ve yet to encounter your forever dog, AKC Meet the Breeds, held the Saturday before the Westminster show at Manhattan’s Piers 92 and 94, gives you the opportunity to meet more than a hundred different breeds, not to mention the people who love them (and who love talking about them). Go here for more information or to buy tickets.
Purina® Pro Plan® has fueled 11 of the last 12 Best In Show Champions.
*The handler or owner of these champions may have received Purina® Pro Plan® dog food as Purina ambassadors.