A Brief History of the Westminster Dog Show

photoThe Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an annual two-day conformation show held on the second Monday and Tuesday of February in New York City. Also referred to as the Super Bowl of dog shows, it is the second longest continuously held sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby.

The Westminster Kennel Club was formed by a group of men who raised sporting dogs and every so often met at New York’s Westminster Hotel. The logo of the Westminster Kennel Club is based on a photograph of a Pointer named Sensation. Sensation was owned by the club and was said to have the most perfect head of any Pointer during his time.

The First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs took place on May 8-10, 1877 and featured over 1,200 dogs. Because of the event’s huge success, a fourth day was added. The number of days was later reduced to three, then two. With a few exceptions, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has been held at Madison Square Garden since 1883. Although the show itself may last only a couple of days, the preparation for it begins at least a year in advance.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show attracts approximately 35,000 attendees, 4.6 million television viewers, and more than 400 journalists from over 20 countries. In 2002, 159 different breeds were represented, with the top five breeds entered being the Australian Shepherd, Dachshund, Rottweiler, Chinese Shar-pei, and Irish Setter.

The Best in Show award, which has been given out since 1907, is presented to the dog that receives top honors from three different judges. Dogs are judged on their general appearance, carriage, and condition. Judges also look at the color and texture of the coat; the forequarters, hindquarters, feet, and tail; and the dog’s temperament.

The breed that has won Best in Show the most number of times is the Wire Fox Terrier, with the terrier group having the most winners in general. The only dog to be awarded Best in Show three times was a Smooth Fox Terrier named Warren Remedy. Still, many other breeds have also won Best in Show, ranging from the small Pomeranian to the gentle Newfoundland.

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