According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. But at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the Year of the Dog comes annually. Some of the world’s top breeders, owners, and canines themselves put their best paws forward in a bid to win best in show.
Among the contenders will be a pack of Chinese breeds.
CGTN America’s Karina Huber reports.
It’s show time for the world’s top dogs. Almost 3,000 canines from roughly 120 breeds are being primped and primed to compete for the number one prize.
It’s a truly international affair.
Two-year old “Demon” is a bulldog that was born in Argentina and raised in the United States. He won best of breed at Westminster last year, and as is common in the industry, is co-owned by two people: a woman who in Korea and another in the U.S.
“We are bulldog people,” Demon co-owner Marcie Bassett explained. “It’s a wonderful way to spend quality time with your dog, doing something you love in the breed that you love.”
Dog owners spend a lot of money – sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars – for the chance to win Westminster’s top prize: Best in Show. Winning is more about prestige and breeding opportunities than anything else. The top prize comes without any monetary compensation, but it does bring mounds of exposure to a dog.
The breed that has won the most best in shows is the Wire Fox Terrier, which has taken home the top prize 13 times since Westminster was first staged in 1877.
Among Chinese dogs, the Pekingese has won more than any other. Emerging in western China more than 2000 years ago, it was the companion dog of Buddhist monks. It has four Best in Shows.
Another popular Chinese dog – the Pug – won in 1981. It was once a favorite among Chinese emperors and is best known for its pushed in nose and bulging eyes.
“You have to watch for eye abrasions and you don’t take them running at high noon and humidity. So, other than that there really a sturdy little breed and they’ve a great sense of humor and a lot of fun,” Janet McLaughlin, a pug breeder, said.
A more domineering breed is the Chow Chow – once used as temple guards in Mongolia. Known for its purple tongue, it is often referred to as the “puffy-lion dog.” And like the lion, it can be a fierce protector.
“They had to protect the castle. I think it was Genghis Khan that had over a thousand of them in his army,” Chow Chow breeder Linda Albert said. “Now, they just hunt to the refrigerator.”
A Chow Chow has yet to win a best in show.
Another Chinese dog, the Shih Tzu, is among the top 20 most popular breeds in America, but it has failed to snag the top prize at Westminster.
And what about the Chinese Crested Dog?
Beloved by many, it too has never won a best in show, though it has won several world’s ugliest dog contests. This is something owner Cindy Kumpfbeck isn’t too bothered about.
“To be fair, any dog who has no teeth at some point and has bad skin is going to look ugly to other people,” Kumpfbeck said. “And to be fair, many of those dogs are mixed breed Chinese crested, so they’re not as pretty as ours.”
Which will be deemed the fairest of all is up to one judge, and she will make her decision on Tuesday when the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show comes to an end.