In case you didn't notice, the Westminster Dog Show is tonight. Pictured is last year's Best in Show, Scottish Deerhound GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, aka
The New York Times
The Westminster Kennel Club dog show had grand ambitions from its inception in 1877, when nearly 1,200 dogs trotted through the Hippodrome at Gilmore's Garden in
In recent years, the number of dogs has been capped at 2,500, and the spectacle takes place in a newer iteration of “the Garden” —
Madison Square Garden — but fierce competition and a grandness of spirit are still hallmarks of the dog show. Westminster
Each dog that shows must be a champion in his or her breed to enter the ring. (It is for this reason that the dogs’ names begin with “
”) Through each round of competition, luminously well-bred dogs are discarded for others more finely constructed; the standard presses toward perfection. From 157 breeds, to seven groups – sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, herding – to one prancing circle of exemplary specimens, a single dog emerges: the best in show. Ch.
A Bettor’s Guide to
The black cocker spaniel looks tough to beat, but don’t sleep on the Welsh corgi.
Once a footnote in the proceedings, with only three Best in Shows in the 78 years through 2007, the Hound Group has produced the most drama of any group over the past four years with two memorable upsets. In 2008, there was Uno the beagle overcoming a small army of talented poodles. And last year, Scottish deerhound
Predicted winner: whippet
Originally bred as companions for nobility, toy dogs are the glamour boys of
Last year’s winning toy, Pekingese Malachy, will be in the ring again this year, undoubtedly showcasing the infectious dynamism he has displayed throughout his career. He will peer to his left expecting to spot his old poodle foil,
The 2012 Toy Group is extremely difficult to call. My crystal ball, though foggy, tells me the affenpinscher reigns supreme.
Predicted winner: affenpinscher
By definition a collection of misfits, the Nonsporting Group could be excused for having a chip on its shoulder. It’s as if the American Kennel Club could not decide how to categorize these dogs and just threw up their hands and gave up. You have everything from the bulldog to the Lhasa apso to multiple dogs of Tibetan origin. Fortunately, understanding the group for wagering purposes is quite easy. Essentially, it is the standard poodle and everyone else. Over the past 25 years, the standard poodle has walked out of
The question this year is not whether the standard poodle will be victorious but rather which standard poodle will emerge from the breed competition. The two top nonsporting dogs are both standard poodles: Ally and
Predicted winner: standard poodle
Having formed in 1983 as an outgrowth of an overcapacity Working Group, herding is the newest of the seven groups of dogs classified by the American Kennel Club. Despite its relative infancy, the group had an immediate impact on the proceedings at
There are plenty of explanations for the group’s struggles at
Although the odds of this year’s cohort competing for Best in Show are long, we should be treated to a highly competitive and unpredictable battle at the group level. Two dogs in particular stand out: Roy the bearded collie and Capi the German shepherd.
On the silver anniversary of Hatter’s glory, bet on the German shepherd winning the group.
Predicted winner: German shepherd
In essence, dog shows function much like the NFL Combine: Evaluators make inferences about a subject’s talent based on a very brief judging window. While I cannot speak to their Wonderlic scores, Sporting dogs are blessed with supreme athleticism and grace and are thus tailor-made for the
In 2012, sporting-dog enthusiasts everywhere are pinning their hopes on a silky-smooth 3-year-old out of
Predicted winner: black cocker spaniel
One of the challenges of predicting group and BIS winners at
While the boxers grab the headlines, the kuvasz (Tanner) and the doberman pinscher (Fifi) are both sneaky dangerous. Tanner is the top-winning kuvasz in breed history. Meanwhile, Fifi has been red-hot of late with a dominating performance at the Rose City Classic in January. This is a very competitive group.
Ultimately, I think Scarlett runs out of gas after a taxing crucible earlier in the day and Fifi dashes to victory in a minor upset.
Predicted winner: doberman pinscher
It is no accident that the Terrier Group is the final group to show. Having taken home the celebratory bowl for Best in Show 45 times, terriers are the undisputed marquee dogs of the proceeding. The list of breeds reads like a “who’s who” of the canine elite. The Scottie, the Airedale, the wire fox. These clever and gritty pups are masters of progression, consistently establishing new benchmarks for the sport. I am honored to have the opportunity to comment on them.
The story this year is the tension within the fox terrier family. Adam, a smooth fox terrier with a distinctive black and white mug, prevailed last year and was the face of the terriers for much of the annum. However, the wire fox terrier Eire surged in the late fall and early winter with a BIS at the National Dog Show in Philadelphia and a group win at the AKC/Eukanuba show and is now the favorite heading into Tuesday. With hair texture being the primary differentiator between these two, there are some serious Jacob and Esau parallels (Genesis 27:11 for those scoring at home). As if that is not enough drama, the fox terrier breeds have accounted for an astounding 17 overall champions at
I would be remiss not to mention two other contenders who are currently flying under the radar but have the potential to surprise: the prone-to-matting skye terrier Buddy and the fetching Norwich Plum. The dog of my childhood, the miniature schnauzer, once again is but a space-filler on the stage. I’ve had better luck rooting for Clubber Lang than a group win by the bushy-bearded German export. Nevertheless, I’ll be donning my “I Want a Schnauzer with my Wienerschnitzel” T-shirt for the festivities. No bandwagons for me.
Predicted winner: smooth fox terrier
Best in Show
Picking a champion of champions is a humbling undertaking, and I do not take such responsibility lightly. I drafted a pro/con list, ran hundreds of
Predicted Best in Show winner: black cocker spaniel
Evan Dahl is a second year MBA student at the