Mark your calendars. Westminster is coming! Have you ever shown a dog at Westminster? Have you ever just gone just to watch this prestigious show? What’s so special about it and why do millions of fans watch this show every February? For some it’s considered the world’s greatest dog show!
For all the great things that New York City is known for (Yankee baseball, The Empire State building, Broadway theater, Times Square, some of the world’s most fantastic restaurants, etc.) there’s another thing that if you’re a dog lover you associate with this great city. That is The Westminster Dog Show held at Madison Square Garden in on of the coldest months of the year! Usually this show is held the second week of February.
Who would have ever thought you could hold a dog show in New York City?! It seems way back in 1877, some sporting gentlemen thought it would be a great idea and it has become a tradition ever since. It seems that this prestigious show got its name from a hotel by the same name. The hotel is no longer standing, but the Westminster show continues to attract the “old timers” and the new to the sport of dog showing. The first show held in 1877 was at Gilmore's Garden (the forerunner of Madison Square Garden) which drew an entry of 1,201 dogs. Only the Kentucky Derby sporting event has been around longer than the Westminster Dog show and that’s only by one year.
This is a tidbit that I didn’t know until I researched material for this article. Westminster was established before the American Kennel Club was started! In 1877 Westminster and the AKC developed a set of show rules and regulations and established a Board of Appeals to make sure these rules were followed. Then in 1884, the American Kennel Club was created. I wonder what rules and regulations Westminster followed before their association with the AKC.
Many famous people have entered their dogs at Westminster. Queens, Emperors, and Czars are just some of the people that this dog show found favor with. And even today, if you were to take a stroll around the arena or in the bench area where the dogs are kept, you might just find yourself rubbing elbows with some of Hollywood’s finest. I remember seeing Bill Cosby showing his dogs back in the 80’s.
Most people who show at this show come to parade the “cream of the crop” for the spectators, breeders and judges to admire. These dogs that are entered are already champions. What they are looking for is that elusive Best in Show honor. To achieve that goal they would have had to beat and conquer hundreds of other dogs not only in their own breed, but in all of the entries at this show.
Interestingly enough, the Best in Show award was not bestowed on any dog until 1907! It was given to a Smooth Fox Terrier who would win it three times. She remains the only dog to have accomplished this! There are six other dogs who have won this award two times.
What does it take to win at Westminster? Do you just show up with a gorgeous dog and expect to win with him/her? If only it were that simple. I have watched this show practically every year since the 80’s. Many times I was there in the audience as well going back into the 70’s! I saw some of the most beautiful, well conditioned dogs all gathered in one arena competing for the prestigious title of Best in Show. Anyone of them could be winners……perhaps not on this day, but another day. For this day, only one would walk (or gait) away with that big shiny trophy.
Most of these dogs are competitively campaigned throughout the year. Many of them have numerous Best in Show wins already to their credit. These dogs are heavily advertised in show dog magazines where other breeders, exhibitors and judges see their prestigious wins. Many of these dogs already have established a winning record and have many admirers looking to breed to them or buy a puppy from them. Before some of these dogs step into the ring at Madison Square Garden, they have established quite an impressive show career already. Many spectators know who these dogs are for they are like the “movie stars” of their breed. They definitely have a following. All one has to do is sit and listen to the thunderous applause for some of these gorgeous animals.
And just how does our beautiful breed, the German Shepherd Dog do at this show? Here is one of the best recognized and beloved breeds in the dog world! What track record does this breed have at this show? In over 125 years of this dog show, only one time did the German Shepherd Dog win Best in Show! Only once! And that was the great Ch. Covy Tucker Hills Manhattan. Do you know how hard it is for a German Shepherd to win that title at this show? Very hard! But Manhattan had an extraordinary show record already by the time he entered into the Westminster ring. He was known and beloved all over the dog world. He was a wonderful ambassador for the breed. I won’t bore my readers again with my story that I already wrote about when I saw this wonderful dog make breed history at Westminster. All I can say is that he had the crowd behind him. The applause, the clapping, the feet stomping was deafening! No German Shepherd before him and so far no German Shepherd since has been able to catch the judge’s eye enough to award our breed this “title of titles!”
And how about this years entries for our breed? A friend of mine is showing her beautiful champion. She knows what it takes to show at this show. She’s done it a few times before, but with each year brings with it, the same thrill, the same level of adrenaline, the same hope that maybe, just maybe, her dog will have the judge’s finger pointing at him and crowning him “dog extraordinaire!”
If you go on the Westminster Dog website, you can view throughout the day the different winners of the different breeds.
And as for the rest of us, we’ll sit in the comforts and warmth of our sofa and chairs and cheer for our favorites to win. And although we want with all our hearts for the German Shepherd to win the Best in Show title, we can still appreciate a “good one” from any of the other breeds as well. If you’ve got an eye for a good dog, you won’t miss him. He’s the one who is “asking for” that big old shiny trophy. There’s something very special about the Best in Show winner. He’s just got it written all over him. So get out the popcorn and watch and see it for yourself. You can’t miss it. It’s coming to a television set in your area on Monday and Tuesday, February 15 – 16!
My rating: going to Westminster: (4), winning at Westminster: (4)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!