The History of the Westminster Dog Show - Part 1
The event is officially known as "The Westminster Kennel
Club Dog Show" and is a two-day event held on the second
Monday and Tuesday in February in New York City. It is often
referred to as the "World Series" or the "Super Bowl" of dog
shows. It is also the second oldest continuously held
sporting event in the United States. The Kentucky Derby is
the oldest (See our page on the History of the Kentucky
Derby.) by two years.
The idea for an annual dog show in New York City originated
from a group of men who raised sporting dogs and met
occasionally at New York's Westminster Hotel. They
eventually decided to form the Westminster Kennel Club. On
the eighth, ninth and tenth of May in 1877 the "First Annual
New York Bench Show of Dogs" was held and featured more than
twelve hundred dogs. The show was such a great success that
they added a fourth day to the competition.
By 1883 the show had found a permanent home at Madison
Square Garden, where it has been held (with a few
exceptions) ever since. After a while the show was cut back
to three days and now to its present two-day format. But the
Westminster Dog Show has a long established position as an
institution for dog fanciers all over the United States.
The Westminster Kennel Clubs logo uses a Pointer as its dog
representation. The logo image was based on a photograph of
a dog named Sensation, a famous Pointer owned by the club
and which is said to have had the most nearly perfect head
of any dog in his breed at the time
The show judging may last only two days, but the preparation
for this event begins a year or more in advance. First they
select the judges. There are about 40 judges, divided into
seven groups according to the type of dog to be judged:
Since 1992, the entries have been limited to only American
Kennel Club champions. These are dogs which have accumulated
a certain number of points by winning at various other
smaller dog shows. Prior to 2000, these 2,500 entries were
the first selected at random from all the mailed in entries
and allowed to compete. However, after 2000, this system
changed. Now only seven hundred and eighty dogs are allowed
to compete, representing the top five in each breed at
American Kennel Club shows held during the preceding year.
These dogs receive a special invitation to enter. This
ensures that only the very best of the best dogs in America
get a chance to compete for the Westminster top honor, "Best
In 2008, there were one hundred and fifty-seven different
breeds represented in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The 2008 Best in Show winner was a Beagle named Ch. K-Run's
Park Me In First, nicknamed "Uno," the first Beagle to win
Best in Show at Westminster in history.
The Westminster Dog Show has become very popular with the
media over the recent years. More than four hundred
journalists from more than twenty countries attend each
year. Many of them are members of The Dog Writers
Association of America. But what really made this event grow
was when it began to be televised in the early 1980's.
Public interest then grew immensely. The show now attracts
approximately thirty-five thousand attendees and 4.6 million
television viewers. The show also got a great boost in the
public eye in 2000 when the movie "Best in Show," starring
Christopher Guest and Parker Posey, was released.
The Westminster Dog Show is called a "benched" show. This is
because since 1983 they require that all the competitive
dogs on a particular day must stay on their assigned benches
throughout the judging procedure. This goes on for several
hours! The only times the dog may leave its bench is if the
dog is being groomed or exercised.
These benches are partitioned into separate areas for each
dog, but the dogs are very close to each other, and the
aisles are teeming with strangers to the dogs. So, although
this benching may make it easier on the trainers, judges,
and spectators, this is a real strain on the dogs themselves
as they are required to sit still and behave for such a long
period of time, and then obey and perform properly. Many of
the dogs are shown by professional handlers rather than
their owners. Perhaps that challenge is why there are fewer
than ten benched dog shows held in the United States each
Scoring for the Dog Show
The scoring process is taken very seriously and has been
polished during the past several years, with special
emphasis given to the dog's appearance and behavior. Here is
what it takes to equal 100 total points:
1. Maximum of 30 points for Appearance, Temperament,
Carriage and Condition.
2. Maximum of 20 points for Head, Expression, Ears, Eyes and
3. Maximum of 20 points for Body, Neck, Legs, Feet and Tail.
4. Maximum of 20 points for gait.
5. Maximum of 10 points for coat color and texture.
See Awards of the Westminster Dog
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