Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a prestigious all-breed conformation show that has been held in New York City annually since 1877. Currently, the breed and Junior Showmanship competitions are held at Piers 92 and 94, while the group and Best in Show competitions are held at Madison Square Garden. The entry—nearly 3000—is such that two days are required for all dogs to be judged.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of a literal handful of benched shows in the United States. Dogs are required to be on display in an assigned location (bench) during the entirety of the show except when being shown in the ring, groomed for showing, or taken outside to eliminate, so that spectators and breeders alike have an opportunity to see all the entered dogs. (In the more common unbenched shows, dogs are required to be present only at assigned ring times.)


A black-and-white stylized drawing of a hunting dog, nose poked out to the left of the image, tail erect and behind the dog, with a group of trees in the background.
The Westminster Kennel Club was formed in 1877.

The Westminster show was first held on May 8, 1877, making it the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the United States behind only the Kentucky Derby, which was first held in 1875. (Both events were held even during the World War years.) The show originated as a show for gun dogs, primarily Setters and Pointers, initiated by a group of hunters who met regularly at the Westminster Hotel at Irving Place and Sixteenth Street in Manhattan. They decided to create a kennel club called the Westminster Kennel Club specifically for the purpose of holding a dog show. The prizes for these first shows included such items as pearl handled pistols, of use to the hunters and terriermen who worked these dogs in the field.

Held at Gilmore's Garden (Madison Square Garden) the Westminster show drew over 1200 dogs and proved so popular that its scheduled three days was extended to four, with the club donating proceeds from that fourth day to the ASPCA for creation of a home for stray and disabled dogs.

The Westminster Kennel Club predates the formation of the American Kennel Club by seven years, and became the first club admitted to the AKC after AKC's founding in 1884. Breed parent clubs (e.g., the Afghan Hound Club of America) create the standards for judging their breeds, with the AKC administering the rules about shows and judging.

Dogs are judged against their breed standards, to see how close each dog matches the standard, which is a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed. Standards may include references relating form to function in the performance of the job that the dog was bred for, and may also include items that seem somewhat arbitrary such as color, eye shape, tail carriage and more. While many breeds no longer need to perform their original jobs and are bred mostly for companionship, they should still have the innate ability and physical makeup to perform those jobs, and this is what the judge looks for.

Because of space considerations at Madison Square Garden, the entry is limited to 2,800 dogs and the breed judging is done during the day at Piers 92 and 94. Group and Best in Show judging take place in the evening at Madison Square Garden. The entry fills immediately on the first day that entries are accepted. Since 1992, the club has invited the top five dogs in each breed to be pre-entered (determined by the number of dogs defeated at shows during the previous year) to assure that all the top dogs have the chance to compete.

Today, Westminster takes place over two days and nights every February. During the day, the dogs compete at the breed level (i.e., against other dogs of the same breed). Each Best of Breed winner (BOB) advances into its respective group, of which there are seven (Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding). Group competition is held during the evenings, and the seven group winners advance into the final competition, which one judge will select one of them as the Best In Show winner. Since 2014, the show allowed mixed-breed dogs to compete in an agility event.[1]

Competition in Junior Showmanship (for handlers ages 8–18) has been held since 1934. The eight finalists all receive scholarships for post-secondary schooling. In addition, each year the club (through its Westminster Kennel Foundation) awards veterinary school scholarships for students from six schools.

The show has been broadcast on live television since 1948. The program typically airs on a Monday and Tuesday. The Monday night broadcast is shown on CNBC and the Tuesday night broadcast on USA Network; USA itself holds the rights to the event but must defer Monday night coverage to CNBC due to its airing of WWE Raw. At the Garden, it has enjoyed sellout status since 2005, as tickets sell quickly once they go on sale each Fall. Indicative of its amazing worldwide popularity, more than 700 press credentials are issued to media attending in person from more than 20 countries. In addition, each year the Westminster Web site (www.westminsterkennelclub.org) has millions of visitors from around the world (about 12 million page views by users from more than 170 countries).

The winning dog becomes "America's Dog" for the next year. It begins its reign with a media tour on the day following the show with appearances on virtually all television network morning shows, a visit to the Observation Deck at the Empire State Building, and much more.

The event is embraced in New York City every February, with salutes from such world-famous partners as the Empire State Building, which lights its tower in purple and gold (Westminster colors) during the show; Saks 5th Avenue, which features a street window with a Westminster-themed display; and the New York Stock Exchange, which invites the winner to ring the opening bell following its big win.


Animal-rights advocates such as PETA have routinely protested the show, arguing that the propagation and celebration of purebreds ultimately adds to the millions of dogs who end up at and die in shelters.[2][3] The AKC considers dogs to be property[4] and has lobbied against mandatory spay-and-neuter programs, referring to such legislation as "anti-dog."[5]


Show announcers

For many years, Roger A. Caras was known as "The Voice of Westminster" for providing the narration for the breed descriptions during the show.[6][7]

In 2001, Michael J. LaFave was named show announcer at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.[8] He was replaced by Jim Fagan in 2010, but returned in 2011.[9]


The USA Network broadcast the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show from 1984 through 2016, with coverage under the auspices of NBC Sports in later years. Sister network CNBC had also aired portions of the event from the mid-2000s until 2016 due to USA's Monday evening contractual commitments to WWE Raw. On July 28, 2015, it was announced that Fox Sports had acquired rights to the event under a 10-year deal beginning in 2017. Coverage will be split between Fox Sports 1 and Nat Geo Wild.[10]

Since 1990, David Frei has co-hosted the event with partners, Al Trautwig (1990–1991,[11][12] 1993[13]), Bud Collins (1992[14]), Joe Garagiola (1994–2002[15]), Mark McEwen (2003–2004[16][17]), Lester Holt (2005, 2007–2008[18]), Debbye Turner (2006[19]), Mary Carillo (2009,[20] 2011[9]–2016), and Tamron Hall (2010[21]).

Now 66, Frei provided the commentary of the 140th event for his final time. According to a report in the New York Times, the Westminster Kennel Club would not allow Frei to announce their annual event, as well as announce the Kennel Club of Philadelphia's National Dog Show, which airs on Thanksgiving Day on NBC.[22]

Requirements for entry

In 1884, the AKC began requiring that all dog participants be registered with the AKC and recognized for conformation show competition. In 2016, there are 199 breeds and varieties eligible for Westminster. Because of the show's popularity and prestige, starting in 1992 the AKC limited entries by requiring that dogs must have already earned their breed championship before appearing at Westminster. Later, that rule was amended to require that dogs have one of the two required major wins towards their championship titles, but need not be finished champions to enter.

The top five dogs in each breed (based on breed points earned in AKC conformation showing through October 31 of the preceding year), as well as the Best of Breed winner from each breed's national specialty show, receive printed invitations by mail and are eligible for early entry. After the early entry deadline passes, other dogs with at least one major win may enter, up to a total of 2800 dogs, at which point entries are closed.

There is no prohibition against a winner competing again in future Westminster shows. In fact, seven dogs have won multiple Westminster championships: six dogs in consecutive years (including Warren Remedy, the only three-time champion of the event) and one dog in non-consecutive years. Since 1972, however, there have been no repeat winners. (See List of Best in Show winners of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.)

Winning breeds

Through the 134th Westminster Show (February 2010), Best in Show has been won by the Terrier Group 45 out of the 103 times that the prize has been awarded since 1907,[23] more than twice as many wins as any other group. The single breed that has won the most is the Wire Fox Terrier, which has won 14 times. Two of the most popular dog breeds in the United States have never won Best in Show, the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever.[24]

The 2010 winner of Best in Show was Ch. Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot (aka: "Sadie"), a Scottish Terrier. Sadie had already won 112 best-in-show ribbons at other shows, including winning the other two major United States shows (the National Dog Show and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship) immediately prior to her Westminster win.

In 2011, at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, 5-year-old GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind became the first of her breed (Scottish Deerhound) to capture the Best in Show award.[25]

The oldest dog to win Best in Show was a Sussex Spaniel named Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (aka Stump), at 10 years of age in 2009. The youngest dog to win was a Rough Collie named Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, at 9 months old in 1929.[26] One dog, a Smooth Fox Terrier named Ch. Warren Remedy won Best in Show three times (1907–1909), and six other dogs have won twice.[27] Dogs (males) have won Best in Show 68 times to 35 for bitches (females).[28]

List of show winners and breeds

Following is a list of WKC Best in Show winners since 1990.[29]

See also


  1. Jennifer Peltz, "Westminster Dog Show Adds Event With Mixed Breeds," Associated Press, 16 January 2014.
  2. Jennifer Peltz, "Westminster Dog Show Adds Event With Mixed Breeds," Associated Press, 16 January 2014.
  3. "Pets By the Numbers," Humane Society of the United States, 27 September 2013.
  4. "The Dangers of Guardianship," AKC, accessed 24 Jan. 2014.
  5. "Annual Report, 2010" AKC, page 24.
  6. Day, Sherri (20 February 2001). "Roger Caras, 72, Animal Welfare Advocate". The New York Times.
  7. http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2012/02/11/v-print/2226292/pets-qa-best-in-show-really-means.html
  8. "2004 Announcer". The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Westminster Kennel Club. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  9. 1 2 Ullmer, Mary (February 16, 2011). "Unleashed: Unleash the hounds! Gentle giant Scottish deerhound is Westminster's Best in Show". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  10. "Westminster Kennel's Dog Show Leaves NBCU's USA for Fox Sports". Variety. Retrieved 11 November 2015.
  11. Dawson, Greg (February 16, 1990). "USA's Westminster Dog Show a cult hit". The News and Courier. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  12. Zad, Martie (February 10, 1991). "TNT features 'Kisses'". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  13. "The dog days of February". The Washington Times. February 13, 1993.
  14. "Bud Collins to Test Commentator Skills at National Dog Show". Lexington Herald-Leader. February 10, 1992.
  15. Dale, Steve (February 10, 2002). "Canine Frenzy". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  16. Dale, Steve. "The Voice of Westminster Dog Show". Dog Channel.com. BowTie, Inc. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  17. Pennington, Gail (February 9, 2004). "Critic's Picks". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  18. "Westminster puts on the dogs". Lexington Herald-Leader. February 7, 2008.
  19. "TV Digest". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 23, 2006.
  20. Sandomir, Richard (February 8, 2009). "Former Westminster Winners Do Not Seem Past Their Prime". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  21. "USA Network & Westminster Brings Everyone's Best Friend Back to Madison Square Garden". News Blaze. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  22. Sandomir, Richard (February 15, 2016). "Saying Farewell to David Frei, Westminster's Nuzzling Voice". The New York Times.
  23. WestminsterKennelClub.org - Best In Show Awards By Breed (1907-2010)
  24. http://www.akc.org/reg/dogreg_stats.cfm
  25. Scottish deerhound is best in show at Westminster
  26. WestminsterKennelClub.org - Oldest Dogs To Win Best In Show
  27. WestminsterKennelClub.org - Multiple Best In Show Wins
  28. WestminsterKennelClub.org - Best In Show Awards By Sex Of The Dog
  29. Westminsterkennelclub.org - Best In Show Winners
  30. Chung, Jen. "CJ The German Shorthaired Pointer Named 2016 Best In Show At Westminster Kennel Club's Big Night". Gothamist. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
  31. "Canadians triumph at Westminster". Dog World. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  32. http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2014/results/bis/index.html
  33. "Westminster Best in Show Winner: Scottish Deerhound". New York: usatoday.com. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2011r.
  34. Duff, Oliver (17 February 2010). "Sadie crowned top dog despite interruption". London: Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 17 February 2010.

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