NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seven of the finest specimens in the pedigree dog world will face off on Tuesday evening, as the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual pageant in New York comes to a dramatic close with the awarding of the coveted title of “Best in Show.”
The grand prize will go to one of the “Best of” winners in seven canine groups: hounds, toys, non-sporting, herding, working, sporting and terrier.
This year’s event, the 143rd rendition of the show, included a field of 2,800 dogs from all 50 U.S. states and 14 other countries, including Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Japan.
Judges will pick three of the seven finalists on Tuesday before the main event. Four were selected on Monday: a longhaired dachshund named Burns won the hound group; a Havanese named Bono won the toy group; a schipperke named Colton won the non-sporting group; and a bouvier des Flandres named Baby Lars won the herding group.
“He just knows when to turn it on,” said Bono’s handler, Taffe McFadden of her Havanese, the national dog breed of Cuba.
“You can’t train a dog for what goes on in the floor of the Garden,” said McFadden of Acampo, California, whose husband Bill McFadden last year showed Flynn, the bichon frise who took home the 2018 Best in Show prize.
Co-owner Elaine Paquette described Baby Lars, the bouvier des Flandres, as “very happy-go-lucky, he loves life.”
Among his favorite activities are grabbing Paquette’s cell phone, the remote of their television at home in Maidstone, Ontario - and squeaky toys.
The winner’s circle is familiar territory for Burns’ handler Carlos Puig. In 1998, Puig showed the dog’s great-grandfather, who was the first and only long-haired dachshund to win the hound group, until Burns matched his feat.
Perhaps the biggest surprise so far in this year’s show, held at New York’s Madison Square Garden, was Colton, a schipperke who won a shot at Best in Show over long-time favorites in the non-sporting group, such as the standard poodle and the bichon frise. The schipperke is a small but powerful Belgian breed with pointy ears and a double-layered coat that can shed water quickly.
(For a graphic, see: tmsnrt.rs/2Bm1zCz)
Six-year-old Colton dazzled the crowd with his thick coat of black hair and cheeky grin when he entered the ring with Christa Cook.
“It’s his favorite thing in the world, showing,” Cook said.
Asked how they would celebrate, Cook said emphatically: “We’ll sleep!”
The Westminster Kennel Club’s show is the second-oldest U.S. sporting event, behind only the Kentucky Derby horse race.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Tom Brown