The Best In Show Facts About The Westminster Dog Show

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The 139th Annual Westminster Dog Show (presented by the Westminster Kennel Club) is coming and we are at the edge of our seats already! From February 16 to 17, 2015, the world’s top dogs will be competing for the coveted “Best in Show” title. But before you get comfy in that recliner chair, doggy by your side, take a moment to learn more about this prestigious dog show and how it all this came to be.

It all started with a drink…

The first official Westminster Kennel Club meeting wasn’t recorded, but it took place circa 1876, in a bar in a hotel somewhere in Manhattan, New York (and that’s probably the reason why no one is quite sure of the actual date). Between drinks and cigars, a group of sporting gentlemen would meet to brag about their dog’s successes in the field. After a few meetings they decided to make it official, using the name of their favorite hotel as their name: “The Westminster Breeding Association.”

Related: 2014 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best In Show Winner

After a successful first dog show in Philadelphia, the group returned home and started the tradition in New York. Their name was incorporated as “The Westminster Kennel Club” in 1877. It is still America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs.

The first show, held on May 8, 1877, had an impressive entry of 1,201 dogs. A $2 fee included feeding and caring for the dog, mainly Setters and Pointers that were used in hunting. A portion of the proceeds was donated to the ASPCA in order to establish a home for stray and disabled animals. The event turned out to be an instant success, with people lining the streets of Manhattan to get a peek of the distinguished dogs.

Related: Wire Fox Terrier

By 1884, members of both the Westminster Club and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia decide to establish a national governing body for dog registrations and dog shows. This marked the beginning of The American Kennel Club (AKC).

The Show

The dogs are judged following their “perfect” breed standards, meaning the physical characteristics that the breed should have such as color, agility, eye and tail shape.

The event runs for two days. On the first day, the preliminary competitions including hound, toy, non-sporting and herding groups, take place. Day two features the Junior Showmanship, as well as the sporting, working and terrier groups, and of course, the main event – the Best in Show competition.

Last year marked the introduction of the Masters Agility Championship competition. This exciting competition allows mixed breeds to show off their agility and talent – after all, why should the pure breeds get all the fun? This proved to be a huge success, as organizers hit their 225-dog limit quickly. In 2014, the show also marked a new record for club – a total of 3,000 dogs competed for the prize. At the end of the day, a Wire Fox Terrier named “Sky” took home top honors.

New York Bound

New York goes to the dogs for two days, and people can’t get enough of the show! Tickets are sold out months before the event. The Empire State Building changes its colors to the official Westminster hues: purple and gold. Saks 5th Avenue features a Westminster-theme inspired window and the New York Stock Exchange always invites the Best in Show winner to ring the opening bell.

If you didn’t get a ticket to see the show in person, not to worry – you can catch on the action on TV (check out your local listings for details).

Who do you think should take home the Best in Show prize? Who would you like to see win? Please let us know in the comment section below.