The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a two-day long purebred dog show that occurs annually every February in Madison Square Garden of New York City. First founded in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club is the oldest association in the United States that is solely devoted to the sport of dogs. Westminster is the second longest running sporting event in America, only one year shorter than the Kentucky Derby. Since the show first began, there have been 25 different presidents in office, 12 states joined the nation, and Madison Square Garden has been renovated three times. The annual dog show has never missed a year, going on during snowstorms, depressions, wars, and power outages. In its long and enduring legacy, it has become renowned for being the greatest dog show in the entire world.
During the event, dogs are separated into different groups, which are sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. They are judged based on their breed standards set by the breed parent clubs, in order to see how close the dog matches the ideal specimen in that breed. Some of these standards may include the dog’s performance, tail carriage, and shape. Due to a large number of applicants wanting to join in the competition, entry is restricted to only 2,500 dogs. Because of its extreme popularity, all the spaces are typically filled within the first day. The club requires that all dogs that enter already have been successful in winning a breed championship, which means the show includes the best of the best. In fact, winners of previous Westminster shows are allowed to compete again, and seven dogs have won multiple Westminster championships in the past.
Since the show first began, the Best in Show of Westminster has been won by the terrier group more than twice as many as any other group, with a total of 45 wins. The Wire Fox Terrier has won the most times of any breed, which has been victorious 13 times. Interestingly, two of the most popular dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever, have never won. In 2013, an Affenpinscher named Banana Joe stole the show, and is currently reigning as “America’s Dog” for the next year. In the previous year, a Pekingese named Malachy won Best in Show. After a dog captures the esteemed award, the dog instantly becomes a celebrity, making television appearances and media tours.
Throughout its prestigious history, Westminster has quickly become a symbol for purebred dogs, within the ring and on millions of televisions within homes all over the country. Conveniently aired on ESPN and various other national broadcast channels, Americans enjoy tuning in to witness the elegance and poise of the canine athletes as they show off their beauty trotting around the ring. Combined with the heated competition in a world-renowned arena, the event is comparable to the Super Bowl or Oscars for dog lovers. The dog show has transformed into a celebration of canine spirit and strength, as well as the human attachment to these stunning animals.