GETTY IMAGES
GETTY IMAGES

15 Well-Groomed Facts About the Westminster Dog Show

GETTY IMAGES
GETTY IMAGES

One of America’s oldest sporting events is also its most slobbery. Today, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show returns to New York City for the 140th time, promising one preeminent pooch the coveted title of "Best in Show" and a lifetime supply of positive reinforcement. While the show has evolved over its many years—most recently adding seven new breeds to the competition, including the Bergamasco Shephard and the Boerboel—it remains a beguiling spectacle for dog fanatics and casual observers alike. Here are 15 facts to get you competition-ready.

1. THE ORIGINAL SHOW WAS FOR GUN DOGS.

Around 1876, a group of sportsmen began to hold regular meetups in a Manhattan bar to swap hunting stories. Their trusty canine companions eventually made their way into the conversation, and the idea for a dog club was formed. The group met at a bar in The Westminster Hotel, and aptly named themselves the Westminster Breeding Association (later the Westminster Kennel Club). It was after helping to stage a dog show in Philadelphia that the group decided to hold their own to compare and showboat their pups. The first show, featuring primarily Setters and Pointers, was an immediate success. A total of 1201 dogs entered the first year, with tens of thousands of spectators by the second day. The first prizes included such items as a "Gold and Silver Mounted Pearl Handled Revolver"—an appropriate reward for an active hunter. 

2. THE SHOW HAS SEEN ITS SHARE OF TRAGEDY.

A champion collie belonging to J.P. Morgan, who spent millions on his obsession with dogs and competed in Westminster regularly, drowned itself. Its trainer called the dog’s death “a clear case of suicide” in an 1895 New York Times article.

3. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE YOUNG TO WIN.

In 2009, a 10-year-old Sussex spaniel named Stump (registered name: Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee) broke the record for oldest dog ever to win "Best in Show." He later appeared on the cover of AARP magazine.  

4. NEPOTISM HAS MADE ITS WAY INTO THE COMPETITION. 

Dog-judging has always been subjective. Judges at the first modern dog show ever, in Newcastle in 1859, were also the owners of the show’s two winners. To this day, contestants are judged on a “subjective basis,” according to the Westminster Kennel Club website.

5. LIFE HAS IMITATED ART. 

Parker Posey, famous for playing a manic, metal-mouthed Weimaraner-owner in the 2000 dog show parody Best in Show, is a regular at the Westminster Dog Show. As she told The Wire at the 2014 WKC Dog Show, she met some personalities resembling her own persnickety character while on set: “[Director Christopher Guest] brought over a professional groomer. She came over right before a take and she criticized our dog. She said, 'The coat’s all wrong.'”

6. TOP DOG GETS THE ROYAL TREATMENT.

The winner of the Westminster Dog Show traditionally eats a celebratory lunch at famed Broadway watering hole Sardi’s—breaking New York City’s health codes which prevent animals from entering restaurants.

7. IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT GOOD LOOKS. 

The show doesn’t only value looks. A two-legged dog named Nellie participated in the first Westminster show ever in 1877, and 1980s "Best in Show" was a true underdog: Cinnar, a Siberian husky missing part of its ear, won with handler Trish Kanzler—one of the few amateurs to ever win the title.

8. THE DOGS ARE REFINED, BUT THE NAMES SOMETIMES AREN'T.

The 2015 WKC Dog Show featured a Pomeranian named Starfire's Spank Me Hard Call Me Crazy, a pug named Careva's Boodelicious, and a smooth dachshund named Turningpt Hot 'N Saucey Talkin' Trash.

9. THINGS HAVE EVEN TURNED CRIMINAL.

Eight dogs belonging to one prominent New York City dog breeder were poisoned during the 1895 Westminster Dog Show. Despite the story making the front page of the New York Times, no suspect was ever prosecuted for the crime. 

10. THIS YEAR, A CHIHUAHUA MIGHT TAKE HOME THE TITLE.

For the first time ever, a Chihuahua may be a contender for "Best in Show" at Westminster this year. In 2015, Sonnito became the most decorated Chihuahua of all time, earning 32 "Best in Show" titles in the span of just over a year. 

11. MUTTS ARE SLOWLY MAKING THEIR WAY INTO THE COMPETITION.

In 2014, mutts, a.k.a. "All-Americans," were allowed to participate in Westminster’s Agility Championship for the first time since 1884—but they’re still ineligible for "Best in Show."

12. LABS ARE VOTED MOST POPULAR, BUT NOT HEAD OF THE CLASS.

Despite being the most popular dog in the country and the most common entry at the WKC Dog Show this year, a Labrador retriever has never won "Best in Show." The reason? Experts say their friendly temperament prevents them from desiring the spotlight. Labs can also be disqualified for deviating by half an inch from height standards (between 22.5 and 24.5 inches for males and  21.5 and 23.5 for females)—a regulation that was nearly challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994.

13. SOME PRACTICES ARE ANCIENT—AND WEIRD.

While nowadays some breeders cut their dogs’ tails for aesthetic reasons, the practice originated with 5th century BCE Greek statesman Alcibiades, who cut the tail of his dog so that the Athenians would have something else to talk about rather than Alcibiades. 

14. THE DOGS HAVE FRIENDS (AND RELATIVES) IN HIGH PLACES.

Matisse the Portuguese water dog (a.k.a. GCH Claircreek Impression De Matisse) has quite the pedigree. In addition to being the most decorated male show dog in the United States, he is also related to the country’s most powerful family; his cousin, Sunny, belongs to the First Family. 

15. NATURALLY, THERE HAVE BEEN SOME GREAT UNDERDOG STORIES.

Tickle Em Jock, "Best in Show" winner at the 1911 Westminster Dog Show, was a Scottish terrier and a dark horse to boot. His original owner was a butcher who sold him for 2 pounds (or about $15), which turned out to be the Scottish terrier’s lucky break. After a few years with trainer Andrew Albright, Tickle Em Jock was valued at $5000. Once, after winning the title of “best of breed,” the scrappy champ bit a judge’s wrist.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Bristly
A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth
Bristly
Bristly

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.
Bristly

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios