12 Historic Westminster Best in Show Winners

As the 2017 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show gets ready to kick off this weekend, let's take a step back into its history to see the prestigious dog show's earliest, most groundbreaking, and interesting Best in Show winners.

1. 1907 - 1909: CH. WARREN REMEDY

The Westminster Kennel Club held its first dog show in 1877, but did not introduce the Best in Show award until 1907. The first winner of Best in Show was a female smooth-coated fox terrier named Warren Remedy. Ch. (Champion) Warren Remedy went on to win the title again in 1908 and 1909, too. To date, she is the only dog to have won Westminster's Best in Show three years in a row. The legendary terrier also won a slew of awards at other shows, and her death in 1912 rated a notice in The New York Times [PDF].


Sabine Rarebit was the first male dog to win Best in Show at Westminster, in 1910. Like Warren Remedy, he was a smooth-coated fox terrier, and fans of the breed were surprised when he defeated the previous champion. It was a year of upsets, as several dogs that were expected to win their categories did not, and accusations of poor judging were heard at the show. According to The New York Times [PDF], a fight between two dogs that year led to a brawl when many other dogs joined in:

"The counting of the damage showed the wolf hound minus one of his teeth and the St. Bernard with a mouth that was badly torn. One woman who pressed into the crowd surrounding the fighting animals fainted and was carried into the ring near where the dogs had their fight. The most disappointed person in the Garden was a small boy, who repeatedly called to 'let 'em fight it out.'"


The 1911 Best in Show winner was the male Scottish terrier Tickle Em Jock. Andrew Albright of New Jersey purchased the dog from a London butcher for about $15, and paid a little more for proof of his pedigree [PDF]. Other exhibitors at the show grumbled that Tickle Em Jock wasn't even a good example of his breed, much less deserving of Best in Show. The little dog displayed his rough beginnings later that year by biting a judge right after winning Best in Breed at another show [PDF].


The first bull terrier and the first Canadian dog to win Best in Show at Westminster was Haymarket Faultless. The road to the title was not easy, as the two judges were split and stubbornly holding out for their personal favorites: Haymarket Faultless and a Pekingese named Phantom of Ashcroft. Eventually the judging referee, who was a terrier expert, broke the tie. Haymarket Faultless was the favorite to win Best in Show for the next several years, but he was passed over for other dogs.


Midkiff Seductive was the first cocker spaniel to win Best in Show at Westminster. In a bizarre repeat of the 1918 decision [PDF], the two judges were split between two finalists—the female black-and-white cocker spaniel and Phantom of Ashcroft, the same Pekingese who almost beat Haymarket Faultless three years earlier. The judging referee once again stepped in to break the tie, and awarded Best in Show to the spaniel [PDF].  


Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven was the youngest dog to ever win Westminster's Best in Show, at exactly nine months old. Only one other puppy under a year old has ever won the title (Daro of Maridor in 1938). He is also the only collie to have won the title so far, and in 1929, that meant first competing against the other 120 or so collies entered that year.   

However, Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven never competed in another show after that first big win. Florence Ilch, owner of Bellhaven Collies, claimed the champion collie was the target of death threats. She even claimed that the champion she called Don had been blinded by an acid attack. While some of the threats were documented and attacks against show dogs were not unheard of, there was no veterinary report corroborating the blinding claim.


The first poodle to win Best in Show at Westminster was a male standard poodle named Nunsoe Duc de la Terrace of Blakeen in 1935. The Swiss-born poodle came close to winning the title at Westminster in 1934, but was defeated by Ch. Flornell Spicy Bit of Halleston. By the next year, Duc had won titles in England, Switzerland, and France, and was able to sweep the field at Westminster.     


Terriers from Halleston Kennels won numerous awards in the early 20th century, including three wire fox terriers which received Best in Show awards at Westminster. Signal Circuit of Halleston won Westminster's Best in Show in 1926, Flornell Spicy Bit of Halleston won in 1934, and Flornell Spicy Piece of Halleston was named Best in Show in 1937. The two "spicy" dogs were not related, but of all the Westminster champions, Flornell Spicy Piece of Halleston might just have the best name of all.     


Dwight Ellis raised hunting dogs for years before getting into dog shows. In 1936, he purchased the champion English setter Sturdy Max—the advertising face of Sturdy Dog Food—for his Maridor Kennels. Sturdy Max sired a litter that included the setters Dora, Mora, Daro, and Maro. In 1938, Daro of Maridor entered his very first dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and at 10 months of age became only the second dog under a year old to win Best in Show. Unfortunately, Daro contracted distemper at the show, and although he survived, Ellis gave up on dog shows after that experience. Daro went on to win several other awards for other kennels.      


Ferry v Rauhfelsen of Giralda was the first Doberman pinscher to win Best in Show at Westminster. The breed was controversial, and Ferry was no help to its reputation. The judge who awarded him Best in Show could not touch him, and others reported that he was “a rowdy and vicious one.” Still, he won several other championships, and his offspring, while few, won awards as well.


It was only in 1933 that miniature poodles become officially recognized in the U.S. as a breed distinct from standard poodles. Pitter Patter of Piperscroft was the first miniature poodle to win Best in Show at Westminster. The cute little dog is also in the running for the best-named dog ever.


Shirkhan of Grandeur was the first Afghan hound, and indeed the first hound of any kind, to take the top honor at Westminster. At the time, TIME Magazine wrote:

"It was abundantly clear to the 11,000 spectators at Madison Square Garden and to the thousands who watched the Westminster Kennel Club show on television last week that the aristocratic Afghan, Ch. Shirkhan of Grandeur, had a marked advantage over his five competitors for best of show. The others walked or trotted, ran or cantered like dogs. Shirkhan moved like a king."

The next Afghan hound to win Best in Show was Ch. Kabiks The Challenger in 1983, whose pedigree listed Ch. Shirkhan of Grandeur in several places.

All images are courtesy of the Westminster Kennel Club.

Ted Cranford
Scientists Use a CT Scanner to Give Whales a Hearing Test
Ted Cranford
Ted Cranford

It's hard to study how whales hear. You can't just give the largest animals in the world a standard hearing test. But it's important to know, because noise pollution is a huge problem underwater. Loud sounds generated by human activity like shipping and drilling now permeate the ocean, subjecting animals like whales and dolphins to an unnatural din that interferes with their ability to sense and communicate.

New research presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, California suggests that the answer lies in a CT scanner designed to image rockets. Scientists in San Diego recently used a CT scanner to scan an entire minke whale, allowing them to model how it and other whales hear.

Many whales rely on their hearing more than any other sense. Whales use sonar to detect the environment around them. Sound travels fast underwater and can carry across long distances, and it allows whales to sense both predators and potential prey over the vast territories these animals inhabit. It’s key to communicating with other whales, too.

A CT scan of two halves of a dead whale
Ted Cranford, San Diego State University

Human technology, meanwhile, has made the ocean a noisy place. The propellers and engines of commercial ships create chronic, low-frequency noise that’s within the hearing range of many marine species, including baleen whales like the minke. The oil and gas industry is a major contributor, not only because of offshore drilling, but due to seismic testing for potential drilling sites, which involves blasting air at the ocean floor and measuring the (loud) sound that comes back. Military sonar operations can also have a profound impact; so much so that several years ago, environmental groups filed lawsuits against the U.S. Navy over its sonar testing off the coasts of California and Hawaii. (The environmentalists won, but the new rules may not be much better.)

Using the CT scans and computer modeling, San Diego State University biologist Ted Cranford predicted the ranges of audible sounds for the fin whale and the minke. To do so, he and his team scanned the body of an 11-foot-long minke whale calf (euthanized after being stranded on a Maryland beach in 2012 and preserved) with a CT scanner built to detect flaws in solid-fuel rocket engines. Cranford and his colleague Peter Krysl had previously used the same technique to scan the heads of a Cuvier’s beaked whale and a sperm whale to generate computer simulations of their auditory systems [PDF].

To save time scanning the minke calf, Cranford and the team ended up cutting the whale in half and scanning both parts. Then they digitally reconstructed it for the purposes of the model.

The scans, which assessed tissue density and elasticity, helped them visualize how sound waves vibrate through the skull and soft tissue of a whale’s head. According to models created with that data, minke whales’ hearing is sensitive to a larger range of sound frequencies than previously thought. The whales are sensitive to higher frequencies beyond those of each other’s vocalizations, leading the researchers to believe that they may be trying to hear the higher-frequency sounds of orcas, one of their main predators. (Toothed whales and dolphins communicate at higher frequencies than baleen whales do.)

Knowing the exact frequencies whales can hear is an important part of figuring out just how much human-created noise pollution affects them. By some estimates, according to Cranford, the low-frequency noise underwater created by human activity has doubled every 10 years for the past half-century. "Understanding how various marine vertebrates receive and process low-frequency sound is crucial for assessing the potential impacts" of that noise, he said in a press statement.

Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi

In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered a site in France containing hundreds of cow skeletons dating back 5000 to 5400 years. The sheer number wasn't surprising—human agriculture in that part of the world was booming by 3000 BCE. What perplexed scientists was something uncovered there a few decades later: a cow skull bearing a thoughtfully drilled hole. Now, a team of researchers has released evidence that suggests the hole is an early example of animal brain surgery.

Fernando Ramírez Rozzi, a paleontologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Alain Froment, an anthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, published their findings in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. After comparing the opening to the holes chiseled into the skulls of humans from the same era, they found the bones bore some striking similarities. They didn't show any signs of fracturing from blunt force trauma; rather, the hole in the cow skull, like those in the human skulls, seemed to have been carved out carefully using a tool made for exactly that purpose. That suggests that the hole is evidence of the earliest known veterinary surgery performed by humans.

Trepanation, or the practice of boring holes into human skulls, is one of the oldest forms of surgery. Experts are still unsure why ancient humans did this, but the level of care that went into the procedures suggests that the surgery was likely used to treat sick patients while they were still alive. Why a person would perform this same surgery on a cow, however, is harder to explain.

The authors present a few theories, the first being that these ancient brain surgeons were treating a sick cow the same way they might treat a sick human. If a cow was suffering from a neural disease like epilepsy, perhaps they though that cutting a hole in its head would relieve whatever was agitating the brain. The cow would have needed to be pretty special to warrant such an effort when there were hundreds of healthy cows living on the same plot of land, as evidenced by the skeletons it was found with.

Another possible explanation was that whoever operated on the cow did so as practice to prepare them for drilling into the heads of live humans one day. "Cranial surgery requires great manual dexterity and a complete knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and vessel distribution," the authors write in the study. "It is possible that the mastery of techniques in cranial surgery shown in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods was acquired through experimentation on animals."

Either way, the bovine patient didn't live to see the results of the procedure: The bone around the hole hadn't healed at all, which suggests the cow either died during surgery or wasn't alive to begin with.


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