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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top dogs arrive in New York next week to compete in one of the world's most prestigious dog shows and, joining them for the first time, is a breed known for having the biggest head in the canine world.
Some 2,522 dogs, including the new breed, Dogue de Bordeaux, are competing this year in the Westminster Kennel Club show, which starts on Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Dogue, which will be 170th breed in the competition, is characterized by its heavy, broad wrinkled head and stocky, athletic build. The head is the largest of any dog, according to the Kennel Club.
The breed is also known as a French Mastiff.
At a press preview on Thursday, competing Dogues -- Brand T Beefcake and Darco Van de Petehoek -- showed off for photographers and reporters.
The owners said each dog tipped the scales at 145 pounds (65 kg).
Beefcake's owners, Vickie and Paul Saez, of Kendall, Florida, said they paid $2,000 for the use of a particular dog to sire Beefcake.
With the economic downturn, however, the price for such dogs has dropped, they said. One breeder's Dogue pups recently sold for $1,500 each, half of what they cost three years ago.
Throughout the dog-showing world, the economy is taking a wider toll, said David Frei of the Westminster Kennel Club, because demand for pedigreed purebred dogs is down.
Show dog breeders are producing fewer pups and are opting for one litter per year instead of the customary two or even three. "Fewer litters of puppies are available," said Frei, host of the televised broadcast of the dog show.
Classified by breeds, the largest contingent at the show will be Labrador retrievers, 47-strong.
Also on hand will be 42 French bulldogs, 39 German shorthaired pointers, 37 golden retrievers, 35 Australian shepherds and the same number of Bernese mountain dogs.
Last year a crowd-pleasing beagle called Uno was named best in show, becoming the first of his breed to win the U.S. canine world's top prize in the club's history.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Xavier Briand