February 15, 2011 / 9:08 PM / 7 years ago

Long-shot breeds aim for best-in-show at NY dog show

<p>Bearded Collie Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins looks up at his handler Clifford Steele in the ring while winning the Herding Group at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York February 14, 2011.Mike Segar</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A crowd-pleasing wrinkly Shar Pei, a bearded collie and a gangly Scottish deerhound were poised to paw their way to victory and make history on Tuesday at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show.

No member of their breeds has ever won the top prize in the famed show's 135-year history.

The biggest honor -- to be named best-in-show among some 2,600 entrants -- is chosen on Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden.

Four group winners were picked on Monday from the toy, nonsporting, hound and herding groups, while winners from the sporting, working and terrier groups were being picked on Tuesday, the second day of the two-day show.

The top dogs in each of the seven groups vie for best-in-show.

If history is any guide, the bearded collie named Mister Baggins will face tough going. There has been only one best-in-show, a German Shepherd, from the herding group.

Las Vegas oddsmakers call the Shar Pei named Miss Jayne Hathaway a long shot, with odds of 110-to-1 on her chances of winning. Then again, her breed has never before graced the best-in-show ring at all, so change could be afoot.

The Pekingese who won the toy group could have an edge as the fluffy, somewhat comical dogs have won best-in-show three times at Westminster.

<p>Chinese Shar-Pei Vaje's Miss Jayne Hathaway and handler Clint Livingston trot in the ring as they win the Non-Sporting Group at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York February 14, 2011.Mike Segar</p>

Terriers, whether they are Fox, wire-haired or Scottish, have dominated the competition with an astounding 45 Westminster wins, nearly half the total. Best-in-show prizes has been awarded 103 times over the years.

By comparison, hounds have only won four times.

<p>Scottish Deerhound Foxcliff Hickory Wind wins the Hound Group with handler Angela Loyd as judge Robert Indeglia points to them (L) at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York February 14, 2011.Mike Segar</p>

Tuesday's victor, of whichever of the 179 breeds competing, will have a challenge eclipsing the beagle Uno who charmed judges, the crowd and television viewers in 2008 to become one of the most popular ever, baying joyously when he won.

But popularity going into the show does not seem to help. Neither of the most popular U.S. dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever, has ever won the top prize.

While only 45 breeds have ever won best-in-show, age seems no barrier. Winners have ranged from 9 months to more than 10 years old.

Two years ago another crowd pleaser, a plodding Sussex spaniel named Stump, came out of retirement and trotted off as the oldest winner in Westminster history.

There has been a somewhat sexist slant, however, with males prevailing over females about two-to-one over the years.

New breeds are added to the competition each year. The 2011 newcomers include the Boykin spaniel, Bluetick coonhound, Redbone coonhound, Cane corso, the Leonberger and the Icelandic sheepdog.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune

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