NEW YORK (Reuters) - A placid Pekingese slowly trotted to victory on Tuesday at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, beating a Dalmatian, a German Shepherd, a Dachshund and three other canines to become the first of his breed to win the prestigious annual event since 1990.
Malachy, a four-year-old dog formally known as Ch. Palacegarden Malachy, charmed the packed Madison Square Garden arena crowd, who roared their approval when his win was announced.
Judge Cindy Vogels, who was sequestered from the two-day competition until she entered the ring for the best-in-show finale, described the 11-pound Malachy as "a super dog who had a stupendous night."
"He was spectacular," she said of the dog who has been number-one in the toy group for the past two years and has won 115 best-in-show titles.
"He conforms to the (breed's) standard so magnificently ... tonight, he was flawless," she said.
The Pekingese, who drew a fair amount of affectionate laughter from the crowd with his mop of highly fluffed hair, won them over with soulful glances up at handler David Fitzpatrick, as he strode about the ring at a deliberate pace that contrasted with the other dogs' trotting gates.
"Their gate should be slow and dignified," Fitzpatrick said of the toy breed. Earlier in the day, he added, the dog had been "very quiet and relaxed," although he noted "he's an extrovert in the ring."
The other dogs competing in the best-in-show round included an Irish setter, a Kerry blue terrier and a Doberman pinscher. No Irish setter, Dalmatian or Dachshund has ever won best in show at Westminster, the nation's second-oldest sporting event behind only the Kentucky Derby race for thoroughbred horses.
Fitzpatrick said Malachy, owned by Iris Love and Sandra Middlebrooks as well as himself, would now retire to the life of a house pet. "He won't be doing commercials, he's been working hard enough for the past two years," Fitzpatrick said.
But first, the nation's newest top dog will embark upon a string of television appearances on news and talk shows befitting other celebrities with one name, such as Madonna and Cher.
The handler promised the dog would soon be back to "running around the house and chasing squirrels outside -- all the normal things."
Describing Malachy's nature, Fitzpatrick said "he's dignified, devoted, and a wonderful companion. He's charming."
Editing by Greg McCune