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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three newly admitted breeds will be among 3,000 dogs strutting their stuff in New York City at the 138th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday and Tuesday in the popular event's largest gathering since 1990.
This year's dogs come from all 50 states, organizers said, with the majority from New York and California. There are at least 127 foreign entries, including dogs from Finland, Slovenia, Japan and Thailand.
On Saturday, Westminster will put on an inaugural agility contest in which dogs will compete to run obstacle courses in the fastest time and with the least flubs.
Sixteen mixed-breeds, or what organizers like to call "All-American dogs", are due to take part in that event. It also marks the first time Westminster has extended invitations to dogs of unknown pedigree since its early days in the 19th century when, organizers said, the rules were a little more "inexact".
"The sport's most famous and prestigious event will be bigger than ever in 2014," the show said in a statement.
The newly admitted breeds are: the Chinook - a breed developed in New Hampshire in the 1920s and described by the kennel club as an athletic working dog that does not require a great deal of bathing, brushing or nail-trimming.
Then there is the Portuguese podengo pequeno, with a long history of hunting rabbits across the Iberian Peninsula. And finally there is the rat terrier, a farm dog named for its expertise in catching vermin.
For the main event, when dogs are appraised for how closely they conform to their breed's ideal, judges will look over an expected 2,845 contestants at exhibition halls on piers on the Hudson River.
The favored dogs will head to the show's regular venue at Madison Square Garden, where the best breeds in the sporting, hound, working, non-sporting, toy, terrier and herding dog groups will be chosen.
The winners then face off in the Best in Show event, to be judged by Betty Regina Leininger of Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday evening.
The 138th annual show, which will be televised, is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby.
To be included in the show, a breed must meet American Kennel Club rules, including having sufficient numbers in the United States, a certain geographical distribution, and a parent club that makes sure they are following responsible breeding practices and meet certain characteristics.
Labrador and Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks are among the most popular breeds, while the Wire Haired Fox Terrier has won the most best in show prizes, at 13. Terriers, in general, have won the top prize 45 times.
Last year, a black affenpinscher called Banana Joe won Best in Show, and, as is traditional, has since retired to his native Netherlands.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by Gunna Dickson