Follow the hounds: Westminster dog show opens in New York

Mon Feb 10, 2014 11:59am EST
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From tiny Chihuahuas to 100-pound (45-kg) Old English Sheepdogs, nearly 3,000 dogs and their handlers will hit the competition floor in New York on Monday for the opening of the two-day 138th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

This year's edition of the prestigious event, which features pure-breed dogs such as the feathery Cocker Spaniel and the playful Labrador Retriever, is expected to be the largest staging since 1990. It will stretch across two New York sites, with initial rounds of judging at a pier along the Hudson River and finals at Madison Square Garden, normally the site of basketball games and concerts.

There will be 190 different breeds and varieties represented in the show by 2,845 expected contestants this year, said Westminster spokesman David Frei.

Two dogs to watch will be a wire fox terrier named Sky and a Portuguese water dog called Matisse, both of whom performed well in shows earlier in the year, Frei said.

But Frei, who co-hosts the television broadcast of the competition, cautioned that no dog is ever a shoo-in.

"The thing about Westminster is it's the only time all the great dogs from the year are together at the same time," he said in a telephone interview. "It's very competitive."

A crowd-pleasing Old English sheepdog called Swagger who was a surprise contender for Best in Show last year before being declared a runner-up will return this year.

The competition focuses on the appearance of a dog as compared with a breed standard. It follows the organization's first dog agility contest, which was held on Saturday, and, in another first for the group, was open to mixed-breed entrants.   Continued...

Mojo, an Old English Sheepdog, is cleaned in the penning area at the 2014 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton