NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A lanky Scottish deerhound known as Hickory triumphed over a fox terrier and a Portuguese water dog on Tuesday to win Best in Show at the 135th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the first of its breed and only the fifth hound to take the top prize.
Hickory, a gray and white five-year-old bitch formally known as Ch Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, was a "perfect example" of the breed who exhibited "great showmanship," said Paolo Dondina, of Monterchi, Italy, who judged the Best in Show round before a cheering capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Dondina, who admitted "I'm a hound person," said choosing the deerhound as top dog in the prestigious competition with some 2,600 entrants from 49 U.S. states "is my dream. ... I'm in the heavens."
It was the first time a deerhound had ever won Westminster. "She's in an elite group of one," said owner Cecilia Dove.
Handler Angela Lloyd said after the win "Hickory ... showed tonight like she's never showed before."
The 85-pounder described by Lloyd as "very docile and gentle" was a clear crowd favorite among the seven best-in-show finalists, along with a bearded collie and a Pekingese.
Lloyd noted, however, that the breed is also known for its "often stubborn nature. They do things their own way."
Hickory beat out a wrinkly Chinese shar pei, a black cocker spaniel, a Fox terrier and a Portuguese water dog, a breed that came to national prominence when President Barack Obama's family chose one to live in the White House.
After last year's winner Sadie, a black Scottish terrier, Hickory's victory came as a surprise. Las Vegas oddsmakers had put the Scottish deerhound's odds of winning at 60-to-one.
Terriers, either Fox, wire-haired or Scottish, have dominated the competition with an astounding 45 Westminster wins, nearly half the total. Best-in-show prizes have been awarded 103 times over the years.
Now, with 16 best-in-shows under her belt, Hickory is retiring from the show ring, Lloyd said, adding "I'm going to miss the nose nudge in the middle of the night" after Hickory goes to live with one of her owners in Flint Hill, Virginia.
Hickory now embarks on a round of appearances, including Martha Stewart's television show, the Empire State building's observation deck and Sardi's restaurant.
Her owners have said they now hope to breed her.