January 22, 2016 / 6:03 PM / 4 years ago

From mini to dreadlocked, seven new breeds join Westminster dog show

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some are miniature, others are water-repellent and one is known to battle large predators.

New breeds (L-R) a Bregamasco, a Berger Picard, a Boerboel, a Cirneco dell'Etna, a Lagotto Romagnolo, a Miniature American Shepard and a Spanish Water Dog stand with their handlers at a news conference to introduce the seven new breeds of dogs that will be competing in the 2016 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

They are the seven dog breeds that will compete for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the annual New York event that is expected to draw thousands of visitors next month.

The prestigious show, now in its 140th year, has registered 2,752 dogs representing 199 breeds and varieties from around the world to compete for the title “Best in Show.”

This year’s newly eligible breeds, introduced by show organizers on Thursday, are the Bergamasco, Lagotto Romagnolo, Berger Picard, Miniature American Shepherd, Boerboel, Spanish Water Dog and Cirneco dell’Etna.

They were added to the American Kennel Club dog registry, making them eligible to compete.

The Bergamasco is a sheep dog that naturally forms dreadlocks, stands about 2 feet tall and originates in the Italian Alps. Also from Italy is the Lagotto Romagnolo, a large retriever with a curly coat that repels water, and the Cirneco dell’Etna, a small, affectionate canine resembling the Whippet.

The Berger Picard, a French herding dog, became nearly extinct after World War II and is still a rare breed.

Miniature American shepherds are linked to Australian shepherds and share their physical characteristics, often having one pale blue eye and one brown eye, but they are smaller.

Hailing from South Africa, the Boerboel is a large mastiff-like working dog. The breed dates back to the 17th century and was “often the first line of defense against predators,” according to the American Kennel Club.

Also joining the competition is the Spanish Water Dog, a shaggy and curly-coated breed known for its intelligence, loyalty and strong herding instincts.

The Westminster Kennel Club dog show will be held on February 15 and 16 at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

Last year, dogs from 15 countries and all U.S. states except North Dakota and Idaho competed. A bouncy, 15-inch beagle named Miss P took the top prize.

Editing by Frank McGurty, Toni Reinhold

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