This weekend the famous Westminster Dog Show started and is planned to continue through Tuesday.

From Agility Championships to Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups, to Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, it all culminates in the Best of Show final at Madison Square Garden.

For those who happen to be in NY, tickets are on sale ranging from $32 for an event to $100 for a full day…a single day. While the show isn’t cheap by any means, it is quite the experience to watch as both dogs, and as importantly their owners, compete for pride, glory, and honor. For some, the show is so important that they hire professional handlers to ‘show’ the dog to the judges.

According to the American Kennel Club, males and females compete separately in three classes within their breed:  Bred by Exhibitor, American-Bred, and Open. Then, all the dogs that won first place in a class compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions for the BEST OF BREED award. At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:

Best of Breed – the dog judged as the best in its breed category.

Best of Winners – the dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.

Best of Opposite Sex – the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.

Believe it or not, at Westminster, 202 dog breeds and varieties compete in 7 groups. These are:

Sporting: These are “gun dogs” that were originally bred to assist the hunter such as Pointers and Setters that (if not obvious) point and mark the game; Spaniels that flush the bird; and Retrievers that (you guessed it) recover the game from land or water.

Hound: Hounds are hunting dogs that bring down the game themselves, or hold it at bay until the hunter arrives, or locate the game by tracking it by scent.

Working: These dogs are generally intelligent and powerfully built, performing a variety of tasks, from guarding, drafting, and police, to military and service dogs.

Terrier: comes from the Latin word, terra (ground). These dogs are small enough to “go to ground” to pursue their prey (rats, foxes, and other vermin).

Toy: Toy dogs (as their name implies) were bred to be companions for us people. They are full of life and were often bred to resemble their larger cousins (e.g. the Toy Poodle is the smallest variety of the Poodle).

Herding: These dogs’ purpose is to serve ranchers and farmers by moving livestock from one place to another.

Non-Sporting: this group is basically all the remaining dogs that do not fit any of the other groups.


victorian dog owners


So how did this whole ‘breed’ thing start you may ask?

According to the University of Manchester (U.K) specialist on the social history of pedigree dog breeding in Victorian Britain, most modern dog breeds can be traced to a gene pool from the 1850s, ’60s and ’70s.

While people have been keeping dogs for as long as 16,000 years, some experts believe that as society became more urbanized, pets became more popular as one way of staying in touch with the natural world. In 19th England, many believed that if children could be trained to take care of and be kind to their dogs, then they would grow up to be kind, responsible adults. It is in a famous portrait of Queen Victoria and her family by Sir Edwin Landseer that the dogs are shown to be an integral part of the family vs. an animal to be tied outside the house when not being used for their ‘working purpose’.

It was the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species that inspired scientists to apply his ideas about evolution to their own investigations of how change occurs in dogs over time and as a result, dog breeds were created, separated, and defined.

Today, a lot in known about the various breeds and many attributes (behavioral, personality, looks, etc.) can be identified for each….but as we all know, our own furry (or sometimes less furry) friends, are each unique unto their own, and just like us humans, are truly individual.

Enjoy the show.