Last night a Beagle named ‘Miss P’ won ‘Best In Show’ at the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, marking the second time in 8 years that a Beagle has won ‘Best In Show’, and the tenth time in eleven years that a dog weighing under 50-pounds has taken the top honours.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is considered the most prestigious dog show in the world for purebred canines, and behind The Kentucky Derby it is the second longest continuously held sporting event in US history.
Before David Merriam, a dog breeder heralded as ‘one of the great dog people in the world’ by last night’s commentators, picked the 139th ‘Best In Show’, he spent the entire length of the WKC Dog Show sequestered, unaware of which dogs were winning their breeds, or which dogs were winning their groups. He entered the arena at Madison Square Garden last night around 9:45 completely unaware which dogs he was going to find in the ring, all he knew was there would be seven dogs, one representing each of the major groups: working, sporting, terrier, toy, non-sporting, hound, and herding.
Most people only tune into TNT (or CNBC) for the second night of the WKC Dog Show competition, but I find that to be a travesty, because there’s SOOOOO much more that goes into it than just the group judging and ‘Best In Show’. This year the competition actually began over the previous weekend, where agility trials were held, then starting at the crack of dawn on Monday the ‘Group Judging’ began, where each individual breed competes for ‘best in breed’.
For instance you might have 26 Neapolitan Mastiffs in competition for ‘Best in Breed’, and the winning dog would then go on to compete against all the other ‘Working Group’ dogs who won ‘Best in Breed’ for their respective breeds. Then the group winners go on to compete, and this is where I get pissed off when inevitably some octogenarian judge who has succumbed to the Winter of their life and can only own dogs small enough to fit into a purse takes the ring and chooses which small dog they prefer the most. It happens nearly every year, like clockwork. The big dogs are always the crowd favorites, the little dogs get chosen for ‘Best in Show’, and the people in attendance flip their shit.
Being a ‘big dog’ owner I am absolutely biased, in that I think a dog under 40 or so pounds is more akin to a cat than a dog. I maintain that since ALL DOGS WERE DERIVED FROM ONE COMMON ANCESTOR: A WOLF, dogs should be formidable of size in order to properly represent their heritage. That a dog who requires thousands of dollars and hours in grooming should not be judged in the same class of dogs that were bred to fight side-by-side with Roman Centurions. I’m talking about you, you fucking Beagles, Affenpinschers, you Pekingese who look like an abomination, you fucking Bichon‘s that look like the Storm Troopers from ‘Space Balls’ and serve NO PRACTICAL PURPOSE.
Every dog in the WKC is judged the same, yet differently. They are all held to a ‘breed standard’, a standard by which every breed should look and act, based on a predefined set of criteria. Some breed standards require a dog to be extremely self-confident, others require it to look like something you would use to plunge a toilet (like the Portuguese Water Dog that was 4-to-1 to win it all last night).
WKC defines the standard as:
Each breed’s parent club creates a STANDARD, a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed. Generally relating form to function, i.e., the original function that the dog was bred to perform, most standards describe general appearance, movement, temperament, and specific physical traits such as height and weight, coat, colors, eye color and shape, ear shape and placement, feet, tail, and more. Some standards can be very specific, some can be rather general and leave much room for individual interpretation by judges. This results in the sport’s subjective basis: one judge, applying his or her interpretation of the standard, giving his or her opinion of the best dog on that particular day. Standards are written, maintained and owned by the parent clubs of each breed.
And this is why the entire WKC Dog Show is a fucking SHAM. Here are the seven breed standards for last night’s 7 Best In Group finalists:
Portuguese Water Dog:
Old English Sheep Dog:
English Springer Spaniel:
Seven different standards for seven different dogs. AND THAT’S DOG SHIT. They’re all descended from a common ancestor, there needs to be some measure of commonality when judging. Some of the breeds above have canine features, others look as if they were descended from lemurs or flying squirrels.
Yes, the dogs should be judged on how well each of them represents their breed and group, but furthermore they need to be judged on how well they each represent canines everywhere.
You can’t fucking tell me that the thirty-something-pound beagle who won it all last night is indicative of dogs everywhere. Yes, the Beagle is the 5th most popular of ALL DOG BREEDS IN THE WORLD. No, it is in no way representative of dogs on the whole. In fact, if anything the beagle is an extremely shitty ambassador for canines because all beagles do is bark and run away. If the WKC wants a loyal, handsome canine who’s representative of what a dog should look AND act like, they need to award ‘Best in Show’ to a Golden Retriever or a Bull Mastiff.
Being the oldest and most prestigious purebred dog competition in the world, the Westminster Kennel Club does have an obligation to both the breeds as well as dog lovers across the globe. Every year they set the standard by which the public judges dogs, and if they continue to showboat pint-sized poochlings around the ring while gushing about how spectacular they are (when in reality, the dogs win it all by looking precisely as they are supposed to, according to their standard), purebred dogs will begin to vanish. Terriers are often well represented in the ‘Best in Show’ numbers, but in my opinion they get a pass. They get a pass because Terriers both have the attitudes of much larger dogs, and they’re typically highly specialized species designed to do things like go into fox holes and tear apart vermin, which is pretty badass.
Already there is a MASSIVE STIGMA with buying a purebred dog in place of adopting a shelter dog, the logic being that by buying a dog you’re killing a shelter dog that you could have saved. And I don’t give two shits what you’re feelings are on purebred dogs, but I do care about the heritage of breeds and the significance of the various breeds in today’s society. The beagle is NOT my dog, it is NOT America’s dog, it should not have won this year because ‘Swagger’ the Old English Sheep Dog was ROBBED, and the Portuguese Water Dog looks like some sort of dried out douche apparatus.
The WKC Dog Show ratings will continue to slip until they crown a dog with sizable girth AND a commanding presence once more. The Scottish Deerhound won in 2011, the Newfoundland won in 2004, and going back further than that it was in 1997 that the Standard Schnauzer won. Larger breeds are not underrepresented at the competition, they’re merely slighted by the judges who are too old to care for or appreciate giant breeds. It’s either that, or the entire competition is a sham, and it’s rigged for whatever breed the WKC and AKC chooses to promote to the American public that year.
Just look at this list of ‘Best in Show’ winners and you’ll see how slighted REAL DOGS are in this venerable (yet flawed) competition:
And though I have no way to end this rant, I’d like to just point out that if you’re into small dogs you probably also love things like potpourri, fanny packs, and wear SPF-70 on the golf course even though SPF doesn’t need to go higher than 45…and for that I’ll continue to judge the shit out of you for the rest of my life. And for those of you that are owners of a large breed and care about the essence of canines, keep fighting the good fight.
For the record, this Newfoundland named Josh who won ‘Best in Show’ back in 2004 is EXACTLY what a dog should look and act like:
and here’s the Beagle named ‘Miss P’ who won it all last night: