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Money breeds success at Westminster

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The 134th Westminster Dog Show kicks off today in Madison Square Garden, with 173 breeds — including three newly recognized by the American Kennel Club — competing for the honor of best in show.

“The most prestigious event on the thoroughbred canine calendar” is how the New York Times characterized the show in an article this weekend — and one in which bucks and hype play large roles in determining the winner:

“Among breeders, owners and handlers, it’s understood: you can’t just turn up with the paradigm of the breed, if such an animal exists, and expect a best-in-show ribbon. To seriously vie for victory, a dog needs what is known as a campaign: an exhausting, time-consuming and very expensive gantlet of dog show wins, buttressed by ads in publications like Dog News and The Canine Chronicle.”

Breeders will commonly spend $100,000 a year on ads touting their dog, and that’s just part of the investment.

“Altogether, a top-notch campaign can easily cost more than $300,000 a year, and because it takes time to build momentum and a reputation, a typical campaign lasts for two or three years. Kathy Kirk, who handled Rufus, a colored bull terrier who won best in show at Westminster in 2006, estimates that the dog’s three-year campaign cost about $700,000,” the article said.

Among the 2,500 dogs hoping to follow in Rufus’ footsteps will be some from three newly recognized breeds, competing for the first time — the Irish Red and White Setter joins the Sporting Group; and the Norwegian Buhund and the Pyrenean Shepherd debut in the Herding Group.lg_norwegian_buhund7

Despite its name, the Irish Red and White Setter (above) is a distinct breed, not just a different colored version of the Irish Setter. Bred primarily for the field, they are strong, powerful and athletic, with a keen and intelligent attitude.

The Norwegian Buhund (left) once the companion of Vikings, is a versatile farm dog == black or cream colored — from Norway, where they’ve been used to herd livestock, guard property and hunt game.

lg_pyrenean_shepherd1The Pyrenean Shepherd (left again) is also known by its French name, Berger des Pyrénées, but fanciers of the breed in America often shorten the name to “Pyr shep.” Native to the mountains of southern France, the breed has guarded sheep since medieval times.

The three new breeds will be represented by 29 individual dogs in the show. The newcomers bring this year’s show total to 173 breeds and varieties, up from about 150 two decades ago.

Here’s the TV schedule

NIGHT 1:
Monday, February 15
Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups
8-9 p.m. (ET) live on USA Network
9-11 p.m. (ET) live on CNBC

NIGHT 2:
Tuesday, February 16
Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, Best In Show
8-11 p.m. (ET) live on USA Network

Breed judging highlight videos are available throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday at the Westminster website.

Comments

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time February 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I love the mutts and after 12 dogs, have never owned nor wanted to own a purebred. I have a huge heart for adoption and little heart for breeders when there are already so many orphaned dogs in the world. But I love the dog shows! It is a great opportunity to spot an occasional streak of joy or independence in the dogs…and to watch the evolution of what is being bred today…and to learn about breeds that I will rarely ever see and know in my lifetime. And all those oddball breeders, handlers and goofy old judges dressed like they are chaperoning a high school prom! That said, I have to learn more about exactly “what” establishes a breed and how long it takes?? For example, if my shepherd/rottweiler were to mate with another shepherd/rottweiler, and then their pups repeated the same, and then again, did I create a new breed? Shepweiler? Is “cockapoo” a breed? Labradoodle? Will they ever be? Thanks for the schedule! Woofwoof, toss the popcorn!

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