Westminster dogs to vie for 'Best of Show.' Rev up the fur driers

Ah, how quickly fortunes can change at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, where a 98-pound Old English sheep dog named Swagger was bumped from competition for the Best in Show trophy by a far smaller canine named Coco.

The Cardigan Welsh corgi won the herding group category late Monday, defeating Swagger and more than 20 other herding dogs that include such breeds as German shepherds, collies and border collies.

Coco joined Nathan the bloodhound, Ally the standard poodle and Classie the miniature pinscher -- or min pin -- to move on to Tuesday's nights finals. Nathan was judged the best in the hound group; Ally won best in the non-sporting group; and Classie was judged best of the toys. 

Yet to be decided are the winners of the sporting, working and terrier groups, who were trotting around the nine show rings Tuesday as judging continued.

The seven winners of the individual dog groups will compete in Best in Show.

"I think next year is Swagger's year," said Jim Van Elswyk, of Tampa, Fla., a longtime spaniel owner who watched as Swagger, his long gray and white hair swinging back and forth, loped for the judges. "He's only 2 years old."

Swagger had been a favorite because he was the runner-up at last year's Westminster show and has collected an impressive array of prizes despite his youth. 

This is the 138th year for Westminster, and more than 2,800 dogs representing about 190 breeds are here. As competition got underway early Tuesday in an event space on the banks of the partially frozen Hudson River, groomers ran hair dryers over fur and drew combs through thick curls. 

"All we can do is make sure the dog looks his best. After that, it's out of our hands," Colton Johnson, one of Swagger's owners and his handler, said before the sheep dog made his final appearance in the ring.

Here are a few things you might not know about Westminster, which began in 1877:

Labrador retrievers led the pack of contestants with 76 entries; the short-legged Swedish vallhunds numbered just two in competition.

There are 127 dogs from outside the United States, including Thailand, Chile and Slovenia.

New York produced the most dogs, with 272, followed by California with 239.

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