Westminster dog show 2011: Where we stand going into Day 2

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The Westminster dog show is a two-day spectacle that saves its nail-biting best-in-show finale for the end of the second day.

Where do we stand so far? The winners of four out of seven groups (categories of dog breeds arranged by their original purpose, like hunting or herding) -- hound, toy, non-sporting and herding -- were chosen Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The remaining groups -- sporting, working and terrier -- won’t compete until Tuesday night, and a lot will depend on their outcomes.

The terrier group in particular will be one to watch (and we’re not just saying that because we love terriers). More Westminster Kennel Club dog show winners have come from the terrier group than any other group, and this year the odds-on favorite to win best in show is a smooth fox terrier named Dodger.

Interestingly, the American Kennel Club (the organization that sanctions dog shows like Westminster) turned things up to 11 last year, introducing a title above champion for top-winning show dogs: grand champion. Though the new title was introduced in 2010, this will be the first year that dogs with their grand champion titles (‘GCH’) will be showing at Westminster. Of course, plain old champions (denoted by a ‘Ch’ in front of their names) are nothing to sneer at, and you’ll also see some of them competing.


Winning the hound group Monday was a female Scottish deerhound, GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind. Though the breed isn’t very common, this is the second time a Scottish deerhound has won Westminster’s hound group in just the past three years. A Scottish deerhound has never won best in show at Westminster.

Rounding out the top four positions in the hound group were a 15-inch beagle named CGH Torquay Midnight Confession (beagles are divided into two varieties by height: the 13-inch beagle and the 15-inch beagle, neither of which are to exceed the height specified in their name); a male Norwegian elkhound named GCH Vin-Melca’s Voyager; and a male petit basset griffon vendeen (a breed often called the PBGV for short) named GCH Celestial CJ’s Hearts on Fire. We can’t prove this, but we have a very strong suspicion that this is the first year that two dogs named for Gram Parsons songs (‘Hickory Wind’ and ‘Hearts on Fire’) have placed in the same group.

Winning the toy group was a male Pekingese named GCH Palacegarden Malachy (that’s him in the photo above). A Pekingese has won best in show at Westminster three times, most recently in 1990.

Rounding out the toy group’s top four were a male affenpinscher named GCH Banana Joe V Tani Kazari (incidentally, so far Banana Joe looks poised to win our title of most-fun-to-say-name); a male pug, Ch Xoe’s Oscar De La Hoya; and a male Papillon, Ch Copella’s Rising Attraction.

Victorious in the non-sporting group (which contains a disparate selection of dog breeds that don’t easily fit into any of the other groups, like the standard poodle, bulldog, bichon frise, chow chow and Dalmatian) was a female Chinese Shar-Pei named GCH Vaje’s Miss Jayne Hathaway. A Chinese Shar-Pei has never won best in show at Westminster.

The remaining three non-sporting group placements went to a male bichon frise, GCH Saks Hamelot Little Drummer Boy; a female Lhasa apso, GCH My Thai Ta Sen Halleluia Chorus; and a male keeshond, GCH Karolina Bonnyvale Meant To Be.

The final group to be judged on Monday night, the herding group, was won by a male bearded collie named GCH Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins (hmm, wonder if his owners are fans of the writings of Tolkien?). A bearded collie has never won best in show at Westminster.

Completing the top four placements in the herding group were a male Belgian tervuren, GCH Sky Acres Spy Plane; a male border collie, GCH Bon-Clyde’s Take One; and a female Pembroke Welsh corgi (the tailless corgi, not to be confused with the Cardigan Welsh corgi), GCH Segni At Coventry.

What we’ve learned so far: Don’t count out the Scottish deerhounds; ‘Banana Joe’ is fun to say; if you enjoy the ‘Lord of the Rings’ series, you’ll probably want to root for the bearded collie. Plus, Tuesday night’s best in show judge, Paolo Dondina of Italy, will have several chances to make history if he selects the Scottish deerhound, Chinese Shar-Pei or bearded collie, since none of these breeds has ever been the big winner at Westminster. It should be interesting to watch!

Westminster dog show 2011: The contestants prepare [Photos]
Sadie the Scottish terrier is Westminster 2010 winner

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Toy group winning Pekingese GCH Palacegarden Malachy trots in the ring on Monday. Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters