Meet 6 breeds making their debut at Westminster
A reindeer herder, a puffin hunter and the national dog of Mexico join the 179 other breeds competing for Best in Show at the 2012 event.
Mon, Feb 06, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Every year, hundreds of dogs representing dozens of breeds compete in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the veritable Best in Show for canine competitions.
This year, six new breeds join the mix, bringing the total number of breeds competing to a record 185. They follow the six new breeds added last year and the three breeds added the year before.
"New breed is a little bit of a misnomer because a lot of these breeds have been around for hundreds, or even thousands of years in some of the cases," USA Network host David Frei (and Westminster's director of communications) told Reuters.
According to Frei, all breeds will be represented in the competition by at least two dogs, with a limit of 2,000 total animals.
The six breeds added this year are:
The American English coonhound, which evolved from Virginia hounds, which in turn were descended from English foxhounds. Originally used to hunt fox and raccoon, this breed is still prized as a hunter. According to the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC), the breed is "pleasant, alert, confident and sociable with both humans and dogs."
The Cesky terrier, a short-legged hunting dog that is longer than it is tall and was bred to work in packs. They are "reserved toward strangers," but "loyal to their owners," according to the WKC, and keen and alert during hunts.
The Entlebucher mountain dog, the smallest of the four canine breeds native to Switzerland and the one most prized for its work ethic. Not intended for the casual owner, the mountain dog "can transform from a high-spirited playmate to a serious, self-assured dog of commanding presence," according to the WKC.
The reindeer-herding Finnish lapphund from northern Scandinavia, which may have existed for thousands of years as an aid to native tribes and which remains popular with Finnish families.
The small Norwegian Lundehund or "puffin dog," which is well-adapted to the rocky cliffs of arctic Norway, where its six-toed feet helped it navigate nearly vertical climbs to hunt puffins. Although puffins are now protected and no longer hunted, the puffin dog remains popular as what the WKC calls "an alert, cheerful and somewhat mischievous companion."
And finally, the Xoloitzcuintli or "show-low," which was formerly known as the Mexican hairless. The national dog of Mexico, this breed comes in three sizes and one version with a coat — despite its name. Descended from hairless dogs owned by the Aztecs centuries ago, these dogs remain valued for their intelligence, trainability and cleanliness.
You probably shouldn't expect any of these new breeds to win this year, at least not best of show. "The shortest time between a breed competing at Westminster and winning best of show is 27 years," Frei told Reuters. "That was the Bichon Frise. It had its first year in 1974 and won best in show in 2001."
The 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show will be held Feb. 13-14 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It will be broadcast on USA Network.
Also on MNN: Communities rally 'round their Westminster hopefuls
Breed photos from American Kennel Club