When this year's Westminster Kennel Club dog show convenes at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 13, a record 186 breeds will be competing for the coveted "best in show" award.
Take the Labrador retriever, for example. The most popular breed in America for more than a decade, the lab has never won "best in show" in the more than 90 years since the breed was first recognized. It has come close though, most recently placing fourth in 2009 and 2010. Last year's top lab, Kaltrav Caribbean Cruise, won "best of breed" and is currently out to stud. Maybe one of his progeny will be a future winner.
Another popular breed, the golden retriever, has done even worse than the lab, with only three near-misses since 1925. A golden retriever came in second in 2009, and one received the "best in group" award in 2006, but that's about it. Last year's golden retriever "best in breed" winner was a gorgeous animal named Sweetlea's Follow Me, also known as "Jacques," who has won "best in show" at other competitions. On their web page, owners Susan and Robert Lee say Jacque is "very loving and has a sweet and gentle temperament. What more could we ask for?"
The ever-popular dachshund has done pretty well for itself over the years, racking up multiple "best in group" awards and numerous fourth-, third- and second-place prizes. Dachshunds are the eighth-most popular dog breed in America, down from fourth in 2000. No dachshunds placed in last year's competition. Dachshunds compete as three breeds: longhaired, smooth and wirehaired.
Another breed that has been slipping in popularity is the Chihuahua, which was the eight-most popular breed in 2000 but is only the 13th most popular today. Chihuahuas — which compete in the long coat and short coat categories — haven't done very well at Westminster, winning "best in group" only once in the Toy category back in 1984. The breed took third place in 2004 and 2006.
You can find information on all 186 breeds competing in this year's Westminster Kennel Club dog show — including the six breeds appearing for the first time in 2012 — here.
Also on MNN: Meet 6 breeds making their debut at Westminster