Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

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Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an all-breed conformation show that was hosted in New York City from 1877 to 2020. For 2021, the event will move to Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York to be held outdoors.[1]

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of a handful of benched shows in the United States. Dogs are required to be on display in their assigned locations (show benches) during the entire show except when shown in the ring, groomed for showtime, or taken outside for elimination. This type of presentation allows spectators and breeders alike to have an opportunity of seeing all the entered dogs. (In the more common unbenched shows, dogs are required to be present only at assigned ring times.)[2]


A black-and-white stylized drawing of a hunting dog, nose poked out to the left of the image, tail erect and behind the dog, with a group of trees in the background.
The Westminster Kennel Club was formed in 1877.

The first Westminster show took place on May 8, 1877, making it second only to the Kentucky Derby, in terms of continuously held sporting events in the United States. (Both events were held despite the Great Depression, World War, and pandemic years.) The show originated as a show for gun dogs, primarily Setters and Pointers, initiated by a group of hunters who met regularly at the Westminster Hotel at Irving Place and Sixteenth Street in Manhattan.[3] They decided to create a kennel club called the Westminster Kennel Club specifically to hold a dog show. The prizes for these first shows included such items as pearl-handled pistols, which were of use to the hunters and terriermen who worked these dogs in the field.


Held at Gilmore's Garden (Madison Square Garden) the Westminster show drew over 1,200 dogs. It proved so popular that it took four days instead of the three days originally scheduled. The club donated proceeds from the fourth day to the ASPCA for creation of a home for stray and disabled dogs.

The Westminster Kennel Club predates the formation of the American Kennel Club by seven years and became the first club admitted to the AKC after AKC's founding in 1884. Breed parent clubs (e.g., the Collie Club of America) create the standards for judging their breeds, with the AKC administering the rules about shows and judging.

Dogs are judged by how closely they conform to a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed (the breed standard). While many breeds no longer need to perform their original jobs and are bred mostly for companionship, they are still judged on their innate ability and physical makeup to perform their original jobs. Standards also include items that seem somewhat arbitrary such as color, eye shape, tail carriage, and more.

Today, Westminster takes place over two days and nights in June. During the day, the dogs compete against other dogs of the same breed at Piers 92 and 94. Each Best of Breed winner (BOB) advances to the Group level. There are seven groups: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding. Group competition occurs during the evenings at Lyndhurst. The seven Group winners advance to Best in Show, the final round of the show. During Best in Show, also held at Madison Square Garden, a judge will select one of judging them as the Best In Show winner. Since 2014, the show allowed mixed-breed dogs to compete in an agility event.[4]

Westminster has held competitions in Junior Showmanship for handlers ages 9–18 since 1934. The eight finalists all receive scholarships for post-secondary schooling. The Club, through the Westminster Kennel Foundation also awards veterinary school scholarships for students from six schools yearly.

The winning dog becomes "America's Dog" for the coming year. The reign begins with a media tour on the day following the show. Following the tour, the winner makes appearances on nearly all television network morning shows and visits the Observation Deck at the Empire State Building. The New York Stock Exchange also invites the winner and related handlers to ring the opening bell.

The event was widely celebrated in New York City every February. The Empire State Building salutes the show by lighting its tower in the Westminster colors of purple and gold for the duration of the show. Saks Fifth Avenue features a street window with a Westminster-themed display. It is unknown if the traditions will continue as the event was moved to Tarrytown in 2021, with the hope that limited spectators will be allowed.


Animal-rights advocates such as PETA protest the show, arguing that the propagation and celebration of purebreds ultimately add to the millions of dogs who end up at and die in shelters.[5][6]

During the 2019 broadcast, broadcast rights holder Fox Sports was reprimanded by dog show sponsor Purina when a broadcast voice-over used to introduce a dog group was recorded by NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who is sponsored by a direct competitor, Mars Petcare, as part of an overall sponsorship of Busch through both Mars Inc. candies and pet foods.


For many years, Roger A. Caras was known as "the Voice of Westminster" for providing the narration for the breed descriptions during the show.[7][8]

In 2001, Michael J. LaFave was named show announcer at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.[9] He was replaced by Jim Fagan in 2010 but returned in 2011.[10]


CBS Sports covered the event from the late 1960s to the 1980s as part of its CBS Sports Spectacular anthology series.

From 1984 until 2003, Universal's USA Network broadcast the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Following Universal's acquisition by General Electric in 2003 to form NBC Universal, from 2004 until 2016, the show aired under the NBC Sports label. From 2006 through 2016, the Monday coverage was aired by business news channel CNBC due to conflicts with WWE Raw on the USA Network. On July 28, 2015, Fox Sports announced that it had acquired rights to the event under a 10-year deal beginning in 2017. For the first three years, Fox Sports 1 and Nat Geo Wild provided joint coverage the show.

During NBC's coverage from 1990 to 2016, David Frei co-hosted the event with partners, Al Trautwig (1990–1991,[11][12] 1993[13]), Bud Collins (1992[14]), Joe Garagiola (1994–2002[15]), Mark McEwen (2003–2004[16][17]), Lester Holt (2005, 2007–2008[18]), Debbye Turner (2006[19]), Mary Carillo (2009,[20] 2011[10]–2016), and Tamron Hall (2010[21]).

Frei provided the commentary of the 140th event for his final time.

The 141st event in 2017 marked the beginning of the Fox Sports contract. There are two sets of hosting teams. From 2017–19, coverage aired on Fox Sports 1 and National Geographic Wild. For 2017, daytime breed judging was hosted by Justin Kutcher, Paula Nykiel and Jason Hoke and primetime coverage hosted by Chris Myers and Gail Miller Bisher. In 2018, daytime bred judging was hosted by Kutcher, Kimberly Meredith Cavanna and Don Sturz in 2018, while Hoke joined the evening booth of Myers and Bisher. In 2019, the judging experts were swapped, with the day event hosted by Kutcher, Cavanna, and Hoke and evening event by Myers, Bisher, and Sturz.[22]

Following the acquisition of National Geographic TV Channels and the Fox TV Studios by the Walt Disney Company in 2019, event coverage in 2020 was limited solely to the two Fox Sports channels, Fox Sports 1 for primetime and Fox Sports 2 for daytime judging. John Strong replaced Kutcher as host for daytime breed judging and Fox hosts were Myers, Bisher, and Sturz.

In 2017, Fox Sports 1 aired a one-hour documentary, Crowned: Inside the Westminster Dog Show.

For 2021, the final night judging will be broadcast live on the Fox broadcast network.

Requirements for entry[edit]

In 1884, the AKC began requiring that all dog participants be registered with the AKC and recognized for conformation show competition. In 2016, there are 199 breeds and varieties eligible for Westminster. Because of the show's popularity and prestige, starting in 1992 the AKC limited entries by requiring that dogs must have already earned their breed championship before appearing at Westminster. Later, the Westminster Kennel Club amended that rule - dogs only need one of the two required "major wins" towards their championship titles. However, they don't need to be finished champions to enter.

Since 2020, the requirement that a dog be a Champion was reinstated by the Westminster Kennel Club and the entry limit decreased to 2,500. The conformation show was also spread over 3 days instead of the traditional 2 days, due to the unavailability of one of the usual venues for the event.[23]

The top five dogs in each breed (based on breed points earned in AKC conformation showing through October 31 of the preceding year), as well as the Best of Breed winner from each breed's national specialty show, receive printed invitations by mail and are eligible for early entry. After that entry deadline passes, other dogs with at least one "major win" may enter, up to a cut-off entry total of 2800 dogs.

There is no prohibition against a winner competing again in future Westminster shows. Seven dogs have won multiple Westminster championships: six dogs in consecutive years (including Warren Remedy, the only three-time champion of the event) and one dog in non-consecutive years. Since 1972, however, there have been no repeat winners. (See List of Best in Show winners of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.)

Dogs of all breeds, including mutts, may participate in the show's agility competition. There is a title for the highest-ranking mutt in the agility round - the "All American Dog."

Winning breeds[edit]

Through the 134th Westminster Show (February 2010), Best in Show has been won by the Terrier group 45 out of the 103 times that the prize has been awarded since 1907,[24] more than twice as many wins as any other group. The single breed that has won the most is the Wire Fox Terrier, which has won 14 times. Two of the most popular dog breeds in the United States have never won Best in Show - they are the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever.[25] The dogs are marked for Best in Breed and then proceed to compete in Best in Group, and finally in the grand prize competition of Best in Show.[26]

The oldest dog to win Best in Show was a Sussex Spaniel named Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (a.k.a. Stump), at ten years of age in 2009. The youngest dog to win was a Rough Collie named Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, at nine months old in 1929.[27] One dog, a Smooth Fox Terrier named Ch. Warren Remedy won Best in Show three times (1907–1909), and six other dogs have won twice.[28] Males have won Best in Show 68 times as opposed to females who have won 35 times.[29]

List of show winners and breeds[edit]

Following is a list of WKC Best in Show winners since 1990.[30]

Popular culture[edit]

  • The 2000 comedy film Best in Show takes place at the fictional "Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show," based in part on Westminster.
  • Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog has used the setting of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show three times in his skits; ostensibly, he was the winner in the "Best Insult Comic Dog" category at Westminster 1997.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Croke, Karen. "Westminster Kennel Club moves its annual dog show to Tarrytown in 2021". The Journal News. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  2. ^ Reznik, Allan (March 6, 2019). "Engaging Positively With the Public at Dog Shows". American Kennel Club.
  3. ^ Shaw, Gabbi. "The Westminster Dog Show winner from the year you were born". Insider. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  4. ^ Jennifer Peltz, "Westminster Dog Show Adds Event With Mixed Breeds," Associated Press, January 16, 2014.
  5. ^ Jennifer Peltz, "Westminster Dog Show Adds Event With Mixed Breeds," Associated Press, 16 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Pets By the Numbers," Humane Society of the United States, September 27, 2013.
  7. ^ Day, Sherri (February 20, 2001). "Roger Caras, 72, Animal Welfare Advocate". The New York Times.
  8. ^ http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2012/02/11/v-print/2226292/pets-qa-best-in-show-really-means.html
  9. ^ "2004 Announcer". The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Westminster Kennel Club. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Ullmer, Mary (February 16, 2011). "Unleashed: Unleash the hounds! Gentle giant Scottish deerhound is Westminster's Best in Show". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  11. ^ Dawson, Greg (February 16, 1990). "USA's Westminster Dog Show a cult hit". The News and Courier. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  12. ^ Zad, Martie (February 10, 1991). "TNT features 'Kisses'". The Daily Gazette. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  13. ^ "The dog days of February". The Washington Times. February 13, 1993.
  14. ^ "Bud Collins to Test Commentator Skills at National Dog Show". Lexington Herald-Leader. February 10, 1992.
  15. ^ Dale, Steve (February 10, 2002). "Canine Frenzy". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  16. ^ Dale, Steve. "The Voice of Westminster Dog Show". Dog Channel.com. BowTie, Inc. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  17. ^ Pennington, Gail (February 9, 2004). "Critic's Picks". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  18. ^ "Westminster puts on the dogs". Lexington Herald-Leader. February 7, 2008.
  19. ^ "TV Digest". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 23, 2006.
  20. ^ Sandomir, Richard (February 8, 2009). "Former Westminster Winners Do Not Seem Past Their Prime". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  21. ^ "USA Network & Westminster Brings Everyone's Best Friend Back to Madison Square Garden". News Blaze. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  22. ^ "Fox Sports Names Pick of the Litter for the 2017 Westminister Dog Show". Fox Sports Press Pass. Fox Sports public relations. January 12, 2017.
  23. ^ - Westminster Kennel Club Exhibitor Brief August 2019
  24. ^ WestminsterKennelClub.org - Best In Show Awards By Breed (1907-2010)
  25. ^ "The Labrador Retriever Wins Top Breed for the 26th Year In a Row". akc.org.
  26. ^ Research, CNN Editorial. "Westminster Dog Show Fast Facts". CNN. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  27. ^ WestminsterKennelClub.org - Oldest Dogs To Win Best In Show
  28. ^ WestminsterKennelClub.org - Multiple Best In Show Wins
  29. ^ WestminsterKennelClub.org - Best In Show Awards By Sex Of The Dog
  30. ^ Westminsterkennelclub.org - Best In Show Winners
  31. ^ "Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show". NBC Sport.
  32. ^ Kuperinsky, Amy (February 13, 2019). "King, a wire fox terrier, crowned best in show at the 2019 Westminster Kennel Club dog show". The Oregonian.
  33. ^ Whiteside, Kelly; Das, Andrew; Lyall, Sarah (February 14, 2017). "Westminster Dog Show 2017: Rumor the German Shepherd Wins Best in Show". The New York Times.
  34. ^ Chung, Jen. "CJ The German Shorthaired Pointer Named 2016 Best In Show At Westminster Kennel Club's Big Night". Gothamist. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  35. ^ "Canadians triumph at Westminster". Dog World. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  36. ^ http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/2014/results/bis/index.html
  37. ^ "Westminster Best in Show Winner: Scottish Deerhound". New York: usatoday.com. February 15, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  38. ^ "Sadie the Scottie Wins Westminster". CBS News. February 16, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  39. ^ "Sadie Wins Second Jewel in 'Dogdom's Triple Crown' with Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show win!". American Kennel Club. February 17, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2021.

Additional sources[edit]

  • Westminster show history
  • Barnes, Duncan (ed.) (1983). The AKC's World of the Pure-Bred Dog. Nick Lyons Books. ISBN 0-87605-406-8.
  • Sifel, William F. (2001). The Dog Show: 125 Years of Westminster. By William F. Stifel. ISBN 0-9705698-0-7
  • Frei, David (ed.) (2010). The Westminster Kennel Club Guidebook. Latest edition of annual publication.

External links[edit]