May 8, 2007

The First Westminster Kennel Club Show

May 8, 1877 was the date of the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The Westminster Dog Show is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the United States -- only the Kentucky Derby is older. It originated in 1877 when a group of hunters who met regularly at the Westminster Hotel in New York City decided to organize a kennel club specifically for the purpose of holding a dog show. The group rented an old railroad depot at Gilmore Gardens, a location which later became the first Madison Square Garden, and is now the site of the New York Life Building. The location was booked for 3 days, but the event was so popular -- it drew over 1200 dogs -- that the facility had to be rented for a fourth day.

Needless to say, the early shows were all about hunting dogs, primarily setters and pointers. The prize for the first shows included items like pearl-handled pistols. Most of the dogs in those times had simple names like Rex and Rover.

When the American Kennel Club was formed in 1884, the Westminster Kennel Club was the first club to be admitted. Today the Westminster Show is judged by American Kennel Club judges and is considered America's most prestigious dog show. Since 1884, all contestants in the Westminster Show are required to be members of the AKC.

Since 1941, the Westminster Show has been limited to a two-day event. Television coverage has been provided since 1948 -- currently, the highlights of the show are condensed into a two-hour event.

Since 1907, when the category "Best of Show" was created, the prize has been won by a dog of the Terrier Group 44 times. This is a remarkable statistic, considering that only 17% of the AKC's recognized breeds are terriers. Only one dog has ever won Best of Show 3 times: a fox terrier named Ch. Warren Remedy, in 1907, 1908, and 1909. Six dogs have won twice: 3 fox terriers, a cocker spaniel, a doberman pinscher, and an English springer spaniel.

The most challenged rule of the Westminister Show? Dogs competing may not have names longer than 7 words.

Photo Credit: Andrew ("Prskavka ") Wikimedia; Public Domain

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