Westminster dog show 2012: Six surefire -- but cool -- losers
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show features six new breeds this year, among them a hair-free pooch, a puffin hunter and a reindeer herder. What these very different breeds share is their underdog status. Each has about as much chance of winning best in show as the proverbial snowball does of not melting.
Sorry, Xoloitzcuintli fans.
"The fastest a new breed has gone from first appearance to best in show is 27 years," said longtime Westminster dog show spokesman David Frei in an interview Tuesday with the Los Angeles Times.
The results of the competition so far bear him out.
Familiar breeds were winning the day, as Bloomberg reported Tuesday morning. The four winning the group competitions so far: a German shepherd, a Dalmatian, a wirehaired dachshund and a Pekingese. Three more groups will be judged Tuesday night, Frei told The Times.
Frei said part of the fun of debuting new breeds is that dog show fans get to learn the looks and history of the breeds.
"We would love for them ... to come here and be successful," he noted. But "in the early years, they find themselves the object almost of entertainment."
There was no small amount of finger pointing, for instance, at the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced "show-low"), the national dog of Mexico. The breed is descended from hairless dogs prized by the Aztecs and revered as guardians of the dead, according to the kennel club. They were shaped by living wild in the Mexican jungles -- "by environment rather than by man."
The Norwegian lundehund -- or puffin dog -- has at least six toes on each foot, which in the old days gave it gripping ability for scaling rocky cliffs in Norway to ferret out puffins for the local farmers, the club says. That activity is against the law these days, with the puffin's status as protected.
Both the lundehund and the Xoloitzcuintli were whupped in the non-sporting category by a Dalmatian known as Ian.
The American English coonhound is the third new breed, a speedy hunter that the club describes as a "strong and graceful athlete." Another loser. Winning in the hound group was wirehaired dachshund "Cinders."
Debuting in the herding group were the Entlebucher mountain dog, a sturdy-looking fellow in handsome black, tan and white, and the Finnish lapphund, a reindeer herding dog from northern Scandinavia that is a devoted and friendly breed. Loser and loser. "Capi" the German shepherd won in the herding category.
In the terrier category, the Cesky debuts this year. Longer than it is tall, the club says, the Cesky has an enviable coat, long and silky "in shades of gray from charcoal to platinum."
On Tuesday night, the terriers -- as well as the sporting and working and terrier groups -- will be judged, followed by best in show. And the recipient of the big prize will assuredly be a familiar -- not an exotic -- face.
Last year, the Scottish deerhound won best in show for the first time in the history of the show. It took that breed 80 years to reach the top spot.
Behind the hoopla of this 136th annual show was a mini-controversy over the WKC dropping longtime show sponsor Pedigree dog food. Pedigree's ads feature forlorn shelter dogs waiting to be adopted.
Frei was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the dog show is a celebration of "all dogs," but sad-eyed dogs -- "puppies behind bars" -- "it's not our message."
Frei told The Times that he had no comment about the matter, dismissing it "old news. ... We made the change last spring."
-- Amy Hubbard
Photo: Alma Dulce, a 2-year-old female hairless Xoloitzcuintli, one of the six new breeds featured in this year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, arrives in New York in January for a news conference about the show. Credit: Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images