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Category: Dog Shows

Scottish deerhound: What the breed -- best in show at Westminster -- is all about

HickoryDeerhound

Scottish deerhound Hickory created a big stir when she became the first member of her breed ever to win best in show at Westminster, America's most prestigious dog show, on Tuesday night.

Hickory's win came as a surprise to many dog-show watchers; although she boasts an impressive show record and was the No. 1 Scottish deerhound in the country last year, flashier dogs like a top-winning smooth fox terrier, Pekingese and boxer seemed likelier candidates for best in show. The Scottish deerhound breed was given 60-to-1 odds to win Westminster by a Vegas handicapper.

The win catapulted a little-known breed with a long history to sudden fame. The Scottish deerhound, a large sighthound originally used to hunt stags, has existed in much the same form since around the 16th century. A deerhound was once the prized pet of Sir Walter Scott, who described the breed as "the most perfect creature of heaven."

For some time, only the elite owned Scottish deerhounds, and the fact that not many people had them combined with the decline of stag hunting left the breed's population in serious decline by the 18th century. Around 1825, a pair of brothers began attempting to revive the breed, and deerhounds eventually made it to the U.S. The breed became eligible for AKC conformation competition in 1886.

Scottish deerhounds today are fairly rare and often mistaken for the more familiar Irish wolfhound. Members of the breed are typically calm, gentle and devoted to their human families. They're generally relaxed pets inside, but they love to run; lure coursing is a popular sport for the breed.

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Scottish deerhound wins Westminster dog show

Hickory the Scottish Deerhound

A Scottish deerhound named Hickory won best in show at the Westminster dog show, the most prestigious competition for purebred dogs in the U.S., as the show concluded its two-day run Tuesday night. 

It was the first time the Scottish deerhound -- a tall, lithe, rough-coated sighthound that is similar in appearance to the more familiar Irish wolfhound -- has won best in show at Westminster and only the fourth time one has won first place in the hound group in more than 80 years of competition.

RELATED: Photos from the Westminster Kennel Club dog show

Hickory -- full name GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, with the "GCH" indicating her status as a grand champion, a step above just plain "champion" -- was the fifth-ranked hound among all American show dogs in 2010. Even with her impressive show record, though, Las Vegas handicapping expert Johnny Avello, when placing odds on the show (for entertainment purposes only, of course), gave the Scottish deerhound breed only a 60-to-1 shot of winning.

Those are better odds than Avello gave the eventual winner of Westminster 2009, the Sussex spaniel, which he listed at 275-to-1, favoring a top-ranked Brussels griffon.

RELATED: Wow! Look at those dog hairstyles!

Hickory, who officially retired from the show ring after her Westminster win, will return to her home, a farm in Virginia, after she completes a short but intense publicity tour. There, her owners hope she will give birth to a litter of puppies -- something an actively campaigning show dog can't do.

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Westminster dog show 2011: Scottish deerhound Hickory wins Best in Show

Scottish Deerhound wins Westminster dog show

It's official: History was made when judge Paolo Dondina of Italy awarded the Westminster Kennel Club dog show's coveted Best in Show title to Hickory, a Scottish deerhound, on Tuesday night.

Hickory, a 5-year-old female whose full name is GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind (the GCH stands for Grand Champion), is the first Scottish deerhound ever to win Best in Show at Westminster.

She emerged victorious, surprising many, over a field of better-known champions, including four dogs that ranked in the top 10 American show dogs of all breeds last year -- a Pekingese named Malachy, a black cocker spaniel named Beckham, a bearded collie named Mister Baggins and a smooth fox terrier named Adam.

Hickory has an impressive show record of her own: she was ranked fifth among all American show dogs from the Hound group last year. But few thought a Scottish deerhound -- a rather rare breed that is sometimes mistaken for the more famous Irish wolfhound -- would go on to win Best in Show.

Vegas odds-maker Johnny Avello, handicapping the likely winners at Westminster, gave the Scottish deerhound 60-to-1 odds to win.

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Westminster dog show 2011: Cocker spaniel, Portuguese water dog, smooth fox terrier win groups

CockerSpaniel

The Westminster dog show's final groups -- sporting, working and terrier -- were hotly contested affairs during the country's biggest dog show Tuesday night.

Coming in first in the sporting group was GCH Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction, a male black cocker spaniel who is called Beckham for short. Beckham was the second-ranked American show dog from the sporting group in 2010.

The sporting group's top four placements were rounded out by Ch. Jewelset's Up Up N Away, a female Irish setter who earlier in the day had a surprising Best of Breed victory over the highest-ranked sporting dog in the country; GCH Fireside's Spontaneous Combustion, a male wirehaired pointing griffon; and GCH Poole's Ide Got Water RN, a male Irish water spaniel.

Up next was the working group, which was won by a female Portuguese water dog -- yup, the same breed as the Obamas' dog, Bo -- named GCH Aviators Luck Be a Lady, nicknamed Ladybug. Portuguese water dogs are a fairly rare breed, but saw a big spike in interest when President Obama's family received Bo as a gift from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, himself a devotee of the breed.

Rounding out the top four in the sporting group were GCH Winfall Brookwood Styled Dream, a top-winning female boxer many dog-show experts thought would win the group; GCH Szumeria's Wildwood Silver Six Pence, a male Kuvasz; and Ch McMagic's Candied Ham of Pebblesrun, a female Samoyed.

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Westminster dog show 2011: The hair makes the dog

Poodle at Westminster

The Westminster dog show is nothing if not a reliable source of silly dog photos. It's one of our favorite things about the show, which concludes Tuesday night with Sporting, Working and Terrier group competitions followed by the big finale, Best in Show.

We could happily look at dog pictures -- of puppies, gray-muzzled oldsters, mutts, purebreds, dogs wearing costumes, you name it -- all day long. But throw in the additional heaping helping of silliness that comes along with a big dog show -- the oddly coiffed fur, the strange, bedazzled neckwear that dogs wear to keep their ears from getting messy when they fall in a food bowl or water dish -- and you're bound to get some truly interesting animal photos.

Above, a standard poodle named Sparkle is already yawning -- and judging from her hairdo, she's not even close to being done with her grooming session yet.

Smooth-coated dogs -- your Rottweilers, miniature pinschers, Labradors and the like -- have it relatively easy in the pre-show grooming department. But for the breeds with specific styling needs -- like long-haired Yorkshire terriers, shih-tzus and Maltese, the elaborately clipped poodles and Bedlington terriers and the corded dogs like Komondorok and Pulik, which can take days to fully dry after bathing -- grooming can be a lengthy affair.

After the jump, we've assembled a ton of our favorite photos that document the behind-the-scenes grooming that goes on at Westminster.

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Westminster dog show 2011: Top-ranked smooth fox terrier is a no-show, but another top winner steps in

The Westminster dog show, for the fifth consecutive year, has been handicapped by Vegas odds-maker Johnny Avello (see his odds in PDF format) -- but America's top-ranked show dog in 2010 may have just thrown a wrench into the works.

Avello -- who lists odds on the breed, group, gender and age of the winning dog, but doesn't call out individual dogs by name -- gave the smooth fox terrier 6-to-1 odds to win Best in Show this year. It's a safe bet that he was banking on smooth fox terrier GCH J'Cobe Kemosabe Vigilante Justice, nicknamed Dodger, to represent his breed in the competition. Dodger's show career has included more than 100 Best in Show wins at dog shows around the country -- and he isn't even 4 yet.

He's a formidable competitor, for sure -- but he didn't show up. Dodger, whose co-owner Phillip Booth gave every indication the dog would compete at Westminster in an interview last week with Bloomberg News, was entered and even came to New York City, where the show takes place. But "[t]here was no reason to show him," Booth told Bloomberg on Tuesday, adding, "People don't realize how subjective [Westminster] is."

But don't throw Avello's smooth fox terrier prediction out the window just yet -- the eventual Best of Breed winner is another top-winning dog, GCH Slyfox Sneaks A Peek, who goes by Adam for short. Adam was the country's 10th-ranked show dog of all breeds in 2010 and won the terrier group at the prestigious AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show last year.

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Westminster dog show 2011: Where we stand going into Day 2

Peke

The Westminster dog show is a two-day spectacle that saves its nail-biting best-in-show finale for the end of the second day.

Where do we stand so far? The winners of four out of seven groups (categories of dog breeds arranged by their original purpose, like hunting or herding) -- hound, toy, non-sporting and herding -- were chosen Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The remaining groups -- sporting, working and terrier -- won't compete until Tuesday night, and a lot will depend on their outcomes.

The terrier group in particular will be one to watch (and we're not just saying that because we love terriers). More Westminster Kennel Club dog show winners have come from the terrier group than any other group, and this year the odds-on favorite to win best in show is a smooth fox terrier named Dodger.

Interestingly, the American Kennel Club (the organization that sanctions dog shows like Westminster) turned things up to 11 last year, introducing a title above champion for top-winning show dogs: grand champion. Though the new title was introduced in 2010, this will be the first year that dogs with their grand champion titles ("GCH") will be showing at Westminster. Of course, plain old champions (denoted by a "Ch" in front of their names) are nothing to sneer at, and you'll also see some of them competing.

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Westminster dog show 2011: The contestants prepare

A Maltese named 'Smartee' is seen backstage during the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

If you're a fan of dog shows, you might know the middle of February not for the holiday it contains, but for the famous show that takes place. We're speaking, of course, of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, which takes place at New York City's Madison Square Garden every year about this time.

This year, six breeds will be competing at Westminster for the very first time: the Boykin spaniel, bluetick coonhound and redbone coonhound, which became eligible for conformation competition at American Kennel Club-sponsored events in late 2009, and the Cane Corso, Icelandic sheepdog and Leonberger, which became AKC-eligible in 2010. The Boykin spaniel joins the Sporting group; both coonhound breeds join the Hound group; the Cane Corso and Leonberger join the Working group; and the Icelandic sheepdog joins the Herding group.

Because the Westminster show is split up into two days, only four of the seven groups (Hound, Toy, Non-sporting and Herding) will compete Monday night; the remaining three groups (Sporting, Working and Terrier) compete Tuesday night, with best in show competition to follow the conclusion of the Terrier group. If you're planning to watch at home, the show airs from 8 to 9 p.m. Monday on the USA Network (live if you're in the Eastern time zone, delayed here on the West Coast) and from 9 to 11 p.m. on CNBC; and on 8 to 11 p.m. Tuesday on USA.

Above, a Maltese named Smartee waits backstage for his chance in the ring. After the jump, more photos from the first day of Westminster 2010!

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Norwegian lundehund, Xoloitzcuintli and Entlebucher mountain dog are newest AKC-recognized breeds

Xoloitzcuintli and Norwegian Lundehund

The American Kennel Club has announced that three new dog breeds -- the Norwegian lundehund, Xoloitzcuintli and Entlebucher mountain dog -- have received the organization's official recognition, bringing the total number of breeds eligible to compete in AKC-sanctioned dog shows to 170.

The Norwegian lundehund (above right) is a spitz breed that was first used to hunt puffins in remote parts of Norway, and several unique features made it especially adept at grabbing the birds from their nesting areas in caves and in crevices along cliff walls. Lundehunds have extra toes on each paw (most have six toes on each foot, though some have seven), making them especially surefooted; thick double coats that allow them to thrive in cold weather; extremely flexible necks and shoulders; and ears that can fold closed to protect the ear canal from debris. When puffin hunting fell out of favor, the dogs did as well, and the breed nearly died out until a concerted effort to revive it was undertaken in the years after World War II. Today, the breed remains relatively rare. It will join breeds such as the Dalmatian, chow chow, standard poodle and bulldog in the AKC's Non-Sporting Group.

The Xoloitzcuintli (above left), pronounced "show-low-eats-queen-tlee" and often called the Xolo for short, is one of the world's oldest dog breeds; it's known to have existed in Mexico for more than 3,000 years. It was once exhibited in AKC shows under the name Mexican hairless, but it was dropped from the AKC stud book in 1959. Today, the Xolo exists in two varieties -- hairless and coated -- and three sizes. A single Xolo litter can contain both hairless and coated puppies. Like the Norwegian lundehund, the Xolo will compete in the AKC's Non-Sporting Group.

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Dogs show off at AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach

Bedlington terriers The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship dog show, held over the weekend at the Long Beach Convention Center, attracted conformation show dogs and highly trained obedience and agility dogs from around the country.

Winning the conformation competition -- in which dogs are judged by how closely they conform to the standard of perfection for their breed -- was Ch. Propwash Reckon, an Australian shepherd from New Hampshire who goes by Reckon for short. (The "Ch." stands for "Champion," a title bestowed on show dogs who have won a set number of points competing against other dogs of the same breed.)

Reckon emerged from the herding group to beat Scout, a German wirehaired pointer from the sporting group; Chanel, a whippet from the hound group; Lady Bug, a Portuguese water dog from the working group; Adam, a smooth fox terrier from the terrier group; Malachy, a Pekingese from the toy group; and Drummer, a bichon frise from the nonsporting group.

The show's highly competitive AKC National Obedience Invitational was won by High Times Ris'n Above the Tide, a golden retriever from Nebraska whose nickname is Buoy and whose full name contains many fancy-sounding titles, including Obedience Trial Champion (OTCh).

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