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!