Why Popular Breeds Don’t Win Westminster



For the fifteenth time, a wire fox terrier took the title of Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Seven-year-old King was a heavy favorite, having been the top-ranked terrier in 2018. The Wire Fox Terrier is also the winningest breed in Westminster history and terriers are the best-performing group, having earned best in show 47 times.


These impressive statistics didn’t stop both audience members and dog lovers nationwide from questioning King’s victory, though. There were reports of boos and muted applause when King was announced as the winner at Madison Square Garden, since a Sussex Spaniel named Bean was a crowd favorite. The next day, newscasters across the country poked fun at King’s expense, their reactions compiled in a segment on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” show. Many said King looked ridiculous due to the tufted fur around his mouth, his “puffy legs” and “snobby” appearance. Several also said the Wire Fox Terrier wasn’t their “favorite breed.”


Popular American dog breeds haven’t had much success at Westminster. According to the American Kennel Club, the top five most popular breeds in the U.S. are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs and Bulldogs. Out of these five breeds, only German Shepherds and Bulldogs have won a best-in-show title, and together these breeds have won just four times.


The reason for this lack of success resides in how the dogs are judged at Westminster. Since the judging involves the dogs circling the show ring, it can be harder for short-legged and stockier breeds like Bulldogs to match the graceful, elegant strides of breeds with longer legs.


Judges also use a breed standard to assess a dog’s appearance. Since retrievers and German Shepherds are so popular, there are many of them in the U.S. and this makes it more difficult to develop a set breed standard. For example, retrievers have a particularly wide gene pool that makes for great variation in terms of coat color and consistency, so this makes it more difficult for judges to assess them.


There may be hope yet that popular breeds will gain greater success at Westminster. In 2017, Rumor the German Shepherd took best in show. For now, retrievers will just have to remain underdogs.  


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