“Westminster gets its name from a long gone hotel in Manhattan. There, sporting gentlemen used to meet in the bar to drink and lie about their shooting accomplishments. Eventually they formed a club and bought a training area and kennel. They kept their dogs there and hired a trainer.
“They couldn’t agree on the name for their new club. But finally someone suggested that they name it after their favorite bar. The idea was unanimously selected, we imagine, with the hoisting of a dozen drinking arms.”
— Maxwell Riddle, from a newspaper story quoted in
“The Dog Show, 125 Years of Westminster” by William Stifel
Westminster began in a bar full of hunting folk. Doesn’t that sound like a sport? But the point of the Westminster Dog Show (this was the 139th year of shows) is to maintain breed standards. Best in breed, best in group and best in show are all judged according to rigorous standards, like any sporting even should be. My friend Jen, at My Brown Newfies, has a show Newfoundland and talks about what goes into procuring and showing a dog leading up to Westminster.
Breed type is outlined in the written breed standard for each breed, and the judge looks at the entered dogs for the ones that most perfectly resemble the judge’s mental image of ideal breed type. Dogs are judged against the judge’s mental ideal, not against each other. The goal of the conformation show is to identify breeding stock for the breed, and the breed standard is “the standard or model which breeders endeavour to achieve.”
Miss P, the Beagle which won Best in Show this year at Westminster, is the judges’ ideal Beagle. Not only did she conform to the mental image which each of the judges had for a Beagle, she was a more perfect representation of her particular breed and group (hound) than any of the other dogs were for their own breeds.
And here’s the deal – the Westminster Dog Show is highly accessible to the general public, provided you can get into New York City in February. The weather can be hinky this time of year. Yes, I’m highly recommending that you go at least once in your lifetime. Stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania, across the street from Madison Square Garden. Save your pennies for cab fare. It’s worth it.
We’ll talk more about the Piers vs. Madison Square Garden some other time. Going in, I had no clue what that was about. And there will be more dog photos. So give your dog a Jones Natural Chew, and I’ll be back later to tell you more!
Until I write again …