The Westminster Dog Show

The Westminster Dog Show - Vetster

What to know about The Westminster Dog Show, one of America’s oldest sporting events!

The dog show is America’s number one cutest sporting event, dating all the way back to 1876. A bunch of men regularly met in The Westminster Hotel to boast about their hunting skills and canine companions. Luckily, it was the dog talk that stuck.

In 1877, The Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) was incorporated. The first official WKC show hosted 1,201 dogs and was held at Gilmore’s Garden (now Madison Square Garden). In 1907, Best in Show was awarded for the first time. We’ll get into what that means in more detail below.

WKC is America's oldest dog show but there are many kennel clubs all around the world that host dog events. The Birmingham Dog Show Society Championship Show was established in 1859 in the U.K. and holds the record as “oldest dog show.” Though dog shows around the world are similar, we’re taking a deeper dive into America’s most infamous show, the WKC. For definitions of popular dog show terms, there’s a glossary below.

What’s the purpose of Dog Shows?

It may seem like the purpose of dog shows is pure, classic, snuggly entertainment. But it really comes down to the “conformation.” Conformation is a dog’s physical characteristics. Basically, the entire show is designed to breed the perfect dog based on a set of carefully crafted breed standards.

Because future breeding is the goal of the show, a few more key awards are handed out. The Best of Opposite Sex (BOS) designation is awarded to the best dog that is the opposite sex of BOB. So if a male dog wins BOB, a bitch will get BOS (#BOSbitch).

The runner-ups of each sex are awarded Select Dog and Select Bitch.

What characteristics do judges consider when rating the pups?

Judges are looking for the perfect specimen. Each breed has official standards that detail what is perfection. Standards include the breed’s ideal form and function. Form refers to the physicality of the dog and function refers to the original intention of the breed; what the breed was originally bred to accomplish.

For the appearance, judges look at so many details, from nose to tail. They look at eye color, ear shape and even testicle size. Because this is essentially a breeding competition, judges need to ensure male dogs have two testicles of even size. So that’s what you’re seeing when it looks like judges getting fresh with the fur balls.

Beyond the breeding

Even though the WKC is out to crown the Best in Show, the organization’s mission is to support dogs’ health, healthy dog ownership and breed preservation. WKC provides funding for canine health research, disaster relief and scholarships. They’re committed to the health of dogs around the world.

How to win Best in Show?

There are seven groups of breeds: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. There are 211 breeds that file into those categories; only purebreds are allowed to enter the competition. There are three rounds that lead to Best in Show glory:

Round 1: Winning Best of Breed (BOB). First dogs are pitted against each other to be the best of their breed. Each variety has a set of criteria that defines the ideal characteristics of that particular breed. Judges select the BOB to move on to round 2.

Round 2: Winning best of the group. The BOB winners move into their designated group, one of the seven listed above. The judges select the best dog in each group to move on to the Best in Show competition.

Round 3: Winning Best in Show: The seven dogs who won the best of their group compete to win the Best in Show. The runner-up wins Reserve Best in Show.

Easy as 1, 2, 3. Though there are thousands of dogs that compete each year from the U.S. and around the world.

Your pup may or may not be in the running for the next dog show competition, but they always win best in pet. And of course, if you have questions about your pets’ health, Vetster is always here 24/7.

Glossary of popular terms:

Best of Breed (BOB): The one dog who is awarded the best of their breed. This is the first round of the Best in Show competition.

Best of Opposite Sex (BOS): The one dog who is the best of their breed that is also the opposite sex of the BOB.

Best in Show: The award given to the dog who bested all other dogs in the competition.

Conformation: A dog’s physical structure.

Groups: Dog breeds are organized into groups based on function and history. There are seven groups, sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. After winning the BOB, dogs head to compete for the best of their group. After winning best in group they head to compete for Best in Show.

Select Dog and Select Bitch (SEL): The runner-ups of the BOB and BOS.

The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.

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