Reign of Terrier Likely Will Continue
Breed has won Best in Show 45 times in 131-year history of show
By Sandy Robins
updated 10:10 a.m. PT, Mon., Feb. 12, 2007
When the spire of the Empire State Building is decked in purple and gold lights, it is a sign that New York City is once again getting dressed to host the internationally renowned Westminster Dog Show and that the current reigning Best In Show dog Rufus, a colored bull terrier, is about to hand over the coveted title to another canine champion.
Since the Best in Show award was first introduced in 1907, it has been won a record 45 times by various terrier breeds.
“It’s that terrier attitude,” said Rufus’ owner, Barbara Bishop of Holmdel, N.J. “Terriers shine when they are in the spotlight. They are natural showmen. When they go into the ring, they really make a grand entrance and have a mindset that says, ‘Here we are! Look at us!’ ”
And there’s no doubt that Rufus, known formally as Ch. Rocky Top’s Sundance Kid, had that terrier attitude when he captured the title last year to become the first colored bull terrier to win at Westminster. Not only did he live up to his breed standard in the eyes of the judges, but he also charmed the crowd to a standing ovation.
Terrier comes from the Latin word terra meaning ‘earth’ and according to the Westminster Kennel Club Guide Book definition, describes dogs with stamina, unwavering determination and courage to go to ground after their game. Terriers vary in size from tiny Yorkshire terriers to larger dogs such as Kerry blue terriers. Originally they were bred to root out and kill vermin such as foxes, weasels and rats. However, over the years their terrier traits have given them a reputation for being excellent guard dogs. Flip the coin, and they are also known for their unmatched loyalty and devotion to their owners.
“I can attest to typical terrier loyalty and devotion,” Bishop said. “Rufus, now retired from the show ring, is a very soppy house dog that loves everybody, including children. With his endearing personality, he’s also turned out to be a great poster dog in the campaign against breed-specific legislation that targets the so called ‘bully breeds,’ which include American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, pit bull terriers and any dog that looks substantially like one of these breeds.”
The reign of terriers began back in 1907 when Warren Remedy, a smooth fox terrier won and went on to claim to title for the next two successive years. A total of 13 wire fox terriers have collared the title as well as seven Scottish terriers, four Airedale terriers, four Sealyham terriers, two Norwich terriers and numerous others.
This year, 165 breed and varieties are eligible to take part in the show, and there are 28 breeds or varieties entered in the Terrier Group alone. It doesn’t mean that champion show dogs automatically have a paw in the Westminster door. The top five dogs in each breed and variety are invited by the WKC to enter and for the rest, it’s a mad scramble via regular mail to be included in the total number of 2,500 dogs allowed to compete.
This year, 2,632 entries were received and, as only 2,500 are allowed to take part in the competition, 132 were rejected with their tails between their legs. A total of 291,496 dogs have been entered in the show’s 131 year-history. Over the years, entrants have included former Russian czars and German emperors. Not to mention current famous faces mingling amongst the dog set such as Bill Cosby, whose dandie dinmont terrier is entered again this year.
The oldest dog to ever capture the coveted Westminster Best in Show title was an 8-year-old Papillon named Kirby that won in 1999. The dog holds another record as the oldest living Westminster Best in Show winner.
So as America’s top dogs once again get ready to strut their stuff on the green carpet at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 12 and 13, the chitchat at water coolers across the country revolves around whether a terrier will once again take the top dog title.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears regularly on MSNBC.com, MSN.com and in various national publications.
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