National Geographic : 1954 Jan
Westminster, World Series of Dogdom 91 Every Year Since 1877, Canine Aristocrats Have Won Honors-and Even Once a Pearl-handled Revolver-in the Nation's Premier Dog Show BY JOHN W. CROSS, JR. Chairman, Dog Show Committee, Westminster Kennel Club OF THE 22,500,000 dogs estimated to make up the canine population of the United States, about one in ten thou sand sees the inside of New York City's Madi son Square Garden in any one year. Those that do are the elite of their kind, there to be exhibited at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February. Westminster is the world series of dogdom, and 1954 marks its 78th consecutive year a record approached by no other dog show in the world. England held its first one 18 years earlier-in 1859-but interruptions caused by wars have prevented any challenge to West minster's record of consecutive shows. In fact, the only sporting events in this country with a record so long and unbroken are the Kentucky Derby, first run in 1875, and two other Churchill Downs races dating from the same year. In the early years, however, even the Derby had not yet achieved its pres ent national prominence. Westminster, on the other hand, has always been queen of Ameri can dog shows, and through all the years a win there has been prized above all others. Most Dogs Enjoy a Show Although many people seem to imagine that dogs don't like dog shows, the fact is that the great majority of them enjoy nothing more. To them the traveling crate and station wagon that bring them to the Garden are what the clanging bell was to the fire horse in days gone by. They act as if the whole affair is being put on in their honor and for their per sonal delight. When their showing days are over and they are left behind as the younger dogs go off to shows, veterans of bench and ring are as dis consolate as politicians put out to pasture by the electorate. Many a kindhearted owner has taken an old dog to a show, entering him "For Exhibition Only," just so that he could once again savor the life he has learned to love. The average spectator, looking at and listen ing to a row of yapping terriers on a bench, decides that they must be expressing their dis taste for the proceedings. This is because he attributes to dogs his own reactions. Mr. and Mrs. Public would not like to be chained to a bench with all that noise around them; there fore the dogs can't possibly like it! The fact that human beings willingly go to noisy parties, conventions, and political rallies is conveniently forgotten. What would dogs have to say about these if they could talk? Another popular misconception is that show dogs can't be house dogs and that the reverse is also true. Actually there are many show dogs-some of the very best-that are house dogs all their lives. The house dog's intimate association with people seems to help bring to full flower the responsiveness so important in the ring. An alert dog, eager to please, will show to ad vantage in front of the judge. The winner of Best in Show at Westminster in 1952 and 1953, a Doberman Pinscher named Rancho Dobe's Storm, was raised in a New York City apartment and has been a house dog since early puppyhood (page 114). The popularity of certain breeds changes, as do women's fashions, and sometimes for equally inexplicable reasons. One well-known factor in the rise of the smaller breeds, how ever, has been the enormous increase in the dog population in our large cities. Apartment-sized Breeds Popular Although you will find Great Danes and St. Bernards living in small apartments with their owners, these cases are exceptional, and cer tainly one of the reasons for today's enor mous registration of Cocker Spaniels is that the Cocker is an "apartment-sized dog." Other factors, of course, enter into this, such as his soulful eyes and his generally merry dispo sition (page 93). Among the most popular of city dogs are the terriers. These little dynamos seem to en joy the fast pace of modern city life, and they relish the company of human beings no less than their encounters with other dogs when being walked. While many terriers enjoy the canine coun terpart of a bout of fisticuffs, there is little doubt that the leash and collar which restrain the city dog add to his apparent belligerence.