Westminster dog show participants compete for top honors

With the U.S. dog show world’s most prestigious award on the line, canines and their handlers were readying Tuesday for their star turns at the Westminster Kennel Club show.

Four finalists already were chosen Monday. Three more were yet to come before all seven face off for best in show around 11 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday.

Rummie the Pekingese aims to bring home the third trophy in 11 years for his small-but-regal breed. Winston the French bulldog is gunning for the title after coming oh-so-close last year. A petit basset griffon Vendéen named Buddy Holly is on the hunt for a big U.S. win after impressive showings in three other countries. And an Australian shepherd named Ribbon also could corral the top prize.

147th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Presented by Purina Pro Plan
Rummie, the Pekingese wins first place in the Toy Group at the 147th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Arthur Ashe Stadium on May 8, 2023, in New York City. 

Sarah Stier/Getty Images for Westminster Kennel Club

If Buddy Holly was feeling the pressure, he wasn’t letting it show. Instead, he seemed more concerned late Tuesday afternoon with playing with his people and rejecting the notion of a nap in his crate.

“He just screams PBGV,” handler and co-owner Janice Hayes said. “They’re just very independent but very charming and just silly. Their goal is to make you laugh every day.”

Originally from France, the small hounds were traditionally rabbit-hunters. Buddy Holly — so named because “he’s a buddy,” breeder Gavin Robertson explained — has also lived and competed in his native United Kingdom and in Ireland and Australia.

147th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Presented by Purina Pro Plan
Buddy Holly, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, winner of the Hound Group competes at the 147th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Arthur Ashe Stadium on May 8, 2023 in New York City.

Sarah Stier/Getty Images for Westminster Kennel Club

Ribbon is “like the fun girl at the party,” handler Jessica Plourde said. Rummie is “true to Pekingese type, lots of carriage, presence — everything in one, here,” said owner and breeder David Fitzpatrick, who guided Pekes Malachy and Wasabi to Westminster wins in 2012 and 2021, respectively.

Winston came in second at Westminster last year and went on to win last fall’s National Dog Show, hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. Now he’s representing the most prevalent dog breed in the United States, as of rankings released in March.

He “just steals your heart,” handler and co-owner Perry Payson said after Winston’s spirited semifinal turn, which included an impromptu leap into a decorative box in the middle of the ring.

Each Westminster finalist first has bested other dogs of its breed, and then of its “group,” such as toy dogs or hounds. Among the breeds up for semifinal group judging Tuesday night is the newly eligible bracco Italiano, won by a dog co-owned by country music star Tim McGraw.

Besides the chosen finalists, there were other fan favorites, too.

There was the bloodhound that bowed deeply before a judge, the shiba inu shown by 10-year-old handler Audra Maes, and the Ibizan hound that made the judge’s first cut with breeder/owner/handler Alexandria Mitchell. That was a notable accomplishment at a show where many exhibitors handle other people’s dogs as a career.

The Westminster show, held this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, also includes obedience and agility competitions that are open to mixed-breed dogs.

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