The Westminster Dog Show, a Bit of History
Around 1876 a group of New York outdoorsmen met regularly at a bar of a Manhattan hotel to tell tales of their shooting prowess and their hounds’ hunting abilities. It was there the Westminster Breeding Association club was born. The club bought a kennel and training facility, hired a trainer and so began the long journey to eventually become the Westminster Kennel Club.
In 1877 the members of the Club decided to host a dog show in Manhattan. As New York grew so did the Westminster Kennel Club quickly becoming a symbol of the purebred dog. Westminster had become the world’s greatest dog show.
“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.”
– from a newspaper story quoted in “The Dog Show, 125 Years of Westminster” by William Stifel
Also in 1877 the members of the club decided to create a show to compare purebred dogs on confirmation, not field work. So at the Gilmore’s Garden (not yet Madison Square Garden) the First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs with 1,201 entries was held under the patronage of the Westminster Kennel Club. The show was a huge success having to extend the show from three to four days, drawing attention from “Forest and Stream” magazine:
“To say that the dog show held in the city last week was a success would but poorly convey an idea of what the result really was. It was a magnificent triumph for the dogs and for the projectors of the show. We question if on any previous occasion has there ever assembled in this city such a number of people at one time, and representing as much of the culture, wealth and fashion of the town.”
The Westminster Dog Show has been Around a Long Time
Let’s take a look at what the Westminster pre-dates: the zipper, light bulb, Washington Monument. The 142nd Westminster dog show has been around longer than the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the establishment of the World Series, it even pre-dates the car. Only the Kentucky Derby has been run longer – only by one year.
There have been some colorful characters over the years: General George Custer, the Czar of Russia, the Queen of England, even famous philanthropists and American journalists.
Best In Show at Westminster is the most-coveted award in the dog show world, It was given for the first time in 1907. Ch. Warren Remedy a Smooth Fox Terrier bitch, remains the only dog ever to win three times. Only six dogs have won Best in Show twice.
I’ve always loved watching the Westminster, especially with my mother. I hope you’re able to watch the show this year.
The Westminster Kennel club
The Colorful History Of America’s Dog Show