There are some dogs that make the crowd at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show go wild: golden retrievers, Labradors, dachshunds and bulldogs. But they almost never win Best in Show.
“If you had a popularity contest, we would win,” said Christine Miele, the Eastern vice president of the Golden Retriever Club of America. “We have everything in the world going for us except Westminster, but I think we’re O.K. with that.”
The top five most popular breeds in terms of ownership in 2017 were, in order, Labradors, German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs, according to the American Kennel Club.
But no Labrador, golden retriever or French bulldog has ever won Best in Show. German shepherds won in 2017 and 1987. And long ago, bulldogs won here, too — in 1913 and 1955. Since then, they have suffered a dry spell that has lasted for centuries (in dog years).
“When the bulldog comes out, everybody always cheers,” said Llely Toledo, who was competing at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Monday with April, a 2-year-old bulldog. “They’re competitive for their class, but it’s hard because the other breeds really stand out, too.”
Other popular breeds, like dachshunds, also tend to fare poorly here each year. Carlos Puig, a longtime dachshund handler whose 7-year-old longhaired dachshund, Burns, won best hound on Monday, attributed that in part to the breed’s tiny stature.
“In a ring like this, they have to be as flashy and fancy as some of the fancier hounds — like Afghans or greyhounds — but its hard because they’re the shortest and smallest in their group,” said Mr. Puig, 57. “They kind of get lost because of their size.”
Burns, who will be a contender for Best in Show on Tuesday, is the top-winning longhaired dachshund in history, with 26 Best in Show titles, Mr. Puig said. But he has never won the Westminster Dog Show.
Walter Jones, a vice president of the Dachshund Club of America, said that no dachshund had ever won Best in Show at Westminster.
“I think one of the reasons some breeds don’t make it to the end is that they just aren’t the glamour breeds who are so flashy in the group,” he said. “Dachshunds compete against many larger breeds in the hound group that are simply more impressive.”
For a dog to win Best in Show, he or she first has to win Best in Breed and then win Best in Group, like Burns did on Monday night when he was judged best hound. On Tuesday, all the winners of Best in Group will then compete against each other for Best in Show.
“It’s a hard win,” said Ms. Miele. “It won’t be a golden retriever. It’s not going to happen.”
For some breeds, their popularity and their losing streak may go hand in hand. Ms. Miele said there are so many golden retrievers in America that it is hard for any one of them to establish dominance on the dog show circuit.
“Judges are not seeing the same golden in the state of Washington as they are in New York or Connecticut,” she said. “They’re seeing very different dogs and very different styles of dogs.”
And because the breed’s gene pool is so large, there are many slightly different ways for a golden retriever to look: Some have coats that are long and flowing, others less so; some have fur that is a deep golden, while others are more cream-colored.
That can make it complicated to establish a breed standard, which is used by dog show judges.
“We don’t have one sense of, ‘This is the perfect golden retriever,’” she said. “We have, ‘This is one wonderful golden retriever and this is another wonderful golden retriever.’ We have many candidates that fit our breed standard.”
Part of it may have to do with the judges as well. Of the small number of people in the country who are qualified to serve as Best in Show judges, none are golden retriever breeders, Ms. Miele said.
Experts in other breeds expressed similar concerns. Patricia Ropp, the vice president of the Bulldog Club of America and a licensed bulldog judge, said in an email that she did not think judges were “prejudiced to certain breeds.” But she said that each of them “have different breed backgrounds and experiences that can affect the outcome.”
At Madison Square Garden, the dachshund handlers agreed.
“This show is all about getting lucky with your judge lineup,” said Madeline Peterson, whose 2-year-old wire-haired dachshund, Winston, drew a wave of cheers from the crowd on Monday.
If the judges don’t have experience with dachshunds, she said, they can be overshadowed by their long-legged competition.
“You know,” she said, “they’re just little dogs in a big-dog group.”
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