The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the dog show circuit’s big night in New York, when the great and the good — and even a few celebrities — strut into Madison Square Garden in their finest furs, with their hair styled just so, all of them ready to see and be seen.
Humans will be there, too, of course.
But Tuesday night is all about the dogs. It’s when a field of more than 2,600 entries is trimmed to seven finalists, and then to just one, who is awarded an immense ribbon and a silver cup into which — depending on the breed — he may or may not fit.
How to watch: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the final three group competitions starting at 7:30 p.m., Eastern time, on Tuesday. Those three winners, and the four group winners from Monday night, will then compete for best in show. That judging will probably begin around 10:30 p.m.
Who won last year?
King, a wire fox terrier, won best in show honors in 2019, but not everyone was thrilled. “Boos and grumbles filled Madison Square Garden when the judge handed King the coveted pewter cup,” The New York Times wrote then. Part of that might have been terrier fatigue: Of the 112 best in show titles awarded at Westminster, 47 — more than 40 percent — have been won by the terrier group. Wire fox terriers have won 15 times, more any other breed.
Is there a favorite?
There are show favorites and crowd favorites, and those are not always the same breeds. Golden retrievers and Labradors, for example, are two of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, and they are crowd favorites at the Garden year after year, but neither has ever won best in show at Westminster.
“If you had a popularity contest, we would win,” Christine Miele, the Eastern vice president of the Golden Retriever Club of America, told Liam Stack of The Times last year.
On Monday night, the loudest cheers were often reserved for the fluffiest, the hairiest and the cutest of the breed winners. But there were also cheering sections for some classic breeds, like the bulldog (which didn’t advance to best in show) and the standard poodle (which did).
Who is in best in show already?
One dog to watch on Tuesday night is Bono, the Havanese who won the toy group, and the closest thing the show has to a celebrity dog. Bono was a best in show finalist last year, and has returned to the final seven.
It’s not uncommon for a dog to make a repeat appearance in the final group; an excellent example of his breed, after all, doesn’t change much once he has matured.
A silky 3-year-old Havanese named after the U2 singer, Bono was the top-ranked show dog in the country last year but finished second to King, the wire fox terrier, at Westminster and to Thor, a bulldog, at the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving.
This time, his handler said Monday, he has come to win.
“He has something that makes people look at him,” the handler, Taffe McFadden, said after Bono advanced. “He just stares ’em down.”
How does the show work?
Dog shows are basically elimination competitions. The best dogs from each breed first compete against one another to select one best in breed winner. Those best in breed winners advance to seven group competitions: hound, toy, sporting, nonsporting, herding, working and terrier.
The seven best in group winners advance to one final judging competition for best in show. Bono, the Havanese who won the toy group, and Siba, the standard poodle who captured the nonsporting group, advanced Monday, and were joined in the best in show ring by the hound winner Bourbon, who is trying to become the first whippet to win since 1964, and Conrad, the Shetland sheepdog who was bouncing-in-the-air excited after winning the herding group.
The sporting, working and terrier group winners will be chosen Tuesday night.