16 inspiring underdog stories from the Westminster Dog Show

© Seth Wenig/John Minchillo/AP Images

By Zoë Ettinger, INSIDER

  • The 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be held in New York City on February 10 and 11.
  • Though some breeds, like the wire fox terrier, often win best in show, many popular breeds like Labradors and dachshunds have never won the title.
  • The oldest dog to win best in show was a 10-year-old Sussex spaniel named Stump.
  • Though the competition is still only for purebred dogs, in 2014 Westminster added agility events for all breeds, including mutts, which they call "All American" dogs.

The Westminster Dog Show has long been associated with purebred dogs - pups with papers dating back to their great-grandparents proving their unsullied bloodlines.

It brings to mind images of perfectly manicured poodles and bichon frisés eating filet mignon out of their owners hands.

However, dogs without the highest pedigrees have also made it to Westminster. Certain breeds have beaten the odds to become the first of their kind to win best in show, and since the addition of agility events open to all dog breeds in 2014, mutts have shown their abilities on the green carpet.

Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, aka Stump, was the oldest dog to win best in show at 10 years old.

© Peter Kramer/AP Images

Stump was also the first Sussex spaniel to win best in show. Before his big win in 2009, Stump had actually suffered a bacterial infection that nearly killed him. He spent four years in retirement before returning to compete. When his owners and handlers entered him in the show, no one expected him to perform well, much less win, but he wound up taking home top prize.

Emma the mutt survived a kill shelter to a become an agility contender.

© John Minchillo/AP Images

According to E! News, Emma was found at an abandoned motel in 2010 and brought to a kill shelter that euthanizes dogs who aren't adopted in 48 hours. Luckily for Emma, her new owner Christy Wrede found her in time and brought her home.

Though Wrede had no background in dog training, she began teaching Emma agility, and she did so well that Wrede entered her for Westminster. It was the first year the competition allowed "mixed-breed dogs" and an agility portion, in which Emma competed.

Hailey the Boston terrier/beagle, a certified therapy dog, took home the 2016 All American title.

© Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

A certified therapy dog for nine years, Hailey brought smiles to people's faces when she made hundreds of visits a year to hospitals, nursing homes, and senior centers, according to the American Kennel Club.

In 2016, she also brought joy to the audiences at the Westminster Master Agility Championship.

In an interview with ESPN, Hailey's owner, Karen Profenna, talked about having a mixed-breed dog at Westminster. "Certain people accept us now, but when we first started, people gave you looks like, 'Where'd that dog come from?' or 'Oh my God, what is it?" she said.

K-Run's Park Me in First, aka Uno, became the first beagle to win best in show at the 132nd Westminster Dog Show.

© Seth Wenig/AP Images

In 2008, Uno proved that the beagle, a breed that had never won best in show in the competition's 132-year history, was worthy of the prestigious title.

He was a much-beloved dog, gaining possibly more crowd fanfare than any other. After his 2008 win, he became the first Westminster winner to visit the White House, greeted by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. They met him in the Rose Garden and gave him a red, white, and blue collar.

Lonnie, a mixed-breed dog born in an animal shelter, used to be "afraid of everything" before Westminster.

© Mary Altaffer/Getty Images

Owner Robin Lembo told ABC 6 that Lonnie used to be afraid to even get in her car. Lembo started training Lonnie in obedience to build her confidence, and the pup couldn't get enough, eventually showing off her moves in the 2017 Masters of Agility.

In 1999, Loteki Supernatural Being, aka Kirby, became the first Papillon to win the top prize — when he was 8 years old.

© Mark Lennihan/AP Images

Kirby made history as the first of his breed to win best in show, but he was unique in other ways too. He weighed in at just 6 pounds and was 8 years old at the time, making him one of the oldest dogs to win.

Handler John Oulton told the New York Times that Kirby wasn't as prim and proper as he appeared. "At home he's a tough little guy; he tears around the yard with the rest of them," he said.

Burns the long-haired dachshund was a favorite to win the 2019 show.

© Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Though a popular dog breed, dachshunds have never won best in show. After Burns won the hound group, his handler, Carlos Puig, shouted to the crowd at Madison Square Garden, "Dachshunds are the best breed in the world!"

Puig told the New York Times why he thinks dachshunds have never won: "It's hard because they're the shortest and smallest in their group. They kind of get lost because of their size."

Will a dachshund take home the grand prize this year?

Panda competed the first year mutts or "All American" dogs were allowed at Westminster.

© John Minchillo/AP Images

An Australian shepherd/cattle dog mix, Panda finished fourth in her class at the 2014 show. She was one of the first mutts or "All American" dogs to compete. Westminster had long been criticized by animal rights groups like PETA for its exclusion of mixed-breed dogs, saying it hurt shelter dogs' chances at adoption by promoting purebreds.

Alfie, a poodle mix, made it to the big leagues after being adopted from a mall pet store.

© Seth Wenig/AP Images

Alfie's owner, Irene Palmerini, first saw him in a mall pet store, on sale for $99. She said he had so much energy that she decided to put him in agility classes. Seven years later, in 2014, she entered him at Westminster for the agility event.

"I didn't breed this dog to do agility. He's just my pet," she told the Associated Press. "(Agility) is just about performance. It doesn't matter what your dog looks like. It doesn't matter who their mother or father was."

Despite never winning best in show, a Labrador retriever has won the Masters Obedience Championship every year since it was introduced four years ago.

© Mary Altaffer/Getty Images

Though a Labrador is yet to win best in show, Heart and his owner Linda Brennan have shown that Labs do have what it takes to win at Westminster.

They have won the Masters Obedience Championship for four consecutive years since it began in 2016. Each championship requires a dog and its owner to perform their own six-minute routine to show off their unique moves.

Pomeranian Great Elms Prince Charming II was the smallest dog to ever win, at just 4.5 pounds.

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Not only the smallest dog to ever win, but also the first Pomeranian, Prince Charming II had two historic firsts for his 1988 win.

Torums Scarf Michael, aka Mick, was the first Kerry blue terrier to win best in show. Historically, the breed was known as a peasant farmer's dog.

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Mick won his title in 2003, making him the first Kerry blue terrier to do so. Unlike other terriers, Kerry blues have a less noble lineage, and were often bred as dogs for peasants.

The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation describes them as "a willful, headstrong dog with a mind of its own, obsessed with squirrels (or the household cat), willing to take risks and second-guess and outsmart its handler."

Plop, who was rescued from a shelter after his owner saw him on Facebook, won the 2019 All American agility category.

© Noah K. Murray/AP Images

Small in stature but high in speed, Plop was the fastest All American dog at last year's agility event. Plop's owner, Lisa Topol, found him on Facebook, where he was advertised by a shelter in Alabama. They soon became inseparable and would go on to win numerous agility events together.

Banana Joe was the first affenpinscher to win best in show in 2013.

© Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Banana Joe was the first of his breed to take home the title in 2013. Affenpinschers are known for their small statue and monkey-like faces. His handler, Ernesto Lara, told the New York Times: "He doesn't know his size or that he has a pushed-in face."

Foxcliffe Hickory Wind was the first Scottish deerhound to be named best in show.

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Foxcliffe Hickory Wind won the top prize in 2011. Though deerhounds can sometimes be a bit more skittish, Foxcliffe was able to sail through the competition.

Her handler, Angela Lloyd, told the New York Times, "She was solid and steady and even through all of the lights and cameras and the noise and spotlights, she came right through it."

All American Sadie was saved from dire straits in Kentucky.

© Wong Maye-E/AP

Sadie competed with her owner Lisa Tibbals, who found her on Petfinder.

Tibbals said she knew Sadie was special when she first saw her: "There was something about her face that just grabbed me."



BestLife Insider - Health, Lifestyle, Travel and More ...: 16 inspiring underdog stories from the Westminster Dog Show
16 inspiring underdog stories from the Westminster Dog Show
BestLife Insider - Health, Lifestyle, Travel and More ...
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