By Lindsay Barnett For The LA Times
A Scottish deerhound named Hickory won best in show at the Westminster dog show, the most prestigious competition for purebred dogs in the U.S., as the show concluded its two-day run Tuesday night.
It was the first time the Scottish deerhound — a tall, lithe, rough-coated sighthound that is similar in appearance to the more familiar Irish wolfhound — has won best in show at Westminster and only the fourth time one has won first place in the hound group in more than 80 years of competition.
Hickory — full name GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, with the “GCH” indicating her status as a grand champion, a step above just plain “champion” — was the fifth-ranked hound among all American show dogs in 2010. Even with her impressive show record, though, Las Vegas handicapping expert Johnny Avello, when placing odds on the show (for entertainment purposes only, of course), gave the Scottish deerhound breed only a 60-to-1 shot of winning.
Those are better odds than Avello gave the eventual winner of Westminster 2009, the Sussex spaniel, which he listed at 275-to-1, favoring a top-ranked Brussels griffon.
Hickory, who officially retired from the show ring after her Westminster win, will return to her home, a farm in Virginia, after she completes a short but intense publicity tour. There, her owners hope she will give birth to a litter of puppies — something an actively campaigning show dog can’t do.
To take the title of best in show, Hickory beat a Pekingese named Malachy, a crowd favorite and the No. 2-ranked show dog in the country in 2010; a Chinese Shar-Pei named Jayne, who was the seventh-highest-winning non-sporting dog in 2010; a bearded collie named Mister Baggins, who ranked ninth among show dogs of all breeds in 2010; a cocker spaniel named Beckham, the second-ranked dog in the sporting category in 2010; a Portuguese water dog named Ladybug, who ranked 15th among all breeds in 2010; and a smooth fox terrier named Adam, the No. 10 show dog in the country in 2010.
Westminster’s biggest surprise may have been the Scottish deerhound’s victory, but there were other notable surprises as well.
The top-ranked show dog in the country last year, a smooth fox terrier named Dodger, was widely expected to compete at Westminster and considered a front-runner but failed to show up, despite being registered in the best of breed class. (One of his owners later told the Associated Press that the team behind Dodger had already planned to retire him from show competition before Westminster.)
An Irish setter named Emily, considered a likely contender in the sporting group, failed to win her breed competition, and a boxer named Scarlett, the highest-ranked dog in the working group in the country, came in second to Ladybug, the Portuguese water dog, in group competition.
Once again this year, members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes the breeding of purebred dogs, demonstrated against the dog show. This year, PETA supporters dressed in Snoopy costumes and carried signs that said “Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs’ Chances” outside the headquarters of the USA Network, which broadcast the dog show over activists’ objections.
Last year, PETA supporters actually managed to make it onto the floor of Madison Square Garden during the competition, carrying signs decrying dog breeding and declaring, “Mutts Rule.” In 2009, activists protested outside Madison Square Garden wearing Klan robes and handing out brochures that compared the AKC to the Ku Klux Klan.
In 2010, a Scottish terrier named Sadie won best in show at Westminster. A Sussex spaniel named Stump emerged from retirement to take top honors in 2009, and a 15-inch beagle named Uno won in 2008.