| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 12 A crowd-pleasing old English
sheepdog with only three previous shows to his name emerged as a
surprise contender for best in show at the 137th Westminster
Kennel Club Dog show, which concludes on Tuesday.
Swagger, a 20-month-old, 90-pound (40-kg) cloud of white and
gray fur, won best in group for herding dogs on Monday at New
York's Madison Square Garden to some of the loudest cheers of
He will be one of seven finalists for best of show. Four of
them advanced on Monday with three more due to qualify on
Swagger was a late entrant to the show after Westminster
expanded its rules this year to allow so-called class dogs,
which are dogs that have not won enough shows to be considered a
champion under American Kennel Club rules, for the first time
"He's such a cool dog," Colton Johnson, the dog's handler
and owner, said of the happy-looking dog whose eyes are barely
visible through his shaggy fur. "He's a natural."
Swagger is so young he still has not shed all his puppy fur,
said Johnson, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Swagger joined an athletic American foxhound called Jewel, a
little black affenpinscher called Banana Joe and a fluffy white
bichon frise called Honor as contenders for best in show after
they won their respective herding, hound, toy and non-sporting
group shows on Monday.
They will be joined by the best of the sporting, working and
terrier groups, due to be picked on Tuesday.
This year, two newly recognized breeds have been approved to
appear in the show: the treeing Walker coonhound, a tall,
flappy-eared descendant of the foxhound; and the Russell
terrier, the subject of some controversy stemming from the
differing taxonomic habits of kennel clubs in the United States,
Britain and Australia.
More than 2,700 dogs were due to compete over two days. This
year's dogs come from all 50 U.S. states and there are more than
100 foreign entries from Brazil, Croatia, France and Japan,
among other countries, organizers said.
The 2012 show was won by Palacegarden Malachy, a male
Pekingese, who, as is traditional, has since retired.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Mohammad Zargham)