(Corrects number of foreign countries in 15th paragraph)
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK Feb 11 An athletic American foxhound,
a little black affenpinscher, a fluffy white bichon frise and a
shaggy old English sheepdog won best in group at the 137th
annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday, advancing to
the best in show competition on Tuesday.
Judges picked the best in the hound, toy, non-sporting and
herding groups on Monday. The best of the sporting, working and
terrier groups will be picked on Tuesday evening, before the
winner of each of the seven groups goes forward to compete for
best in show.
The old English sheepdog Swagger, the youngest group winner
at 20 months old, won some of the loudest cheers of the night at
New York's Madison Square Garden and took best of group for
herding dogs. A happy-looking dog owned by Colton and Heather
Johnson from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Swagger's eyes were
barely visible under his shaggy white and gray coat.
"He's such a cool dog," said Colton Johnson, also the dog's
handler. "He's a natural."
The 5-year-old affenpinscher Banana Joe defeated 22 other
toy breeds, including an elaborately groomed toy poodle, a
Pekingese and a shih tzu. Banana Joe lives with his handler
Ernesto Lara in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and will return
as a champion to the Netherlands, where he was bred, after the
"He's a beautiful specimen of his breed," Lara said.
"They have to have a comic seriousness. They're not supposed to
be aware they're so funny when they are."
The French name for the affenpinscher - diabolotin moustachu
- means "mustached little devil," according to the Westminster
The first winner of the night was a 3-year-old female
American foxhound named Jewel, co-owned by handler Lisa Miller
and Ellen Charles from the Baltimore area.
Jewel, a scenthound with a magnificent brown, black and
white coat, won the best in breed competition for the foxhound
last year as well. This year she advanced a step further,
capturing the blue garland as the best among 30 breeds of hound.
The non-sporting winner, a bichon frise named Honor, 4,
lives with his Australian-born handler Lisa Bettis in Goshen,
"He has a great attitude and he's a cute little show dog,"
said Bettis, who has been going to the Westminster show for 22
The buzz surrounding this year's show has been about whether
a Labrador retriever, America's most popular breed, could
finally win best in show with Westminster judges. Wire fox
terriers, for example, have won best in show more than a dozen
In all, more than 2,700 dogs were due to compete over two
days, including at least 50 Labrador retrievers in the sporting
group whose owners are hoping to make history and bring home the
top prize 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
Kingdom, United States and Australia.
This year's dogs come from all 50 U.S. states and more than
100 dogs come from foreign countries, organizers said.
The 2012 show was won by Palace garden Mal achy, a male
Pekingese, who, as is traditional, has since retired.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta, Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)