Meet the Breeds of Westminster Dog Show

Dog trots in competition.
Dog trots in competition.

Table of Contents:

  1. Breed: Havanese
  2. Breed: Chinese Crested
  3. Breed: Pekingese
  4. Breed: West Highland White Terrier
  5. Breed: Manchester Terrier
  6. Breed: Lowchen
  7. Breed: Rat Terrier
  8. Breed: Border Terrier
  9. Breed: American Staffordshire Terrier

We had the opportunity to attend the Westminster Dog Show this year, which was a unique and exciting experience. Once inside Pier 94, which hosted daytime competition, we interviewed participants competing for the Best in Breed award.

Breed: Havanese

Dog: Dory, Best of Opposite Sex

Dory is a Havanese with two and a half years of competitive experience. This was her first time at Westminster Dog Show.

The Havanese breed is related to the bichon family of dogs, and is believed to have originated in Tenerife, off the coast of Spain. Historical ship manifests bound for Cuba from Tenerife documented the presence of dogs, and shortly after Spanish traders arrived on the island, the Havanese dogs began popping up in the homes of wealthy Cuban families. Today, the Havanese breed is the national dog of Cuba.

They are considered to be a toy dog breed, weighing between 7 and 13 pounds, and measuring between 8.5 and 11.15 inches in length. Their coats are long, lightweight, and silky smooth and can be found in a variety of colors ranging from cream to chocolate brown, and even black. Havanese dogs have a double coat, which helps to both protect them from the sun on warm days, and the cold in the winter time.

When it comes to temperament, the Havanese breed is known to be warm and affectionate, which Dory’s handler, Ashley Metzel, confirmed for us. “They are always happy, they are always bouncing around, all they want to do is please you.”

Chinese Crested in competition.

Breed: Chinese Crested

Dog: Wonder Woman, Award of Merit

Wonder Woman, a Chinese Crested, has only been competing for less than a year, but won an Award of Merit at Westminster Dog Show.

The Chinese Crested is a lively breed in the toy group and, despite its name, is believed to be derived from the African hairless dog. Originally a larger breed, these dogs made their way to China as a result of trade, and were altered to be more compact. China is also credited with miniaturizing other popular breeds, including the Shi Tzu and Pekingese.

The Chinese Crested can be hairless, as Wonder Woman is, or be coated (called a “Powderpuff”). The hairless variety might seem like a misnomer, however, due to the tufts of hair on their head, ankles, and tail. Both varieties are between 11 and 13 inches high, and are characterized by elegance and easy, graceful movements.

Wonder Woman’s handler, Kandra Vincent, told us that she loves the breed so much, due in part to 20 years working with them on the competition circuit. “They generally love their owners and are very outgoing,” Vincent said. “They are very good pets!”

Breed: Pekingese

Dogs: Mao and Shui, Award of Merit

Mao and Shui are 19 month-old Pekingese littermates, and Shui won the Award of Merit at Westminster this year. Like the Chinese Crested, the Pekingese breed has Chinese origins. Also known as the Lion-Dog, this breed was considered sacred in China during the Tang Dynasty. In fact, stealing a Pekingese dog from its owner was a crime punishable by death at one point. The Pekingese breed made their way to England after British troops invaded Beijing, and were gifted to Queen Victoria. Eventually, these cute toy pups made their way to America in the late 1890’s.

The Pekingese breed is known for its relatively large head and flat face, with a black muzzle and droopy ears. They have a long coat with an abundant mane and come in a variety of colors. Pekingese dogs stand between 6 to 9 inches, and weigh between 11 to 14 pounds.

Marie Forsell, who breeds Pekingese dogs, including Mao and Shui, was joined by her husband, Rick Burnier, who was Shui’s handler during the competition. With another 12 Pekingese dogs at home in Minnesota, Forsell shared that she’s always amused by the breed.

“Each one of them has a different personality, they love toys, they are loyal,” Forsell said. “But the best thing is really that they are very comical. They make me laugh.”

White Terrier with Best in Breed ribbon

Breed: West Highland White Terrier

Dog: Hudson/Skyehigh’s James Bay, Best in Breed

When we pulled handler Eve Anka aside after her West Highland White Terrier’s win at Westminster, she told us that “this was Hudson’s second time at Westminster, he won an Award of Merit last year. He wasn’t even two years old. Since then, we’ve just been grooming him and feeding him well and it looks like it paid off!”

The West Highland White Terrier, or “Westie”, is a popular dog breed that hails from Scotland. A variety of crossbred Scotch terriers were originally used as hunting dogs, and eventually were purebred to compete in dog shows like Westminster. Westie’s are small, white dogs, measuring 11 inches and weighing between 13 and 15 pounds. They are known for being intelligent and well-behaved, but also fun-loving and playful. They make excellent family pets.

“Westies are really special,” said Anka. “Once you have one, you just always have to have that breed. They are so good and loyal. Very kind and sweet.”

Terrier sits for treat.

Breed: Manchester Terrier

Dog: Tag, Finalist

We met Tag, a two-year-old Manchester Terrier, after a Junior Showmanship competition with his handler Olivia Uyeno, who is just 14 years-old.

“This is my second year in Westminster, last year we won Best in Variety here,” said Uyeno. “I only made it to the cut before the two top finalists, but I will continue on to the Garden and represent our Junior Showmanship competition.”

Manchester Terriers are often confused for Miniature Doberman Pinschers, however, as Uyeno told us, the Manchester Terrier is actually the original breed.

“Manchester Terriers originate from Whippets. People often think that they are derived from Dobermans, but Dobermans are actually derived from Manchester Terriers,” Uyeno said. “They are one of the oldest black and tan breeds.”

Hailing from Manchester, England, the breed was primarily used to rid houses of vermin in the early 1800’s. By 1886, Manchester Terriers were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as a toy breed. This breed typically measures between 15 to 16 inches in length, and weighs between 12 and 22 pounds. The Manchester Terrier is intelligent, patient, and persistent, making them a great option for a pet.

Lowchen sits patiently.

Breed: Lowchen

Dog: Miley, Best of Opposite Sex

A former Junior Showmanship competitor now competing with the adults, Erin Burnecker was serving as a handler during Westminster this year with her Lowchen Miley.

“I’ve been showing for 3 years, and this is my third time at Westminster,” Burnecker told us. “I got injured playing lacrosse and just sort of fell into it. I really love the people–it’s like being part of an extended family.”

Each of Burnecker’s three visits to Westminster were made with Miley. The Lowchen breed is also known as the Little Lion Dog, or Petit Chien Lion, and is thought to have originated in France. There is documentation that Lowchens were the preferred pets of Florentine nobility in the 15th century, and were used to keep the ladies of the court warm in cold weather.

Their long coats are often clipped to resemble a lion’s mane, with tufts of hair on the tail and ears. They come in a variety of colors, weigh between 9 and 18 pounds, and stand between 10 and 13 inches tall.

“Miley has won her national specialty twice, and won Best in Breed last year here at Westminster,” said Burnecker. “This year, she won Best of Opposite Sex.”

We can’t wait to see what next year has in store for Miley!

Rat Terrier in competition.

Breed: Rat Terrier

Dog: Hunter

Rat Terriers are an all-American breed, whose name is rumored to have been coined by Teddy Roosevelt. The Rat Terrier breed is sturdy, strong, and compact with a sleek short coat. They average between 10 to 19 inches tall and weigh between 10 and 25 pounds. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, have v-shaped ears, and expressive faces.

Handler Stacy McWilliams has been competing for 21 years, originally with show horses.

“Eventually I decided to retire from working with horses,” McWilliams told us. “Once I stopped, I really missed the show arena. I owned rat terriers and thought that I could probably start showing them, and I did!”

McWilliams has a deep love for the Rat Terrier breed, which she has also kept as pets for over two decades.

“I love their tenacity, and their ability to have an on/off switch. So if I’m tired, they can be mellow with me, but if I’m up for a jog or a hike, they’ll be up for it too,” she said. “I also love how much they love their humans.”

Border Terrier with prize ribbon.

Breed: Border Terrier

Dog: Leon, Select Dog

Handler Karen Fitzpatrick has been competing with Leon, a Border Terrier, for about a year.
“He was the #1 Border Terrier last year,” Fitzpatrick told us. “He was out every weekend this past year to compete in shows. It’s so much fun. He really loves it and I love it. I’ve been competing with dogs for almost 20 years.”

Border Terriers are agile and lively dogs who aim to please. Although their wiry coat can give the appearance that they are scruffy, they are actually very trainable and tend to get along well with other dogs. Border Terriers are longer in the leg than other small terrier breeds, and stand from 11 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder. Border Terriers typically weigh between 12 and 15 pounds, and come in a variety of colors.

As Fitzpatrick herself mentioned to us, Border Terriers love to make their owners happy and have good general disposition.

American Staffordshire Terrier with ribbon.

Breed: American Staffordshire Terrier

Dog: Fuego, Select Dog

We met Lisa Sari after her American Staffordshire Terrier, Fuego, was awarded Select Dog at Westminster.

“Fuego is 3 years old and we were here last year to compete as well,” Sari told us. “We won an Award of Merit then, and this year we won Select Dog.”

As part of the American Staffordshire Terrier breed, Fuego is often confused for a pit bull. Similar to pit bulls, the American Staffordshire Terrier, also called an Amstaff, was originally bred for dog fighting during the Civil War. Over the years, however, Amstaff breeders concentrated on reducing the dog’s natural tendencies toward aggression and instead focusing on retaining their loyalty, courage, and stamina. As a result, the image of Amstaff dogs appeared on World War II posters as a symbol of courage and bravery.

American Staffordshire Terriers have strong, stocky, muscular bodies, dark eyes, and short tails that typically face down. Their coats are thick and short, and come in a variety of colors. Weighing between 40 to 50 pounds, and measuring between 17 to 19 inches in length, Amstaff dogs make wonderful companions.

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