5 Surprising Things About the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Wire fox terrier named King won Best in show during 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Medison Square Garden
King, the wire fox terrier, is named Best in Show during the 2019 Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Wire fox terriers have won the title 15 times. lev radin/Shutterstock.com

More than 2,600 dogs are in New York for the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, ready to strut their stuff for the two-day annual event.

Before you tune in to see which lucky dog will win the coveted Best In Show title, here are a few things you might not know about the Westminster Dog Show.

1. It's been around for a long time.

First held in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is America's second-longest continuously held sporting event. Only the Kentucky Derby has been held longer. The organization is also America's oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs. As the organizers point out, "Westminster pre-dates the invention of the light bulb, the automobile, basketball and the establishment of the World Series in baseball."

2. The winners get a fancy lunch.

Every year, the dog that wins Best In Show dines at Sardi's, a theater district restaurant where the walls are lined with portraits of celebrities. In 2012, the tradition nearly came to an end due to health code violations, but the New York Health Department found a loophole: a waiver from the health commissioner. What is the winning canine served? Diced chicken and rice on a platter.

3. Some of America's most popular breeds have never won Best In Show.

Many obscure breeds have secured this coveted title, but Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and dachshunds have yet to take home the crown.

4. Entries come from all over the world.

The 2020 show will have canine competitors from 49 states and 19 other countries.

5. The show has been controversial over the years.

Although a portion of the proceeds from the first show in 1877 were donated to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many animal organizations don't support the show today for a variety of reasons. Critics say the focus on purebred dogs is an expensive distraction from all the rescue dogs that need help, while supporters say the organization has done a lot to support rescue work and pushes for well-matched responsible ownership. It's a controversy that is unlikely to abate any time soon, as one Forbes writer explains.