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Historical Highlights

The Westminster Kennel Club Legacy

Here are the dogs, the people and the stories that have shaped the legacy and tradition of the Westminster Kennel Club and its famous annual all-breed dog show.

1876 (or earlier) – A group of sporting gentlemen meets regularly in the bar of a Manhattan hotel to trade stories about their shooting accomplishments and the talents of their dogs. Eventually, they decide to form a club and name it after their meeting place: The Westminster Hotel. Early on, the club – officially named the Westminster Breeding Association – owns a kennel and raises Pointers for hunting and field trials.

1876 – The Westminster Breeding Association helps stage a dog show in Philadelphia in celebration of America’s centennial. The show is such a success that the members decide to hold their own dog show to allow them to compare their dogs in a setting away from the field. The members change the name of their organization to the Westminster Kennel Club and incorporate under that name in 1877.

1877 – The First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs, given under the auspices of the Westminster Kennel Club, is held in the Hippodrome at Gilmore’s Garden (the forerunner to Madison Square Garden) in New York City, drawing an entry of 1,201 dogs.

The show is such a hit that it is extended to four days to accommodate the overwhelming public interest. The gate for the first day of the show is estimated as high as 8,000. On the second day, 20,000 spectators attended, a number matched on the third day and providing the impetus to add a fourth day.

The proceeds from that fourth day were donated to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to open a home for stray and disabled dogs.

Among the entries listed in the first show: two Staghounds from the late General George Custer’s pack, and two Deerhounds that had been bred by the Queen of England.

1878 – The entry fee is $2, which includes feed and care of the dog.

1878 – The Board of the Club appoints a committee “to confer with like committees from the Kennel Clubs of Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and St. Louis to arrange a code of rules for holding Bench Shows and Field Trials.”

1879 – This year’s Premium List contains show rules and regulations, adopted together by Westminster and the Philadelphia Kennel Club. A Board of Appeals at the show is made up of three members of each club. It was an early step in the search for a set of rules under which the shows all across the country might be held.

1884 – Members of The Westminster Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of Philadelphia meet to establish a national governing body for dog registrations and dog shows: The American Kennel Club.

1884 – The Westminster Kennel Club is selected by the American Kennel Club to be the AKC’s first member club. The American Fox Terrier Club becomes the next member in 1886. Westminster is the only all-breed club to be a member until the Rhode Island Kennel Club joins in 1897.

1884 – For the only time in its history, Westminster holds two shows in the same year. The second show, held in the Fall, is for Non-Sporting Dogs, Deerhounds, Greyhounds and Fox Terriers. The entry of 600 included Leonbergs, Berghunds, Great Danes, Mexican Hairless and Chinese Cresteds.

1888 – In accordance with new rules adopted by the American Kennel Club, every dog entered at Westminster must be registered with the American Kennel Club. And in those cases where a potential entrant was not registered with the AKC, the Westminster Show Secretary accepted a registration application and fee (50 cents) and forwarded it to the AKC.

1888 – With her assignment of 117 St. Bernards at Westminster, Anna Whitney becomes the first woman to judge a dog show in America. She judges every year for the next seven years, but it would be 1901 before another woman judges any dog show in the U.S.

1889 – “The Czar of Russia” is listed as the breeder of a Siberian Wolfhound entered at this year’s show.

1890 – W.M. Bangs, M.D., writing in Cosmopolitan magazine: “These shows have been very popular and they have had great effect in forming and developing the taste of lovers of the dog; (The Westminster Kennel Club) has had great effect in improving the quality of the dogs owned for use and companionship. Of this, there can be no doubt …”

One of the entries at this year’s show is a Russian Wolfhound with a listed owner of “The Emperor of Germany.”

1892 – The entry fee for Westminster is raised from $3 to $5, which includes a crew of attendants to feed and exercise the dogs. The New York Times reported that the fee rise was done to discourage the entry of other than first-rate dogs.

1893 – Philanthropist J. P. Morgan makes the first of his many appearances at Westminster with his Collies.

1894 – Famous American journalist Nelly Bly enters her Maltese at Westminster, some four years after she made a record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes, racing the record of Phineas Fogg in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.

1904 – For the first time, handlers wear armbands with the catalog number of their dog.

1905 – With 1,752 dogs, Westminster becomes the largest dog show ever, surpassing the last show held at the Crystal Palace in London.

1907 – The award of Best In Show is given for the first time at Westminster. This year, and for the next two years as well, it goes to a Smooth Fox Terrier bitch named Ch. Warren Remedy. She remains the only dog ever to win three Bests In Show. A panel of 10 judges makes the decision, although their names were not recorded. (In fact, the names making up the panel of Best In Show judges were not recorded until 1912).

1908 – The number of dogs entered reaches 2,000 for the first time.

1909 – Ch. Warren Remedy, a Smooth Fox Terrier, is awarded Best In Show for the third consecutive year, a feat not duplicated since at Westminster.

1910 – A class is offered for the first time for Fire Department Dalmatians, won by Mike of Engine Company 8 of 51st Street.

1916 – One of the entries in the Miscellaneous Class this year is listed as a “Truffles Hunter.” Later, nearly 30 dogs of different breeds compete in the Best In Show ring. A panel of five judges selects Ch. Matford Vic, a Wire Fox Terrier, for her second consecutive Best In Show win at Westminster.

1917 – A special hero of World War I, a German Shepherd named Filax of Lewanno which had brought 54 wounded soldiers to safety, was exhibited at Westminster.

1918 – The profits of this show were donated to the American Red Cross in support of the war effort.

1918 – Amongst the donors of special trophies this year: Mrs. Payne (Helen Hay) Whitney, who was the first president of the Cairn Terrier Club of America. Her father, John Hay, was personal secretary to President Lincoln, Ambassador to the UK, and Secretary of State. Also making donations: Mrs. John Philip Sousa, wife of the famed bandleader and composer; Mrs. Rodman Wanamaker, wife of the department-store owner and patron of the arts from Philadelphia; and Mrs. F.W. Vanderbilt.

1919 – Once again, profits are donated to the American Red Cross. The war is over, but Westminster offers special “Service Classes” for those who were serving or had served in the Armed Forces.

1923 – No Best In Show prize is awarded because of ongoing changes in American Kennel Club rules.

1924 – Westminster becomes the first club to conduct Best In Show judging in accordance with the new rules and format installed by the AKC. Five Group winners (Sporting, Working, Terrier, Toy, and Non-Sporting) compete for the final award of Best In Show.

1926 – Madison Square Garden III opens on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. Westminster moves its show there, where it will remain until the facility closes in 1968.

1928 – Mrs. Reginald F. Mayhew of Forest Hills, NY, becomes the first woman to have a voice in deciding Best In Show, as one of a panel of five judges making the decision.

1933 – Mrs. M. Hartley (Geraldine Rockefeller) Dodge judges Best In Show, becoming the first woman to officiate as the sole judge of this award. She is soon legendary in the dog show world, as the force behind the famed Morris & Essex Kennel Club and the benefactor of St. Hubert Giralda Animal Shelter in New Jersey.

1933 – A German Shepherd belonging to New York Yankee great, Lou Gehrig, is among this year’s entries. “Afra of Cosalta” takes second in the Open Bitch class; Gehrig goes on to some success on the baseball field instead, finishing with a .340 lifetime batting average as one of the most beloved Yankees of all time.

1934 – The Children’s Handling Grand Challenge Trophy is offered for the first time at Westminster. Later to be known as Junior Handling, this competition continues to be part of Westminster every year.

1935 – Mrs. Sherman Hoyt handles her Standard Poodle to BIS, the first such win ever for a woman handler, a feat that would not be repeated until 1956.

1937 – 3,140 dogs are entered at Westminster. Professional Handler Percy Roberts becomes the first person to win Best in Show at Westminster four times, adding to his wins in 1926, 1927, and 1934.

1938 – Best In Show Judge John G. Bates is pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.

1941 – The show is changed from three days to a two-day event.

1941 and 1942 – Proceeds from these shows are donated to the American Red Cross. In 1943 and 1944, proceeds go to the benefit of Dogs for Defense. In 1945, the National War Fund is the recipient of the proceeds.

1946 – A tugboat strike causes New York Mayor William O’Dwyer to close the city down on the eve of the dog show. Business was allowed to resume 24 hours later, by that time forcing Westminster to make arrangements to hold its show in one day instead of two. Using 17 rings and a makeshift schedule that kept all rings in constant use, Best In Show was awarded by 12:15 a.m. that night, 15 minutes earlier than the year before.

1948 – Television coverage of Westminster takes place for the first time.

1951 – The Boxer, Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest, becomes the first dog from West of the Mississippi to win Best In Show at Westminster.

1956 – Anne Hone Rogers (later Mrs. James Edward Clark) becomes the first woman professional handler and the second female to handle a dog to the Best in Show award. Within five years, she captures the record for most Bests in Show by a female handler by adding wins in 1959 and 1961.

1968 – Lakeland Terrier Ch. Stingray of Derryabah becomes the first dog to win Best In Show at Westminster after winning the same award at Crufts, Westminster’s London counterpart.

1968 – The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the final event of any kind held at Madison Square Garden III. In 1969, the show moves to Madison Square Garden IV, its present location.

1969 – A bitter snowstorm cripples the New York area and plays havoc with Westminster’s first show at the new Garden.

1972 – The English Springer Spaniel Ch. Chinoe’s Adamant James captures his second consecutive Best In Show at Westminster, becoming the seventh dog with multiple BIS wins (currently, no dog has matched this milestone). Through 2016, no dog has done it since.

1976 – William W. Brainard, Jr. becomes the first person to judge Best In Show three times, a mark that is still unmatched.

1982 – The Westminster Kennel Foundation and Judge Frank Sabella become the first to donate gifts of art to the AKC Museum of the Dog.

1983 – Ch. Kabik’s The Challenger, an Afghan Hound, becomes only the third Hound to win Best In Show to date.

1987 – The Westminster Kennel Foundation establishes an annual scholarship program for veterinary students.

1987 – The German Shepherd Dog, Ch. Covy Tucker Hill’s Manhattan is the first dog from the Herding Group to win Best in Show. (In 1983 the Working group was split and the newly formed Herding Group began.)

1989 – A red Doberman Pinscher bitch, Ch. Royal Tudor’s Wild as the Wind CD, becomes the first dog with an obedience title to capture Best In Show (currently, no dog has matched this milestone).

1992 – Westminster becomes the first champions-only dog show held under AKC rules. Awards of Merit are added to the awards, the exact number given to be a function of the number of entries in each breed or variety.

1993 – After capturing Best In Show the previous year, Ch. Registry’s Lonesome Dove, a Wire Fox Terrier, fails in an attempt to repeat when it is awarded a third place in the Terrier Group.

1997 – Ch. Parsifal Di Casa Netzer, a Standard Schnauzer, becomes the first Italian-bred dog to win Best In Show.

1998 — Professional Handler Peter Green ties Percy Robert’s record of four Best in Show wins. Green also won Best in Show in 1968, 1977, and 1994.

1999 – “Kirby”, a spunky Papillon officially known as Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being, becomes the oldest dog ever to win Best In Show. He is eight years, one month and ten days old, and his record will stand until 2009. With this win, he also becomes the first dog ever to win both the World Dog Show (at Helsinki over 17,000-plus dogs in 1998) and Westminster.

2002 – Westminster salutes the Search and Rescue dogs that performed so heroically during the 9/11 tragedy. Dogs and their handlers take part in the moving ceremonies and Glenn Close sings “God Bless America” to a rousing response in the arena and seen by a national television audience.

2003 – Ch. Torums Scarf Michael, a Kerry Blue Terrier, captures Best In Show, becoming only the second dog to win both Westminster and Crufts (2000).

2005 – For the first time, breed judging is broadcast to the general public via streaming video on the Westminster website. Over 1.4 million streaming videos are requested online, from 140 countries, along with 15 million page views.

2005 – For the first time, Madison Square Garden is completely sold out for both days of the dog show.

2006 – Once again, the Garden is completely sold out for both days of the show, in spite of The Blizzard of 2006, which dropped a record-breaking 27 inches of snow on Manhattan on the Saturday and Sunday before the show.

2006 – Streaming video of the breed judging highlights increases threefold in its second year, producing a staggering 23.7 terabytes (a terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes). This total compares with 6.5 terabytes in 2005. Visitors logged 2.13 million visits (up 33% over the previous year).

2006 – The enthusiastic Garden crowd and national television audience join in saluting individuals and organizations in the dog world that joined with Westminster in being active in the rescue and recovery effort after the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes of the previous Fall.

2007 – Chet Collier, longtime Westminster member, past show chairman and president, is the first recipient of the club’s Sensation Award. Named for the club’s symbolic Pointer, the award is given in recognition of a member’s contribution to the club, to purebred dogs, and the sport of showing dogs. Collier died later in the year.

2008 – Ch. K-Run’s Park Me In First becomes the first Beagle and the first Hound in 25 years to win Best In Show at Westminster. His victory sets off a year-long celebration dubbed “Beaglemania” by the media. “Uno” becomes the first Westminster winner to be invited to the White House, visiting President and Mrs. Bush.

2009 – Senior citizens around the world join in the celebration as a Sussex Spaniel named “Stump” becomes the oldest dog ever to capture Best In Show at Westminster. The 10-year-old golden liver dog (registered name Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee) is more than two years older than the previous record holder. 

2011 – For the second year in a row, it’s a Scottish breed taking home the honors for America’s Dog Show, this time a Scottish Deerhound named Hickory (GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind). She’s the first Deerhound and only the fifth Hound to capture Best In Show (but the second in four years). Madison Square Garden is sold out for the 7th consecutive year and the television audience is the largest since 2006.

2012 – An indomitable Pekingese named Malachy makes Westminster his 115th career Best In Show.

2012 – The club announces several changes to be made effective with the 2013 show, including moving the breed competition held during the daytime to Piers 92/94 on New York’s Upper West Side. Groups and Best In Show will continue to be held at the Garden in the evenings.

2013 – The move to Piers 92/94 for the daytime breed judging on Monday and Tuesday is a huge success, with enthusiastic crowds packing the Piers for the club’s largest entry (2,720) since 1998. In the Best In Show ring the smallest finalist, an Affenpinscher named Banana Joe takes home the biggest prize. Banana Joe performs the first-ever Broadway theatre walk-on for a Westminster winner in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

2014 – The Masters Agility Championship at Westminster is added to Westminster Week, and takes place in Pier 94 on the Saturday before the showcase all-breed dog show. Agility brings back mixed breed dogs (All-American dogs) to the club’s activities for the first time since its earliest years. The event hits its 225 dog limit quickly (with 16 All Americans and entries in 63 breeds from 23 states).

The seven Group winners in the Best In Show ring bring more than 500 Bests In Show among them into the most powerful final lineup ever seen anywhere. GCH Afterall Painting the Sky, a Wire Fox Terrier, takes home the sport’s ultimate award.

2014 – The Seventh Annual Westminster Kennel Club Hunting Test expands to two days this year, once again reminding all that the club was originally about sporting dogs and beautiful scenic upland game bird fields. A two-day entry of 48 dogs representing many pointing breeds competed once again at the Tamarack Preserve in Millbrook, NY. The Westminster Kennel Club was the first all breed kennel club to hold an American Kennel Club licensed hunting test for pointing breeds.

2015 – Westminster Week, already featuring the world’s most prestigious dog show and the second year of the exciting Masters Agility Championship, adds a new event and partner for this year — the 6th Annual American Kennel Club’s Meet the Breeds. This combined event is promoted as “Meet & Compete” and exemplifies the club’s mission to educate the public about purebred dogs and dog sports.

2016 – Once again the Westminster Kennel Club delivers. This inaugural year for the Masters Obedience Championship brings top obedience dogs from across the country to New York City for a crowd-pleasing competition. Over 3000 dogs came from all 50 states to compete in the three different events (conformation, agility and obedience) that is Westminster Week.

2016 – Best in Show is won by a German Shorthaired Pointer named GCh. Garbonita’s VJK-Myst California Journey, the grandson of the 2005 Westminster winner Ch. Kan-Point’s VJK Autumn Roses. Both dogs are co-owned by Valerie Nunes-Atkinson who as a teenager won Best Junior Handler at Westminster (1981).

2017 – The inaugural year for the Westminster Kennel Club Cup, an award offered to the winner of the AKC Gun Dog Championship. The trophy was awarded to Flapjack's Twisted sister, a 9-year-old, female German Shorthaired Pointer.

2017 – Best In Show is won by GCh. Lockenhaus' Rumor Has It V Kenlyn, a female German Shepherd Dog who is only the second dog from the 1983-formed, Herding Group to win the award. The first dog was another German Shepherd, Ch. Covy Tucker Hill's Manhattan in 1987.

2017 – the year 2017 marked the beginning of a ten-year television partnership with FOX Sports. Nat Geo WILD, a FOX Sports network, telecasts live coverage of the daytime breed judging, a first for the dog show.

2018 – Following in its tradition of giving, 2018 was the inaugural year for the Westminster Gives Back Award. This award was bestowed upon three national breed clubs for their dedication to breed rescue. The Bearded Collie Club of America, the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America and the Great Pyrenees Club of America each received a donation to help support their breed rescue work.

2018 – The finals of the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster aired on the FOX Broadcast Network reaching its largest audience to date.

2019 – The Wire Fox Terrier, GCHB King Arthur Van Foliny Home was crowned Best in Show increasing the breed's record of most WKC Best in Show wins to fifteen. The terrier's handler, Gabriel Rangel, also made history as this was his 3rd Best in Show win, only needing one more to tie the all-time record of 4 wins by a handlers Peter Green and Percy Robberts.

2020 — Westminster expanded its dog show to three-days to accommodate the closing of Pier 92. AKC’s newest recognized breed, the Azawakh, debuted at Westminster in the Hound Group. The Masters Obedience Championship’s new format creates a High in Trial winner to receive The Streicher Cup

2021 — Westminster will welcome four new breeds to the show, the Barbet, the Biewer Terrier, the Belgian Laekenois, and the Dogo Argentino. The show will be held for the first ever in June and outside New York City at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York.