Winning Best in Show at Westminster Gets You…Well, You’d Never Expect This Prize

It may seem like the pinnacle of canine achievement – the Best in Show title at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show. Surely the winner must take home a colossal cash prize, right? Well, brace yourselves, because the actual prize for this coveted victory is…drumroll please…a shiny trophy and major bragging rights! That’s it, folks.

But before you scoff at the underwhelming prize, let’s dive into the real significance behind Westminster’s top honor. Hosted annually in New York City since 1877, the Westminster Dog Show isn’t just any old mutt strut – it’s the Super Bowl of the dog show world, America’s second-longest continuously held sporting event after the Kentucky Derby.

Westminster dog show

The True Prize: Prestige and Advocacy

But beyond the tangible rewards, the real prize is the prestige and honor of the Best in Show title itself – a testament to excellence in breeding and handling that turns tails and heads in the canine world.

As we bask in Sage’s glory, it’s a reminder that dog shows aren’t just about glamour and primping. They play a crucial role in maintaining breed standards, ensuring genetic diversity, and promoting responsible breeding practices. Without careful oversight, we risk losing the essence of beloved breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors.

The Road to Best in Show Glory

To even qualify for Westminster is an achievement in itself. Dogs must be champions of their breed, racking up points from other shows by exemplifying ideal breed standards in structure, movement, and temperament. They undergo rigorous grooming and training to ensure they’re pristine examples of canine perfection.

This year’s Best in Show winner, the miniature poodle Sage, outshone over 2,500 dogs from around the globe. Handled by the legendary Kaz Hosaka in his final show, Sage beat out stiff competition like Mercedes the German Shepherd to claim the top prize.

Westminster dog show
Source: Yahoo News

While no giant cash payout awaits, Sage’s victory opens up a world of lucrative opportunities and priceless fame. There will be a whirlwind of media appearances, from morning shows to late night TV. The traditional celebratory steak lunch at Sardi’s restaurant awaits. And for Sage’s owners and breeders, a likely surge in breeding and puppy demands could mean a serious pay day.

Last year’s Westminster Dog Show winner was a charming Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen named Buddy Holly. Not only did Buddy Holly capture the hearts of the audience and judges alike, securing the prestigious Best in Show title, but he also snagged a uniquely adorable accolade back in his hometown. The city of Palm Springs, where Buddy hails from, celebrated his victory in a most unusual way—by swearing him in as the city’s first-ever “Canine Mayor.” This honorary title was a fun and festive way to recognize Buddy’s achievements and highlight the joy and community spirit that dogs bring to our lives.

Buddy Holly, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
Source: The New York Times – 2023 winner

The Long Road To Westminster

While the prize for Best in Show may seem laughably small, the road to even make it to Westminster is an arduous and costly journey. Owners and handlers invest thousands of dollars in entry fees, travel, grooming, and handling lessons to get their prized pooches ringside ready. Elite show dogs undergo rigorous training from a young age to perfect their gait, stance, and unfailing obedience around the judging ring.

Westminster dog show
Source: NY Times

Their precise coiffures and glossy coats are the result of endless hours of meticulous grooming by professional handlers who are truly artists with a brush and scissors. A single show season can easily rack up five-figure expenses in pursuit of the championship points required to qualify. From chauffeured travel in air-conditioned doggy motor homes to specially formulated diets, no expense is spared in converting these pets into walking exemplars of their breed standard. So while that coveted Best in Show ribbon may not come with a mega cash prize, for the doggy dynamos who triumph, it represents years of tireless work, unwavering dedication, and a pet project that costs more than a pretty penny.

Westminster dog show
Source: USA Today

The Poodle vs Doodle Hairy Debate

Sage’s win also reignites the heated poodle vs doodle debate. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this classic breed back in the spotlight, especially amid the doodle craze. Don’t be fooled by doodle marketing – poodles are nearly 100% hypoallergenic, while doodles only have a 50/50 shot depending on their non-poodle parent.

Source: NY Times

Aren’t Mixed Breeds Healthier?

Let’s bust a myth, shall we? The old tale that mutts like those adorable doodles are the Iron Men of dog health compared to purebreds is more fairy tale than fact. Dive into the nitty-gritty of genetic studies, such as those from UC Davis, and you’ll find that the health scales don’t tip heavily in favor of mixed breeds. These studies, which look at over 100,000 dogs, tell us that mixed breeds are just as prone to getting their share of the genetic blues as their purebred pals. Yes, purebreds do have their famous flaws—think dilated cardiomyopathy in Dobermans—but mixed breeds aren’t dancing away scot-free either; they have their own set of common ailments like cruciate ligament issues​

Bridging Shelter and Show Rings

Of course, the dog show world faces valid criticisms about celebrating purebreds while millions of mutts languish in shelters. But the two don’t have to be at odds. Shows like Westminster can raise awareness and funds for rescue efforts while reminding us of the beauty in dog diversity – be it pedigreed or mixed breed. Every dog deserves a loving home and a chance to be a champion.

So as we wrap up, let’s congratulate Sage and use this platform to advocate for the health, happiness, and well-being of all our four-legged friends – from shelters to show rings. Because at the end of the day, the real prize is the wag in their tails and the love in their hearts.

Westminster dog show
Source: Yahoo News

Group winners from Westminster Dog Show 2024 

  • Herding Group: Mercedes (German Shepherd) 
  • Hound Group: Louis (Afghan Hound) 
  • Non-Sporting Group: Sage (Miniature Poodle) 
  • Sporting Group: Micah (Black Cocker Spaniel)
  • Terrier Group: Frankie (Colored Bull Terrier)
  • Toy Group: Comet (Shih Tzu) 
  • Working Group: Monty (Giant Schnauzer)

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