A diva of a dog who lives on a 56-acre farm in horse country, Virginia, glided to glory at New York’s Madison Square Garden last night, the first Scottish deerhound to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club pageant.
Hickory defeated six other purebreds in the final round -- including a regal 11-pound Pekingese named Malachy, a black cocker spaniel with dark soulful eyes and a Portuguese water dog with a buzz cut highlighting her rear end.
“She’s got everything,” Paolo Dondina, a judge from Monterchi, Italy, said in Italian after picking Hickory. “The movement, the presence. It’s a dog for the big show.”
The Westminster spectacle is serious business for dog owners, many of whom part with hundreds of thousands of dollars to “campaign” their charges at shows throughout the U.S. For the audience, it’s a chance to root for favorite breeds.
Named after a bluegrass song by John Duffey, Hickory succeeds Sadie, a black Scottish terrier who won Westminster last year.
Hickory bested about 2,600 canines in 179 breeds and varieties over the two-day event. They competed by ambling on the floor of the Garden and submitting to an exam by the judges, who assess how well they conform to standards of their breeds. The Westminster Kennel Club, a New York tax-exempt organization, named its first best in show in 1907.
The Scottish deerhound breed dates to the 16th century and was ideal for pursuing and killing deer, according to the American Kennel Club. It could be owned by “no one of rank lower than an earl,” the site said.
While the breed is quiet and dignified, it still may chase furry animals that run nearby. The AKC recommends exercising a Scottish deerhound on a leash in a fenced area.
Angela Lloyd, Hickory’s 31-year-old handler, described her as an 85-pound diva who cherishes biscuits and the spotlight.
“She’s constantly making sure she’s getting attention,” Lloyd said after Hickory aced the hound dog category on Monday night.
Lloyd added that Scottish deerhounds are sensitive to their surroundings, and hence might be riled by the bright lights and noise of a New York arena.
“This is an extreme experience for a dog who lives on a farm,” said Lloyd, a junior showmanship winner at Westminster when she was 18 and the daughter of a German shepherd breeder.
Lisa Croft-Elliott, a veteran dog photographer, said she was mesmerized by the dog’s grace.
“She’s stunning, a supermodel,” she said. “In order to pursue her quarry she can’t be clunky. She has to move briskly.”
Hickory’s owners say they plan to retire her to the Flint Hill, Virginia, farm of co-owner Cecilia Dove, with the hope of breeding. The dog, who turned five in December, saved her best for last.
“She showed as she’s never showed before,” Lloyd told reporters last night as she petted Hickory’s wiry coat, the dog panting and its tongue hanging out of its mouth.
(Philip Boroff writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
-- With assistance from Lili Rosboch in New York. Editors: Mark Beech, Jim Ruane.