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Some of the most unusual and strange looking dogs ever loved by man will strut the lawn of the Westchester Country Club, New York on Sunday, September 11 in the nation's biggest one-day all-breed event—the Westchester Kennel Club dog show. Because it offers the chance of blue ribbon competition to owners of such esoteric pets as Russian owtchars or Rhodesian ridgebacks, to say nothing of Mexican hairless (see opposite), Chinese crested, vizslas and good old affenpinschers, the Westchester show has, during its rich 38-year history, become the place where the most unlikely-looking members of Canis familiaris can be seen and observed. There will, of course, be some 2,300 other purebred—and much more popular—dogs competing for the best-in-show ribbon. But this year it might just happen that there will be a better Chinese crested than the best poodle or spaniel or beagle.
The journey toward the top in popularity for a dog is usually a long and arduous one, beset by chance. Around the 1900s hunting dog breeds were favorites, and since then a dozen other breeds have enjoyed the limelight of public acceptance. With only a fickle-minded public to satisfy, any breed of dog, however strange and rare, could be tomorrow's national favorite. All it takes is public acceptance and demand. These can skyrocket a not-too-well-known breed like the beagle up to topmost rank or can knock the once popular Irish terrier to 42nd place.
The dream of breeders of lesser-known dogs is one in which something like a Mexican hairless is crowned public favorite No. 1, with thousands of them curled up at the hearthsides of America's homes. It is not too much of a dream, as one of today's favorites bears out. In 1926 there were only 18 boxers registered in America, and they ranked 56th. Last year, with 40,667 registered, they were second. The top dog in 1960 might very well be the Rhodesian ridgeback or lion dog, the most recent breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Strange as some of the rare dogs to be seen at Westchester may appear to U.S. dog lovers, they have nearly all been great favorites in their native lands—with the exception of the Mexican hairless. This seallike beauty is practically disowned by the Mexicans, who claim it is a Chinese dog imported into Mexico from the Orient around 1600. The Mexican Kennel Club has registered only five in its entire history.
The fascination of the Mexican hairless dog escapes not only the Mexicans but nearly everybody. Its skin, according to the AKC standards, must be "smooth and soft, not wrinkled, any color, hot to touch, no hair whatever." Most hairless dogs have been kept in zoos as freaks, but there are sufficient numbers of these dogs in the U.S. today to constitute a "fancy" and provide competition. A great promoter and breeder of them is Mrs. Edna Bailey of San Bernardino, Calif., who claims her absolutely hairless specimens, like the one pictured opposite, are some of the finest of the breed in the world.
Mrs. Bailey, however, has had differences on occasion with the AKC because there seems to be a fuzzy pedigree line among Mexican hairless and nobody has yet had the courage to decide which is true to type—those with or without hair. The AKC, which rarely commits itself to an opinion on anything controversial, has had difficulty in finding enough hairless dogs to come to any real conclusions.
Other rare dogs, like the Brussels griffon, Lhasa apso, and affenpinscher (pictured on following pages), are recognized breeds in the eyes of the AKC. But there are many foreign breeds of dogs now in the U.S. that as yet have not received the official nod of this ruling body. Owners of such dogs first have to get them admitted to the ignominious miscellaneous class (permitted to breeds well established in other lands but little known here) and then bide their time until the AKC recognizes them as being in sufficient numbers and geographically distributed in the U.S. They must also prove that they breed true to type.
Many of today's leading breeds have struggled up from the miscellaneous class, and some of the canine freshmen currently trying to make the grade are Australian heelers, Australian kelpies, Spinoni Italiani and Shih Tzus. Anybody having one of these can enter it at Westchester.
The bewhiskered Brussels griffon is a toy-size, sturdy reddish-brown dog which has cropped ears and a dense wiry coat. One of the many theories concerning its origin is that Belgian taxi drivers played a great part in its development by crossing their favorite Yorkshire terrier with the pug. Another school thinks the barbet and hollandsche smoushound had a lot to do with it. In any event the griffon came to the U.S. around 1900 and has attracted a steady and devoted following ever since. Originally a ratter, it is no longer used for that and is now primarily a companion dog. There were 124 of them registered with the AKC in 1954, and they cost from $125 up. A leading breeder is Miss Iris de la Torre Bueno of New Rochelle, N.Y.
The Lhasa apso, another dog to be seen at Westchester, comes from Tibet, where it is called "bark sentinel lion dog." Resembling a raw-silk rag mop, the apso was, since the beginning of the Manchu Dynasty, part of the tribute paid by the Dalai Lama of Tibet to the imperial families of China.