"Best of Breed" is a term used in dog and other animal competition shows. It is the first of three judging events in a conformation show such as the famous Westminster Dog Show held annually at Madison Square Garden in New York City during the month of February. These three events are Best of Breed, Best of Group, and Best in Show.

The conformation show is the most important of the three main types of dog shows : conformation, working and obedience. Conformation shows are what hold dog breeding to rigid standards. A dog must be the absolutely best physical example of its breed to win in a conformation show. Conformation shows are also known as "benched" shows because, while the dogs must walk or run to exhibit various physical points before the judges, they are mainly judged in a standing position. They do not perform any duties or work in a conformation show.

In a working show, dogs bred to perform specific tasks are judged on the hunting, herding or tracking abilities peculiar to the particular breed. In an obedience show the dogs are judged on their performance as "companion dogs", which means their ability to interact with humans. Dogs whose physical attributes are below conformation show standards often successfully compete in working and obedience shows.

The Best in Show award of any conformation show results in precisely one winner, the best dog in the entire show. In the Best of Breed awards, there are upwards of 200 winners. The American Kennel Club, known as the AKC, lists 150 breeds, many of which have several sub-divisions dependent on size, color, or type of coat such as "smooth" or "wire-hair".

To compete in the Best of Breed judging, an animal must place in a class. These classes, running from Puppy through Open, each have two first-place winners, Dog and Bitch. The Winners Dogs and Winners Bitches are then judged for Best of Breed. Once the Best of Breed Winners are selected, all the dogs are divided into seven different groups. The resulting seven Best of Group winners are then judged for Best in Show.

The seven groups are defined by AKC acceptance. Originally five in number, they have been expanded to seven with a "Miscellaneous Class" category for breeds which have yet to be accepted by AKC regulations. They may be shown in the Miscellaneous Class - and also in obedience - but do not compete for further honors. Some breeds which were confined to the Miscellaneous Class thirty years ago are now included in a regular group.

The seven groups currently recognized by the AKC are as follows.

Sporting Group - 26 major breeds - Dogs who work with people in hunting birds. These include pointers, retrievers, setters and certain spaniels.

Hound Group - 22 major breeds - Dogs who hunt by scent or sight, their quarry being animals living on land. Members of this group include beagles, bloodhounds, foxhounds, ridgebacks and whippets.

Working Group - 22 major breeds - Dogs who have been trained to perform tasks such as herding, carting or guarding. Sheepdogs, St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Corgis, Great Danes, and Alaskan Malamutes all belong to this group.

Terriers - 26 major breeds - Dogs bred to hunt vermin making its home in the ground. Some terriers are also used to hunt in packs for quarry such as fox and boar.

Toy Group - 19 major breeds - Small dogs who like to be with people. Also known as "Companion Dogs', the Toy Group includes small sizes of other groups such as Sporting, Hound and Terrier.

Non-Sporting Group - 17 major breeds - This group covers miscellaneous breeds or working breeds that no longer perform traditional tasks - Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Poodles, and Schipperkes are included in this group.

Herding Group - 18 major breeds - Dogs which are used in herding livestock : Australian Cattle Dogs and Border Collies, formerly in the Miscellaneous Class, are now members of this group.

  • www.akc.org
  • www.westminsterkennelclub.org
  • Popular Dogs Publishing Co., Ltd.

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