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It's Good To Be King: Wire Fox Terrier Wins Westminster Dog Show

King, a wire fox terrier, poses for photographs after winning best in show at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Tuesday. It's the 15th time a wire fox terrier has taken the top spot.
Frank Franklin II
King, a wire fox terrier, poses for photographs after winning best in show at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Tuesday. It's the 15th time a wire fox terrier has taken the top spot.

Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET

A wire fox terrier named King has taken the crown at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. He's the 15th wire fox terrier to win best in show.

"You know, I love you all," said best in show judge Peter Green as he stood in front of the finalists. "Every one of you." Then Green, who spent years honing his own craft as a professional dog handler of terriers, raised his arm and pointed at the dog he apparently loved the most. "He's best in show."

The seven-year-old King is "as good as it gets," Green said, according to USA Today. "The head, the expression. Everything is really, really as good as it gets. And then the handler has him in perfect condition."

"I look at King, he's like a beautiful painting, a piece of art," King's handler, Gabriel Rangel, saidearlier in the day. "The way he stands and performs, he's the whole package."

Over the course of two days, the judges winnowed down the field from 2,800 dogs in 203 breeds to just seven — the best specimen from each group, such as hound, herding or sporting. Then, late Tuesday, the field dropped to six when a Michigan schipperke named Colton was ruled ineligible because of a conflict of interest. (One of its owners has a "distant working relationship" with Green, the dog's handler wrote.)

Judges decide which dog is "best" by comparing the dog against its own breed and group's ideal standards. "Dogs were originally bred to do specific jobs whether hunting, guarding, tracking, or companionship," the Westminster Kennel Club explainson its website. "The standard describes how a dog should look in order to carry out its job."

A wire fox terrier, originally bred to help hunt foxes, should be "alert, quick of movement, keen of expression, on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation," reads the American Kennel Club's official standard. The standard goes on to describe, in detail, what the dog's body should look like and how stiff the coat should be.

Terriers' personality helps them do particularly well in the competitive tension of a national dog show, terrier breeder Diane Orange has explained. "They are so outgoing and so full of themselves that they don't get exhausted," she said. "And they don't stress out the way some of the more sensitive breeds do. Very few things bother a terrier."

Bono the Havanese won second place. Also in the finals was Burns the longhaired dachshund, a fan favorite. Burns has won 26 best in show titles at various dog shows, but never at Westminster, The New York Times reported. "I think one of the reasons some breeds don't make it to the end is that they just aren't the glamour breeds who are so flashy in the group," Walter Jones, a vice president of the Dachshund Club of America, told the Times.

Although Westminster is known for crowning best in show, junior dog handlers also compete for top honors. NPR's Allyson McCabe reports that judges focus on how well handlers can present their dogs, rather than the dogs' individual attributes.

"In Juniors, they look [to see] that your foot is with the dog's foot. You're following the same pattern as the dog, so you guys match up," explained 15-year-old Imre Mancini. She didn't make the final cut.

After two days of preliminary completion, eight finalists for best junior handler took the floor clad in sequined dresses and dinner jackets, strategically outfitted with hidden treat pockets. Madeline Beuhler, 17, won best junior handler — her pug was a crowd favorite.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz
Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").