For over two decades, Labrador retrievers have consistently been the most common purebred dog to romp around American yards. But despite ranking number one in so many family homes, the breed has never won the elite Westminster Dog Show -- and neither have golden retrievers, the third-most popular pet breed. Several other popular breeds -- including the standard poodle, which came in second place in last night's Best In Show competition -- have won Westminster more than once, but the Associated Press reports that less common pet breeds actually tend to win the competition more often:
[Fox] terriers - their three varieties 96th and lower on the popularity ladder - have been best in show 18 times, counting Sky's victory this year. The Sealyham terrier, the 158th-most-prevalent breed, has logged four Westminster wins, though the last came in 1977.
In the last seven years, winners have included such familiar breeds as the beagle and Scottish terrier, but also some decided rarities: the pint-sized affenpinscher (143rd most prevalent) and the giant Scottish deerhound (165th).
According to some Lab-lovers, the breed's familiar friendliness might hurt it in the arena:
Breeder Deborah Weinman notes that Labs don't have the eye-catching, lanky stride of a pointer, for instance, as they circle the judging ring. Breeder Emily Magnani wonders whether some breeds' elaborate grooming can help them make an impression, compared to relatively what-you-see-is-what-you-get Labs.
Heidi Kellerman, who breeds both Labrador and golden retrievers, feels the very qualities that endear them to pet owners might not get them points in shows.
"A Lab and a golden retriever are truly the dog you can live with," Kellerman told the AP. "I think maybe it's taken for granted." Taken for granted by show judges, maybe -- but not by the thousands of Americans that consider their Labs to be members of the family.