A Flint Hill-based Scottish Deerhound clinched the top prize Tuesday night at the second-longest-running sports event in the U.S. — the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, bred and owned by Scott and Ceil Dove and otherwise known as Hickory, is the first Scottish Deerhound to win the top title. More than 2,500 dogs from 179 breeds — including six new breeds this year — took part in the show at Madison Square Garden.
The 5-year-old female defeated six other purebreds in the final round, including a Pekingese, a black Cocker Spaniel and a Portuguese Water Dog. Four of last year’s Top 10 were in the final round; Hickory won her breed division at Westminster last year but was nosed out in the Hound Group judging and did not compete for 2010 Best in Show.
This year’s Westminster title was an open field, since the 2010 Best in Show winner, a Scottish Terrier named Sadie, was retired.
“She’s got everything,” judge Paolo Dondina told the Associated Press in his native Italian after selecting the graceful Hickory. “The movement, the presence. It’s a dog for the big show.”
Hickory was handled by trainer Angela Lloyd of Warrenton. “People who own, breed [and] show dogs dream of this day,” Lloyd told AP. “She went in there tonight and showed like she’s never shown before. This is an extreme experience for a dog who lives on a farm.”
Hickory lives on the Doves’ Foxcliffe farm just north of Flint Hill. Ceil Dove said the plan is to retire Hickory from show competition and breed her. They raise Scottish Deerhounds and Lurchers and host lure coursing events at their 56-acre farm.
Bred for hunting large prey by sight like Greyhounds and Borzoi, Scottish Deerhounds date to the 16th century. They follow game by sight not scent like other hounds such as foxhounds and Bassets. Deerhounds are relatively tall and elegant, with soft, long gray fur, sloping hindquarters, a reaching gait, athletic build and intense but quiet disposition. Hickory weighs in at 85 pounds and is about three feet tall at the shoulder, about average for an adult female. Males are usually larger and heavier.
Founded in 1877, the show predates the governing body for dog shows, the American Kennel Club, founded in 1884. Westminster initially was held at New York City’s Gilmore’s Garden, the forerunner to Madison Square Garden.
Westminster judging is based on conformation — officials select winners based on structure, beauty and gait. The Westminster Kennel Foundation has awarded annual veterinary student scholarships since 1990, and in 2010 began a junior handler scholarship program.
For the first 30 years, the club did not award Best in Show. The first Best in Show, in 1907, went to a smooth-coated Fox Terrier bitch. The first woman to win Best in Show was in 1935. Westminster was televised for the first time in 1948, and in 2005 the Kennel Club began streaming video over the Internet.
Lloyd has a long history in handling championship dogs. “My dad bred German Shepherds,” she said, for conformation showing. “As a kid, I used to go with him to all the dog shows. I started showing when I was 8, with my first dog, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.” Lloyd won the Best Junior Handler title at Westminster in 1998 showing an English Springer Spaniel.
“My whole life has been devoted to this. It’s doing something I love, every day,” Lloyd said. The Penn State grad runs a kennel south of Warrenton near Opal. “I keep the show dogs there,” she explained, saying that though Hickory spends time at the Dove’s farm for rest and relaxation, she keeps the dog at her kennels when preparing for big shows. “It keeps them in mental and physical condition,” she said. “A dog needs great conformation, but they also need a drive to show. You become part of the team with a top dog. It is a true partnership, a uniform togetherness.”
She called Hickory “a gentle giant. At home, she races around and chases squirrels, but on a leash she’s easy and gentle, very well behaved.
“Hickory is the epitome of her breed,” Lloyd added. “She is a breeders’ dream.”
Full results are posted online at westminsterkennelclub.org.