The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has been a tradition since 1877, but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s old-fashioned. Westminster is on the cutting edge of all things dog, including newly emerging breeds added to the roster each year.
This year, there are seven new breeds making their Westminster debut. Read on to learn all about them, and be sure to pick a favorite for show day!
Although it’s new to Westminster, the Lagotto Romagnolo is no spring chicken. In fact, it’s an ancient breed that’s been around for centuries. Acording to Dogs 101, the Lagotto is “the great grand-dog” to all water dogs, so it makes sense that they look so much ike Portuguese Water Dogs.
Back in the day in Italy, Lagattos were used as hunting dogs, retrieving downed water fowl. As hunting water fowl has fallen out of fashion, the modern Lagotto Romagnalo has been bred and trained to hunt something else: truffles, aka very fancy mushrooms. Here’s a video of a truffling Lagotto in action.
Another Italian classic, the Cirneco dell’Etna is an ancient hound dog from the island of Sicily. Cirnecos are known for being athletic and hardy, able to navigate rough terrain in pursuit of small prey. In fact, according to the Cirneco dell’Etna Club of America, ancient Cirnecos were particularly prevalent “in the area surrounding the active volcano, Mount Etna, where the dogs hunt on terrain formed by volcanic lava.” A volcano-hopping hound that’s also an affectionate and loyal companion? I think I’m in love.
A South African guard dog, the Boerboel is a massive mastiff, weighing between 110-220 pounds full grown (source). Legend has it that the Boerboel descended from bull mastiffs brought to South Africa to guard diamond mines, but these big lugs aren’t all about the bling. In fact, according to the AKC, “Boerboel” literally means “farmer’s dog.” They like to work the land and then come inside to relax with their family. Boerboels are very loyal to human and animal companions alike, and make good family dogs.
The Bergamasco sheepdog has its origins in Persia (in the area that is now Iran), where they travelled with nomadic shepherds and watched over flocks of sheep. The Bergamesco Club of America extolls the breed’s smarts and independence, calling them “an excellent choice for a person who appreciates intelligence and self-sufficiency in a companion.”
But enough about history, let’s talk about that coat! Bergamescos have a thick, wooly coat made up of three kinds of hair that form dense, flat mats that grow all the way to the ground. The mats look cool, but they actually developed to serve the practical purpose of keeping the dogs warm in harsh, wintry mountain climates. And how’s this for a bonus: according to the AKC, “The Bergamasco’s coat…can actually smell like a sweater when it is wet.”
Berger (bare ZHAY) is French for “shepherd,” and Picard (“pee CARR”) is a region in northern France, so that makes the Berger Picard—you guessed it—a French sheep dog! In addition to herding, legend has it these rough-and-tumble pups were once used to be used to smuggle tobacco and matches across the Franco-Belgian border. According to the Berger Picard Club of America, the smoking supplies would be “put in goatskin pouches, hairy side up, and attached to the dog’s shaved back.” Picards maintain their mischievous reputation today, and are known to be devoted, comical pets.
Miniature American Shepherd
By far the smallest dog joining the Westminster crew this year (no more than 18″ tall), the Miniature American Shepherd is also the newest. Developed in California in the late 1960’s, this small herding breed is a direct descendant of the Australian Shepherd, but is distinct from its Aussie ancestors due to its small size (source).
Mini American Shepherds are bright, active, entertaining dogs. As one enthusiast says in a video produced by the AKC, “They excel at just about everything. Agility, obedience, therapy work…anything that you want to do with a dog, you can do with a Miniature American Shepherd.”
Spanish Water Dog
Despite the name, Spanish Water Dogs are actually members of the herding group. This ancient, multi-purpose breed has a long history of sheepherding in Andalucía (source). They do love water, though, and check out this fun fact from the AKC: in centuries past, Spanish Water Dogs worked towing boats to shore. Their stamina and strength persists today. Spanish Water Dogs are known to be loving, loyal family pets, but they love to work, so it’s important to give them a job!
Whether you’re a fan of sporting breeds, hounds, working dogs, or herders, there’s a new breed to catch your fancy at the Westminster Dog Show this year. Sorry, fans of toy breeds and terriers—maybe 2017 will be your year! I know what my favorite new breed is in 2016 is (hint: it starts with Cirneco and ends with dell’Etna). What’s yours?