The Dog Breeds with the Most Wins at the Westminster Dog Show
You may be surprised to learn that popular breeds very rarely take home the prize.
The winningest breeds
For dog lovers, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is akin to the Superbowl in importance and ability to conjure excitement. The all-breed conformation show—this year’s annual show will be on February 10 and 11—began in 1907 and promises viewers a unique combination of sophistication and charm.
Though many breeds compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, including household favorites such as Labrador retrievers, dachshunds, and bulldogs, there’s certainly a pattern when it comes to breeds that take home the title. Below, we’ve highlighted those dog breeds with the most wins along with some expert insight into why each often receives high marks. Two popular breeds, golden retrievers nor dachshunds have ever won the Westminster Dog Show.
Wire fox terrier
In general, terriers have done extraordinarily well at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In fact, they’ve taken home a whopping 34 wins over the show’s history which equates to about 30 percent. Of all the terrier variations, Wire fox terriers have won the most with 12 wins total. Their first win came in 1915 and their latest win was 2019.
Gail Miller Bisher, director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club, tells us that terriers have so many wins for a few reasons. For starters, it’s a bit of a numbers game in regard to how many different breeds are entered into the competition in the first place. “There were fewer breeds in the 1800s and some were more competitive than others. In the early 1900s, terriers were very popular as they were used for vermin control and watchdogs. Therefore there were more terriers being bred and entered at the show producing several winners,” says Bisher. Find out 13 things you never knew about the Westminster Dog Show.
Scottish terriers come in second with the most wins of any breed with their earliest win in 1911 and the most recent in 2010. Since the show’s inception, the beloved “Scottie” has taken home the crown eight times, largely because it was (and still remains) such a popular breed.
On that note, Miller Bisher stressed to us that the Westminster Dog Show isn’t a competition between breeds. Rather, dogs are judged according to a blueprint of standards outlined by the breed’s national club. “They aren’t judging if the Poodle is better than the Pekingese, they are judging which dog best conforms to that breed’s written standard,” she explains. “The winner is deemed as the best representative and thereby best dog for producing the next generation. The judges study the standards and judge accordingly.” Don’t miss these behind-the-scene secrets from the National Dog Show.
English springer spaniel
Right on the heels (or should we say paws?) of the Wire Fox and Scottish terries comes the English springer spaniel with six Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show wins. Interestingly, this breed’s first win didn’t come until 1963 and its latest win was in 2007. In terms of notable dogs, an English Springer Spaniel by the name of D.J. actually won two years in a row — in 1971 and 1972.
According to Miller Bisher, “Dogs that were able to repeat Best in Show wins, are very rare and even less likely to happen these days as there are even more dog breeds recognized by the AKC [American Kennel Club].” In fact, that was the last time there was a multi-year winning streak.
The largest of all the terrier breeds—and appropriately nicknamed the “King of Terriers”—Airedales have won Westminster’s Best in Show four times in the competition’s 113-year history. Like its smaller terrier brethren, it had a very early win in 1912, though it hasn’t strutted home with the big ribbon since 1933. As Miller Bisher mentioned, terriers, in general, were a very popular breed in the early 1900s which upped their chances of winning in general. Find out the most popular dog breeds in every state.
American cocker spaniel
With four total wins, the American cocker spaniel comes in fifth with the most Westminster wins. In general, spaniels—including English Springer, American Cocker, Clumber, Irish Water, and Sussex—have earned 13 wins. In addition to being a great showman, the American cocker spaniel also makes a great pet that gets along very well with children.
It’s not so often we see a household favorite earn the Westminster’s Best in Show, but boxers have earned the first-place prize four times in the show’s history. The breed won in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1970. There’s also another notable boxer who competed at the Westminster Dog Show. Though she didn’t win in the 2016 competition, “Wilma” the boxer elicited a great “yabba dabba do” from the crowd when she strutted the stage. We’ve got 12 more funny names from the Westminster Dog Show to share.
Germany’s Doberman Pinscher has also won the Westminster competition four times, in 1939, 1952, 1953, and 1989. The sleek pup is notably larger than other frequent winning breeds, including all those on this list, with an average weight of 70 to 90 pounds. Discover more of the world’s biggest dog breeds.
Smooth fox terrier
We’ve got another terrier winner, this time the smooth fox terrier who’s had four wins. Interestingly, all four took place in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’s first four years from 1907 through 1910. The first three wins went to the same pup, Ch. Warren Remedy, who must have been something really special!
With an average weight of 60 pounds, the Standard poodle is the second-largest dog breed to make the “most frequent wins” list at Westminster. First place crownings are pretty spread out—1935, 1958, 1973, and 1991—though its miniature and toy brethren have filled in the gaps throughout the years. In addition to being a great competitor, poodles are also one of the smartest dog breeds.
A rare breed, the Sealyham terrier has won Westminster’s first-place prize four times. It’s considered an endangered native breed by The Kennel Club, it makes sense that this breed’s wins occurred relatively early in the competition, in 1924, 1927, 1396, and most recently in 1977. In 2010, there were only 49 known Sealyhams, though as of 2018 that number has been bumped up to 107 (after a notable decline from 167 in 2017). By the way, these are the most and least expensive dog breeds in the world.
The Pekingese—often mistaken for a giant ball of fluff rolling across the Westminster judging grounds—has also won Westminster’s Best in Show four times. Its wins are fairly spread out with 1960, 1982, 1990, and 2012. Winner or not, though, the Pekingese is always a crowd pleaser!