three english bulldogs view the passersby at the 61st annual show of picture

Old Dogs, No Tricks

Sit and stay for vintage shots from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Sporting men with a penchant for drink are who we have to thank for the annual paw parade that is the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Named after the group’s favorite watering hole — the now-defunct Westminster Hotel in New York City — the Westminster Kennel Club began competitively showing dogs in 1877 in Gilmore’s Garden (the predecessor to Madison Square Garden).

Some 141 years later, their grand tradition continues, with all manner of canine queuing up at the Garden to vie for the title of “Best in Show.” As the 2018 show kicks off, we take a walk through ceremonies of yore.

Dog Years Bettmann/Bettmann Archive Dog Years The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show had been taking place for nearly 40 years by the time this stoic photo — one of the event’s earliest in the Getty archives — was taken in 1915.
It Takes All Kinds Underwood Archives/Getty Images It Takes All Kinds Around 35 different breeds competed in the first show in 1877. That number has since ballooned to more than 200 — making for some interesting dog piles. Here, in 1937, a miniature pinscher tries to hold his own against four Great Danes. The Puparazzi Bettmann/Bettmann Archive The Puparazzi Given Westminster’s blue-blood roots, the show has attracted many a celebrity. In addition to bold-faced owners like J.P. Morgan, the Queen of England, and journalist Nellie Bly, famous attendees have included Broadway actress Genevieve Tobin, posing here with smooth fox terrier Clapton Trickling. Making Weight Underwood Archives/Getty Images Making Weight Griselda, a 2-year-old Pomeranian, steps on the scale before the show. At a diminutive 1 pound, 12 ounces, she was the tiniest contender in 1941.
Hair Apparent Bert Morgan/Getty Images Hair Apparent Yes, there’s a pooch under there. Standard poodle Champion Broadrun Cherry took home the ribbon for “Best Variety in Breed” in 1943. File this under #inspo for your next bad hair day. Boy’s Best Friend Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images Boy’s Best Friend We dare you not to say “awwwww.” A bulldog gets a visit backstage from a sailor-suited pal at the 1945 show. Mirror Image Bert Morgan/Getty Images Mirror Image It took a discerning judge’s eye to see the difference between “Best in Breed” Champion Hampton Hill Defiant and fellow Sealyham terrier Hampton Hill Dream Girl.
Shagadelic Underwood Archives/Getty Images Shagadelic Proving 20/20 vision is totally overrated, this overgrown Old English sheepdog won “Best in Breed” at the 1947 show. Hot Dog! Bettmann/Bettmann Archive Hot Dog! Chihuahua Nina Mia Vi waits her turn in a plastic case meant to keep her warm in drafty Madison Square Garden. A Cut Above Ernst Haas/Getty Images A Cut Above A Bedlington terrier gets a last-minute trim backstage. The breed’s distinctive ears are often described as “filbert-shaped,” in reference to the tree leaves, and are typically groomed into tassels.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie Ernst Haas/Getty Images Let Sleeping Dogs Lie A Great Dane naps in his pen beside his tired owner in 1952. Bad Fad Bettmann/Bettmann Archive Bad Fad Earrings were apparently all the rage at the 1955 show. Here, 15-month-old bloodhound Bonnie Lass of Hugenot is made to wear a pair of danglers, only adding to her droop. Top Dog Bob Gomel/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images Top Dog Living up to his name, Top Billing — a miniature poodle seen here with curlers in his hair — won “Best in Breed” at the 1964 show.
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