Live Updates: The Westminster Dog Show Will Crown the Nation’s Best Dog

“ITS VERY GREAT SUCCESS.” The Times was not subtle in its praise of the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.Credit…The New York Times

In the spring of 1877, The New York Times reported that “a new fashionable amusement” was coming to Manhattan: an exhibition of more than 1,000 dogs. “They came singly, in pairs, in dozens, and in truck-loads” read an article published on May 8 of that year. “Crowds of boys and men surrounded the portals, and gazed with open-mouthed interest at the unending procession.”

The paper’s colorful coverage of the event, now known as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, began with its first outing at Gilmore’s Garden, which would later be known as Madison Square Garden. “The dogs are nearly all gentle and willing to make friends with strangers, but there are others to whom it will be prudent to give a wide berth,” the article continued. Two days later, another report: “The prize St. Bernard dog, Lion, bit two persons yesterday.” (Neither was seriously injured.)

The venue was rented for three days for $1,500, but the event drew such dense crowds that it was extended for a fourth day. “The gentlemen who served as ticket-sellers could not make change fast enough to suit the impatience of the throng that was continually clamoring for admittance,” one report read.

Reporters encountered five “superb” mastiffs, a St. Bernard “as large as a Shetland pony,” and a selection of “dainty” pugs and poodles. Prizes including guns and gold coins were awarded to standouts in some breeds, however, the best in show competition did not yet exist.

“The bull dog that took the prize is about as ugly an animal as one would wish to see,” read an article published on May 11. “His nose is bent and wrinkled so as to be almost on a level with the top of his head, and he is so fat he can hardly waddle.”

The Times was kinder to a Skye terrier named Jet that became a crowd favorite: “The ladies will go into ecstasies over Jet,” a reporter predicted.

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