A Tenacious and Wild Pekingese Is the Ugliest Dog, After Five Tries

Maybe it’s the way his lolling pink tongue juts out, or how his glittering wide eyes bejewel a tiny head under a mop of long, frizzy, brown-and-white fur, but there’s just something about Wild Thang — and a panel of judges agreed.

The 8-year-old Pekingese from Oregon was crowned the World’s Ugliest Dog on Friday, confirming that when the looks are, well, lacking, there’s something to be said for persistence. It was his fifth try for the top prize at the competition.

“His victory is a testament to his undeniable charm and resilience,” said a statement released by the competition following Wild Thang’s big win.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Wild Thang’s life got off to a difficult start, according to his biography (yes, he has one). As a puppy, he contracted distemper, an infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. He barely survived, and his biography notes that Wild Thang was left permanently affected by the disease: “His teeth did not grow in, causing his tongue to stay out and his right front leg paddles 24/7.”

Nevertheless, Wild Thang is “a healthy, happy Glugly (glamorous/ugly) guy” who “loves people, other dogs and especially his toys.”

Like other beauty pageant winners, Wild Thang champions causes dear to him, according to his biography. He has helped raise money to get his fellow Pekingese doggies in Ukraine to safety — and has already saved seven of them from the war zone.

According to his biography, Wild Thang’s “purpose in life is to promote the necessity of getting your pets vaccinated.” He recently retired to Oregon with his owner, Ann Lewis, who was not available for comment.

On Wild Thang’s Instagram, pictures and videos of the “glugly” dog show him in “goblin mode,” taste-testing food and staring intensely with his big brown eyes, his fur a large brown storm swirling all around him.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fiona Ma, the California State treasurer and a judge in the competition, said Wild Thang’s persistence won some hearts: The fact “that he was the bridesmaid and never the bride, I think really tugged at our heartstrings,” she said.

“He deserved to win,” she added.

Amy Gutierrez, a sports journalist and also a judge in the competition, called the contest a “misnomer.”

“There are no ‘ugly’ dogs and this event not only raises awareness for rescue dog adoption, but serves as a reminder that every dog deserves to be loved,” she said in a statement.

The history of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest stretches back decades, according to organizers, and it stands as a “testament that the pedigree does not define the pet.”

All breeds and dog sizes are welcome to apply to the competition that “celebrates the imperfections that make all dogs special and unique” and promotes adopting, not shopping, for your family pet.

“Many of the contestant dogs have been rescued from shelters and puppy mills, to find loving homes in the hands of those willing to adopt,” organizers said in a statement.

That message rings louder this year as shelters across the country have found themselves at or near their breaking points as the number of unwanted dogs has surged. More than 359,000 dogs were euthanized at shelters in 2023, according to Shelter Animals Count, a group that advocates animal welfare. That number was a five-year high.

The group’s annual report notes that “shifting from buying puppies to adopting homeless pets has become increasingly critical to help struggling shelters.”

The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest is hosted by the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which is held in Petaluma, Calif. As the winner, Wild Thang will be featured on the “Today” show on NBC on Monday morning, and will have his stunning visage grace limited-edition cans of Mug Root Beer, a new sponsor for the competition. He will also take home $5,000 for his first-place finish.

“The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest continues to celebrate the beauty of individuality and the unbreakable spirit of these remarkable canines,” organizers said in a statement. “These dogs remind us that true beauty is not defined by conventional standards but rather by the love, joy and resilience they bring into our lives.”

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