A new breed is vying to be the top dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
For the first time, the Azawakh will participate in the annual event in New York which will take place from February 8 to 11. It will be one of more than 200 breeds and varieties represented in the contest for which there is no cash prize.
“It’s about honour, prestige, trophy and being part of history,” said Gail Miller Bisher, national spokesperson for the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
The West African greyhound is now recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and therefore eligible for Westminster. For a breed to be recognized by the AKC, “there must be a minimum number of dogs geographically distributed across the United States, as well as an established breed club of responsible owners and breeders,” according to Samantha. Seymour, AKC public relations officer. .
Bisher says new breeds are being recognized “almost every year.”
“These breeds – they may be very old breeds, actually, in other parts of the world, but they’re becoming more and more popular in the United States, and so that’s the case with the Azawakh” , she says.
In December, the AKC recognized two more breeds: the Barbet, a sociable French Water Dog, and the Dogo Argentino, an Argentinian big game hunter. However, these newcomers are not eligible to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show until 2021.
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Azawakhs are loyal dogs that “look like a work of art”
For Fabian Arienti, the proud owner of six Azawakhs, the addition of race is quite substantial.
“It actually means a lot because it’s an extremely beautiful breed,” he says. “I believe they look like a work of art, like a sculpture.”
He is excited about the dog’s exhibit, which first caught his eye nearly 30 years ago at a dog show in Argentina.
“(The show) only had one, but it was walking and me and my partner (we were) like, ‘Wow, what is this?'” he recalled. “After that, for many years” the breed remained “in our heads”. Seven years ago the search for an Azawakh began and the couple got their first.
Arienti says he’s showing three Azawakhs at Westminster, including a top AKC champion for the breed. He names the dog’s devotion among his best attributes.
“That they are extremely loyal to you,” he says, “the way they love you, the way they protect you.”
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Both Bisher and Arienti comment on the hunting dog’s propensity to be active.
“They’re similar, I would say, to some of the other greyhounds in that they’re very relaxed and they’re fine lying on your couch all day,” says Bisher. “But when you take them out into the yard and they start running and leaving, then be careful because they’re quick, and they’re quick and you don’t want them to get away from you.”
Dogs do best when they have space to exercise, agrees Arienti.
“People (ask) me, ‘Oh, can we have them in an apartment?’ And, I think it’s just (better) to have them where they can go out there and run around and have fun,” he says.
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