Bo Bengtson Opening Space: The Wide World of Dogs

An imported dog is, once again, #1 of all breeds in the U.S. This marks the third year in a row that an import is Top Dog in AKC competition.

By Bo Bengtson | March 1, 2006

An imported dog is, once again, #1 of all breeds in the U.S., this time with such a wide margin that it’s safe to declare victory for the Scottish-born Pekingese, ‘Jeffrey,’ even before the official figures for 2005 are in.

This marks the third year in a row that an import is Top Dog in AKC competition, the fourth time in the last five years and the sixth in the last 10 years. No matter how you look at it, imports have won more at the top level in the last decade than they have done since the 1920s, when the American Kennel Club first introduced official Best in Show judging.

That’s surprising, to say the least, but the figures are conclusive. In the first decade of recorded Best in Show competition (1925-1934), an import was Top Dog six times; in the second, three times; in the fourth, just once; in the fifth, four times (one dog won three years in a row!); in the sixth, just once again; in the seventh, three times; and in the eighth decade, between 1985-1994, one single import won two years in a row. OK, that leaves 11 years for the last decade, but still... (Do you remember the last few years’ winners? If not, see below.)

In the first part of the last century the American dog sport was still in its infancy, and the top kennels had agents scouring Europe looking for the next great winner. After arriving on these shores, many of these dogs did, indeed, win up a storm — some set records which still stand, others are fondly remembered at least by breed historians, and collectively they helped create the American show dogs of today.

In recent years, however, you would think imports wouldn’t figure as prominently in the top spot as they do. Does this mean that our home-bred American dogs aren’t as good as they used to be? It would be easy to say yes, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s probably rather a question of the world getting smaller and top dogs traveling from one country to another more easily than they used to.

The fact is that American dogs are winning more overseas now than they ever did. Look at Great Britain, for instance — dog people there experience the same phenomenon as we do, with imported dogs taking a disproportionate chunk of the top wins. Case in point: the U.K.’s Top Dog for 2005 is an all American-bred Cocker Spaniel, and in 2004 the winner was a U.S.-born Bichon Frisé. The situation is the same in many other countries, as must be obvious if you’ve followed the overseas reports in our "World in Review” features.


Ten Top Dogs

For the record, here are the last ten years’  Top Dogs in the U.S.:

2005: Pekingese Ch. Yakee If Only (‘Jeffrey,’ imp. U.K.)

2004: Toy Poodle Ch. North Well Chako JP Platina King (‘Coleman,’ imp. Japan)

2003: Norfolk Terrier Ch. Cracknor Cause CŽlbre (‘Coco,’ imp. U.K.)

2002: German Shepherd Dog Ch. Kismet’s Sight For Sore Eyes (‘Dallas’)

2001: Kerry Blue Terrier Ch. Torum’s Scarf Michael (‘Mick,’ imp. U.K.)

2000: Bichon Frisé Ch. Special Times Just Right (‘J.R.’)

1999 & 1998: Standard Poodle Ch. Lake Cove That’s My Boy (‘Trson’)

1997: Norwich Terrier Ch. Fairewood Frolic (‘Rocky,’ imp. Canada)

1996: Standard Schnauzer, Ch. Parsifal di Casa Netzer (‘Pa,’ imp. Italy).

One of the great things about our sport is that it’s a world-wide activity, creating friendships across the borders. No dog person is ever really lost: almost wherever in the world you go, you will find people with similar interests, friends and acquaintances to yourself, perhaps even with a dog that’s somehow related to your own...

If that results in dogs traveling back and forth across the globe, surely that’s good for the sport. Let’s welcome the competition and wish all the wonderful dogs, whether imported or born in the U.S.A, good luck in the new show season, which is already well underway as you read this. 

Among all the beautiful ads in this Annual you will find a lot of good reading, much of it in reference to "imports.” There is Sue LeMieux’s profile of the Yakee kennels (‘Jeffrey’s’ birthplace in Scotland), and an in-depth interview with Peter Green, whose move to the U.S. from Wales in the 1950s marked one of the most significant "imports” of canine talent to the U.S. ever. There are articles about dogs from the past, including Kerrin Winter Churchill’s story about that most American show dog, the great ‘Manhattan,’ and about the Top Dogs of 2005. Of course, there’s also data about Westminster, both from past shows and the one coming up shortly as you read this... All together, it makes for a multi-faceted profile of the U.S. sport of dogs today. Meanwhile, have fun with your dogs!


4,400+ Entries in Palm Springs

Two of the winter season’s top shows were hosted by the Kennel Club of Palm Springs on Jan. 7-8 in California. The Saturday show attracted an entry of 4,403 dogs, and 4,242 were entered on Sunday. Best in Show at both shows was the Australian-born Airedale Terrier, Ch. Oldiron Margaret River, owned by Stephanie Ingram and Frances Lindner, shown by Peter Green. The judges were Dr. Richard F. Greathouse and George J. Heitzman.


In Memoriam: Eileen Pimlott and Elaine Rigden

Two of America’s most experienced and respected active AKC judges died shortly before Christmas. Both officiated regularly at shows across the country and abroad, both awarded Best in Show several times in 2005, and both judged several times at Westminster, including Groups.

Mrs. Eileen Pimlott, of Cupertino, Calif., was born in England, active in Pembroke Welsh Corgis before moving to the U.S. in 1980, and also showed Smooth Fox Terriers. In addition to the Herding and Working Groups (both of which she judged at Westminster), she was also approved for Hounds and Terriers.

Mrs. Elaine I. Rigden, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was a successful professional handler in partnership with her late husband, Jerry. Among the many top winners she handled was the Pekingese, Ch. Coughton Sungable of Perryacre, #2 All Breeds in 1965. Mrs. Rigden was approved to judge all Hounds, Terriers, Toys, Non-Sporting and Herding, and judged the Terrier Group at Westminster in 1999. Further tributes will be published when available.


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