The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has returned to Madison Square Garden once again for its 144th year of bringing together the most devoted dog owners and their impeccably groomed purebreds.
"This is the Super Bowl for dogs," host of the show Jenny Taft told Cheddar. "These dogs have worked their whole life to be here, to come to Madison Square Garden and put on a show."
Established in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is America's second-oldest sporting event behind the Kentucky Derby. It brings together hundreds of breeds and varieties to compete in a series of contests that test breeding, obedience, and agility.
"There is no prize money. It's all about the prestige of winning Best in Show," said Taft, whose full-time job is moderating sports debates on Fox Sports 1's Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.
Dogs compete in multiple qualifying rounds before reaching the top tier. A total of 330 dogs will run, strut, primp, and preen in this year's competitions.
The Masters Agility Championship took place over the weekend at Pier 94 in Manhattan. The event entails owners working closely with their dogs to guide them as fast as possible through an elaborate obstacle course of ramps, tunnels, and jumping bars. The winner this year was a border collie from Ohio named P!nk that completed the course in 29.35 seconds.
While the competition might not produce the same high-caliber rivalries and dramatic narratives as the NFL or NBA, every year offers some intrigue for the initiated dog show watcher.
"You get invested into the storylines," Taft said. "There's always a little drama."
The final event takes place on Tuesday, February 11 in Madison Square Garden with the naming of this year's Best in Show — the top honor bestowed to conclude the tournament.
In earlier competitions, breeds are divided between herding, hound, non-sporting, sporting, terrier, toy, and working breeds, but all compete against each other for the prestigious final prize.