2,000 pristine physical specimens are descending upon Manhattan as we speak, there to primp and preen and strut their stuff for an audience of some of the world's most discerning taste-makers. But we're not talking about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, though that's happening, too. We're referring of course to the Westminster Kennel Club's 136th Annual Dog Show. Judging begins on the floor of Madison Square Garden on Monday morning, with Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding categories judged that day, and Sporting, Working and Terrier varieties judged on Tuesday. The coveted Best in Show will then be announced on Tuesday evening. As always, USA Network will carry primetime coverage.
Six new breeds are poised to make their debuts at Westminster 2012, after having received official recognition from the American Kennel Club. Let's get acquainted with the frosh class!
AMERICAN ENGLISH COONHOUND (Hound Group)
Description: A "wide-ranging hunter that possesses tremendous speed and endurance" and has "excellent voice," the American English Coonhound are descendants of English Foxhounds, and were bred to hunt fox by day and raccoons by night. The breed has a tough, protective coat that has a cool, splatter-pattern they call "ticked." The breed is "pleasant, alert, confident and sociable with both humans and dogs."
Ideal Owner: Divorced Martha's Vineyard estate-owner, with kids.
CESKY TERRIER (Terrier Group)
Description: This is not a Schnauzer! It's a Cesky Terrier, a "well-muscled, short legged and well-pigmented" hunting terrier with "natural drop ears and a natural tail." It's "soft, long, silky coat" comes in a variety of gray shades, from Charcoal to Platinum. They are "reserved towards strangers, loyal to their owners, but ever keen and alert during the hunt."
Ideal Owner: Energetic, monied, octogenarian spinster.
ENTLEBUCHER MOUNTAIN DOG (Herding Group)
Description: Bred in Switzerland, the medium-sized Entlebucher Mountain Dog is the smallest of the four breeds to come from that alpine country. Breeding has resulted in an "unusually intense bonding between the Entlebucher and his master." The Entlebucher works hard and plays hard, but his guard-dog traits require owners to thoroughly socialize the dog.
Ideal Owner: Oregon-based ostrich farmer.
FINNISH LAPPHUND (Herding Group)
Description: The Finnish Lapphund is a reindeer herding dog from the northern parts of Scandinavia that has existed for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Yes. Believe it. They are popular family pets in Finland, "friendly with all people, highly intelligent and eager to learn."
Ideal Owner: Tilda Swinton.
NORWEGIAN LUNDEHUND (Non-Sporting Group)
Description: Also known as a Puffin Dog, the Norwegian Lundehund has spent hundreds of years roaming the rocky cliffs and high fields of arctic Norway in search of puffin birds, which they'd bring to their masters, who'd farm their meat and feathers. They have "at least six toes" on each foot to aid in stability around the near-vertical locations where puffins nest. A "flexible skeletal structure" allows the Lundehund "to squirm out of tight spots or spread-eagle to prevent slips and falls." With puffins now an endangered species, the Lundehund now acts as an "alert, cheerful and somewhat mischievous companion."
Ideal Owner: Tibetan monk and/or extreme spelunking enthusiast.
XOLOITZCUINTLI (Non-Sporting Group)
Description: Pronounced "show low it's Quintley," or "show-low" for short, the Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican Hairless, is the national dog of Mexico. They are direct descendants of the dogs "prized by the Aztecs and revered as guardians of the dead," and are still found roaming around Mexican jungles 400 years later. (In their profile of the once-lowly, now-hot breed, The New York Times points out that Aztecs also ate them.) They come in three sizes.
Ideal Owner: Faded hip-hop star vying for a comeback.