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Westminster introduces 6 new breeds to competition

Six dogs will make history this year as the newest breeds eligible to compete at Westminster. If they have visions of winning, though, history is against them.

The names of some of these rookie breeds competing in this year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Feb. 13-14 at Madison Square Garden are a mouthful: the Entlebucher mountain dog, the Norwegian Lundehund, the American English coonhound, the Finnish Lapphund, the Cesky terrier and the Xoloitzcuintli, previously known as the Mexican Hairless.

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    Image: Yorkshire Terrier

    Which are the best-loved breeds in the nation? The American Kennel Club reveals the leaders of the pack.

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    America’s top dogs

    Which breeds are the top contenders for man’s best friend? The American Kennel Club ranks the most popular pups of the year.

    Shih Tzu
    While sweet and playful, Shih Tzus are not afraid to stand up for themselves. As a matter of fact, the word Shih Tzu means "lion" in Mandarin. This portable pooch carries itself proudly, with its head well up and tail curved over the back.

    Cherished by Chinese royals for more than a thousand years, the Shih Tzu was the prized house pet for most of the Ming Dynasty. During World War II, English soldiers discovered the breed and its popularity spread around the world.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    9. Poodle

    The poodle holds the record for being the most popular dog for 22 consecutive years (1960-1982). Though the breed’s elaborately groomed show coat often creates the misperception that it’s a pampered aristocrat, the poodle is actually one of the high achievers of the canine world.

    The stylish “poodle clip” seen in dog shows was designed by hunters to help the breed move through the water more efficiently. In fact, the English word "poodle" comes from the German pudel or pudelin, which means “to splash in water.”

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    8. Dachshund

    The breed lovingly known as the “wiener dog” has a strong personality with a dose of charm and a playful sense of humor. They can adapt to city or country life and can get all the exercise they need exploring a small yard in the suburbs or playing with other dogs in the dog park.

    Dachshunds, meaning “badger dogs” in German, were first bred in the early 1600s in Germany with the goal of creating a fearless, elongated dog that could dig the earth from a burrow and eliminate the badgers for the farmers.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    7. Boxer

    Easy to care for, intelligent, and faithful, the boxer is an affectionate and trustworthy pet for an active family. Boxers are known for standing up on their hind legs and batting at their opponent, appearing to box with itheir front paws.

    People began importing them to America from Germany after World War I, and they began to grow in popularity in the late 1930s.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    6. Bulldog

    The bulldog has been steadily rising up the list of AKC’s most popular breeds since it entered the Top 10 in 2007. A medium-size dog, they are not your typical lapdog, but would like to be! Bulldogs are calm, loyal family dogs that are happy to curl up on the sofa, eat two or three square meals a day, and have their bellies rubbed.

    Said to have originated in the British Isles, the name "bull" was applied because of the dog’s connection with bull-baiting. The original bulldog had to be ferocious and courageous, and almost insensitive to pain.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    5. Golden retriever

    Slipping one place to fifth, golden retrievers are well-balanced, strong, active dogs with a kind expression, a gentle manner and an alert and self-confident disposition. They are intelligent, friendly and reliable, with an innate need to please their owners.

    The breed originated in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1800s and the dogs were used predominantly for hunting.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    4. Beagle

    The beagle is the only breed to rank in the Top 10 every decade since the founding of the AKC. Originally developed to hunt rabbits, they naturally enjoy the company of other dogs and humans. Curious and comedic, they often follow their noses – which can lead to some mischief.

    Beagles like to vocalize. In fact, the origin of the name "beagle" may have been derived from the French term "be’geule," referring to the baying voice of the hounds when in pursuit of game. The most famous beagle of all, Snoopy, was named the American Kennel Club’s “most popular dog in pop culture” in 2009.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    3. Yorkshire terrier

    These playful dogs offer owners a big personality in a small package. Though members of the Toy Group, this breed is terrierlike by nature — brave, determined, investigative and energetic. Yorkies are highly favored apartment dogs and lapdogs; they are very energetic as puppies and tend to be quiet and settled as adults.

    In 19th century Yorkshire, England, Yorkies caught rats for workers in cloth mills. The breed’s coat was so beautiful that people said the mill workers must have spun their coats in the factories.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    2. German shepherd

    Celebrated for their versatility, distinguished for their intelligence, and beloved for their devotion to their owners, German shepherds are active dogs that love to run and explore their surroundings with their excellent noses.

    Hailed as the world’s leading police, guard and military dog, German shepherds also serve as guide dogs for the blind, guardians, and search-and-rescue dogs. However, they are best known for serving as devoted family friend and protector.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club
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    1. Labrador retriever

    In 1991, Labrador retrievers took over the top spot on AKC’s list of the most popular dogs in the U.S. from the cocker spaniel, and today celebrate their 20th anniversary in the top spot.

    These gentle animals are happiest when with their owners, and require attention and love as much as food and water. Labs are high-energy, action-oriented dogs and can become easily bored without proper training and exercise – ideal for an active family or as a trusted hunting companion.

    Courtesy of The American Kennel Club / Courtesy of The American Kennel Club

The six new breeds bring to 185 the number that will compete this year for the best of show grand prize in the annual contest, the oldest sporting event in the United States next to the Kentucky Derby, said David Frei, the club's director of communications and the USA Network show host.

In 1990, there were 142 eligible breeds.

This is no limit on the number of new breeds that can be admitted each year, but there are strict criteria. For the last 12 years, no more than six rookies have been approved in any year, Frei said.

Before the American Kennel Club will approve a new breed, there have to be a significant number of the dogs in the United States and there has to be a breed club to oversee enthusiasts and geographic diversity.

The rookies will compete with all the other dogs but they won't be a good bet to win best in show.

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Frei said the rookie that rose to the top and became best in show fastest was the Bichon Frise. That breed made its debut in 1974 and was named best of show in 2001, a 27-year gap.

The rookies

The AKC provided these thumbnail sketches of this year's rookie breeds:

— The American English coonhound is a descendent of the English foxhound and evolved from Virginia hounds. Originally used to hunt fox by day and raccoon by night, they were once called the English fox and coonhound.

The breed is pleasant, alert, confident and sociable with both humans and dogs. The modern version of the dog is a speedy, durable and wide-ranging hunter.

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
This undated photo courtesy of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show shows an American English coonhound. Six breeds will make history this year as the newest breeds eligible to compete at Westminster. (AP Photo/Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show)

It is represented by the American English Coonhound Association.

— The Entlebucher mountain dog is a native of Switzerland and the smallest of the four AKC Swiss breeds. Prized for its work ethic and ease of training, this dog can easily switch from high-spirited playmate to serious, self-assured dog with a commanding presence. This is not a good dog for the casual owner because it needs so much socialization and will remain active and energetic all its life.

It is sponsored by the National Entlebucher Mountain Dog Association.

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— The Finnish Lapphund is a reindeer herding dog from the northern parts of Scandinavia. It is thought that this breed existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years as a helper dog to native tribes. Today, they are popular as family pets in their native Finland. Devoted to their family, they are friendly with all people, highly intelligent and eager to learn. They are strong but very agile.

They are represented by the Finnish Lapphund Club of America.

— The Norwegian Lundehund is also called the puffin dog. It spent centuries on the rocky cliffs and high fields of arctic Norway hunting and retrieving puffin birds, which was an important meat and feather crop to local farmers.

This dog has at least six toes on each foot so it can handle the almost vertical areas where puffins nest. It also has a flexible skeletal structure that enables it to squirm out of tight spots or go spread eagle to prevent slips and falls.

Today's version of the dog is an alert, cheerful and somewhat mischievous companion.

It is represented by the Norwegian Lundehund Club of America, Inc.

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— The Xoloitzcuintli is the national dog of Mexico and was previously known as the Mexican Hairless. It comes in three sizes and there is a coated version seen only in the United States and Canada. These dogs are descendants of the hairless dogs prized by the Aztecs and revered as guardians of the dead.

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
This undated photo courtesy of Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show shows a Cesky terrier. Six breeds will make history this year as the newest breeds eligible to compete at Westminster. (AP Photo/Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show)

Living in the Mexican jungles, they were shaped by their environment. Their intelligence, trainability and natural cleanliness have turned them into unique and valued pets.

It is sponsored by the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America.

— The Cesky terrier is a well-muscled, short legged hunting terrier that can be worked in packs. With natural drop ears and a natural tail, it is longer than it is tall and has a long, soft, silky coat that can be any shade of gray from charcoal to platinum.

Lean and graceful, the dogs are reserved toward strangers but loyal to their owners and always keen and alert during a hunt.

This breed is sponsored by the American Cesky Terrier Fanciers Association.

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