Pets & Animals

Homely pooches prepare for World's Ugliest Dog contest

Rascal was the 2002 World's Ugliest Dog winner and 'Ring of Champions' title holder. He's naturally hairless and comes from an 'ugly dog dynasty.'

It’s the only beauty pageant in which droopy ears, patchy hair and a lazy tongue will earn you top prize: The 25th annual World’s Ugliest Dog contest. Once again, a new crew of aesthetically-challenged pups is gearing up for the competition at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, Calif., on June 21.

What’s at stake? A cash prize of $1,500 and worldwide recognition for their so-ugly-it’s-cute looks.

“It started as a homegrown kind of contest — very small and quirky,” contest organizer Vicki DeArmon told “But the whole thing has accelerated beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings.”

It may be the anti-Westminster, but participants still take ugly quite seriously. During the seven years she’s worked on the contest, DeArmon has seen everything from excited fans bearing t-shirts and waving signs to hackers fiddling with online voting results. She describes many of these behind-the-scenes antics in the new book, “World’s Ugliest Dogs.”

“These are some of the best dog owners in the world,” DeArmon said. “Some of them take it very seriously. I think a few hearts have been broken when they haven’t been the winner.”

Ellie Mae has the most votes on the contest's website.

And what makes a winner? A stunning first impression — and a little personality. Three judges will be looking out for shock factor, audience reaction, unusual attributes and a little attitude.

“Does the dog strut across the stage? Does the dog look longingly off at a bone? They’re looking at what kind of things give them personality,” DeArmon said.

Organizers are expecting over 2,000 people at this year’s event, which will include between 25 and 30 dogs. The pups will be separated into two categories for judging — mutts and pedigrees — with the final round being a face-off between the winners of each. Popular breeds include the hairless Chinese crested, pugs and shar-peis.

Creature is a 14-year-old Mexican hairless mix, according to his profile. 'She has blonde hair on her head, tail and feet and the rest of her body is hairless except for a few "old lady back hairs,"' her owners wrote.

While DeArmon wasn’t expecting the contest to gain admirers from around the world, the appeal of these pitifully ugly pups is pretty apparent.

“In a way, we all love an ugly dog, and we love the underdog,” she said. “When you go into a shelter and see a dog that may not normally be adopted, your heart calls to that dog. The contest is a humorous relief that makes the world a little lighter."

Those of you who can’t make it out to the fairgrounds can still vote for your favorites in an online voting contest. As of Tuesday evening, 8-year-old Ellie Mae, a Chinese-crested hairless dog, was in the lead.

“I’m very happy about it. She’s definitely a unique dog that has done a lot of good for a lot of people,” her owner, Ty Oppelt, told “She’s in it to win it.”

Ellie Mae will face some stiff competition at the live event, which includes last year’s hairless champion, Mugly.

Take a look at more of this year's contenders:

Princess Abby has been missing an eye since birth, and her front legs are shorter than her back legs, making it difficult to walk. She took the top prize in last year's contest.
"Reggie's hair grows, or doesn't grow, in so many places we're not sure whether to shave him or treat him with Rogaine," his owners wrote on his profile page.
Samson is a pure breed apricot toy poodle.
Icky is a 2-year-old rescue dog from Davis, Calif. "Icky never passes up the opportunity to raise money for local non-profits who are desperately in need," his owners wrote.
"He has such an impish little personality I named him Scamp after my favorite Disney movie character," Scamp's owner wrote. "He is playing the 'starring' role at my home and in my heart!"
Chupee in a sweater.
Four-year-old Josie is a rescue pup with a bone-chilling shriek.