The American hairless terrier, pumi, and sloughi dog breeds will have their shining moments at the most famous US canine championship next month.
Trotted out Monday at a “Meet the Breeds” event prior to the contest, the three newly approved breeds will compete against some 200 other breeds and varieties at the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
“The club has maintained its traditions while expanding to accommodate an ever-changing, dog-loving public,” Westminster spokeswoman Gail Miller Bisher said at the press conference.
Though newcomers to the show, not one of the three breeds was developed recently.
“There’s a tendency to call them new breeds – the truth is that many of them are very old, in fact, ancient,” Ms. Miller said.
Derived from the rat terrier in the 1970s, the hypo-allergenic American hairless terrier does not have a fuzzy coat but never lacks energy or curiosity. This high-energy dog is said to be quick to learn, but it is also known for its gentle, affectionate nature.
The pumi, with terrier roots and an adorable mass of tight curls, was developed as a Hungarian herding dog. Owners of this bushy-coated, curly-tailed, big eared breed hear “your dog’s so CUTE!” so often that they've turned it into a “whimsical expression,” the Associated Press reports.
“We say they’re ‘Curious,’ ‘Unique,’ ‘Tenacious’ and ‘Energetic,’” Nancy Nelson of Norwalk, Conn., the owner of a 5-year-old pumi, Zsa Zsa, told the AP.
Originally bred to herd cattle and other animals, this dog is “a quick learner,” Ms. Miller said, according to the New York Post.
But prospective owners will ideally need a lot of land to allow the dogs to work out their pent-up liveliness, as they need more activity than simple walks, says Ms. Nelson. Some who know the breed suggest that the pumi is best suited to families with older kids or couples without children.
Similarly, the sloughi, or Arabian greyhound, is also an athletic dog. Dating back to 8,000 B.C., when it was initially bred in North Africa, this dog has a long history of hunting game such as jackals and gazelles, according to Miller.
“Fetching is something they are, not what they do,” sloughi owner Erika Wyatt of Maple Park, Il., told the New York Post.
While the sloughi enjoys playing in the yard and chasing small animals, the dogs are inclined to be shy with strangers and tightly bonded with their human families, sloughi owner Julie Tenbensel of Bolingbrook, Il., told the AP.
In addition to the traditional breed judging, these three new breeds will face competitions in agility and obedience this year.
More than 2,800 dogs will be participating in this year's show, slated for Feb. 11, 13, and 14 at the Madison Square Park. But this year they will not be the only species in the spotlight. Some pedigreed cats will also be featured at this year’s non-competitive “meet the breeds” event.
The inclusion of new dog breeds this year is a reminder of the ongoing tension between the American Kennel Club and some animal advocates, who oppose encouraging the breeding of animals for pets, when as many as 70 millions dogs and cats are estimated to be homeless in the US. In order for the AKC to recognize a breed, there must be several several hundred dogs of the breed nationwide.
The AKC, however, argues that responsible breeding produces higher-quality breeds and better pets.