Thousands of dog lovers, handlers, trainers and owners from around the world -- along with thousands of purebred pooches -- will descend on Madison Square Garden on Monday as the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show kicks off in New York.
From hounds to toys, terriers to sporting breeds, approximately 2,500 dogs from 179 breeds will compete at the annual event, which is the second longest-running sports event in the country, having been launched just one year after the Kentucky Derby.
With no clear favorite this year, the Best in Show title -- currently held by 2010's champion, Sadie the Scottie -- seems to be an open race.
The Westminster Kennel Club was established in 1877 and is the oldest organization "dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs." The governing body, the American Kennel Club, was founded in 1884.
Each of the competing canines have won a smaller champion title -- to be invited to Westminster, a dog must be rated as top five in its breed category. This year 46 of the top 50 champions from last year will again be competing.
This year, six new breeds have entered into the competition: the Boykin Spaniel in the Sporting Group, the Bluetick Coonhound and Redbone Coonhound in the Hound Group, the Cane Corso and the Leonberger in the Working Group, and Icelandic Sheep Dog in the Herding Group.
Each year, the Westminster Kennel Club officially recognizes new breeds. In 2009 the club officially recognized the Boykin Spaniel, Bluetick Coonhound, and Redbone Coonhound, while the Leonberger, Icelandic Sheepdog and Cane Corso gained official recognition just last year. Dog breeds are officially recognized by the American Kennel Club for several reasons, including a standard for the breed's "ideal" and a suitable distribution of the breeds population across the United States.
The show, which will be broadcast Monday and Tuesday on the USA and CNBC networks, will be hosted by sportscaster and former professional tennis player Mary Carillo along with director of communications for Westminster David Frei, who is hosting the event for the 21st year.
Actress and animal health advocate Betty White is expected to make an appearance at the event.