Dogs Descend on NYC for Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

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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.

Each of the competing canines have won some sort of 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.

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.