With Westminster's Best-in-Show, Uno, Beagles Finally Have Their Moment

After 100 years of Westminster snubbery, beagles finally find victory in Uno.

Feb. 13, 2008— -- In the cartoons, beagles are cool. In the comic strips, Snoopy made beagles heroic.

But at the Westminster Kennel Club's world-famous dog show, beagles lose. For 100 years, they've watched poodles and terriers hoard the glory. This year, Vegas had the odds of a beagle winning Best in Show at 400-1.

But this dog finally has his day.

Uno, a 3-year-old from Illinois, is the perfect incarnation of ancient genes, according to the Westminster judges. He has the long ears that are favored by hunters because they keep scents close to the ground. Though it wasn't put to the test in the judging at Madison Square Garden this week, he likely has a nose that could find a mouse in an acre-wide field in under a minute.

The breed goes back to ancient Rome, where beagles were around before the birth of Christ. Shakespeare wrote of their loyalty, and their fan base — which has included world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth and President Johnson — is certain to swell.

"I think with the breed winning the Westminster Dog Show is just going to increase the popularity of the breed and more people are going to become aware of how great they are as a house dog for a family," John Cisto of the Bath & Biscuit Dog Spa said.

But beagle buyers beware. Beagles' single-minded determination to sniff, howl and dig makes them great hunters but high-maintenance roommates.

Uno's handler, Aaron Wilkerson, had some advice for anyone inspired by the pup's victory to go get themselves a beagle.

"I hope you have a fenced-in yard," he said. "They like to put their nose down and go check everything out."

But those willing to put in the work could be rewarded with 25 pounds of tail-wagging love and, hopefully, the new status won't go to beagles' heads.