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Petit basset griffon Vendéen wins best in show at Westminster

By JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press
Published: May 9, 2023, 8:41pm

NEW YORK — This Buddy Holly no longer has to sigh, “That’ll be the day.”

A petit basset griffon Vendéen named for the late rock ‘n’ roll legend won won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday night, a first for his rabbit-hunting breed.

Buddy Holly bested six other finalists to garner the most prestigious dog show award in the United States. PBGVs, as they’re known for short, are the 154th most prevalent purebreds in the country, according to recent American Kennel Club rankings.

“I never thought a PBGV would do this,” handler and co-owner Janice Hayes said. “Buddy Holly is the epitome of a show dog.”

His competitors included Rummie, a Pekingese that aimed to bring home the third trophy in 11 years for his small-but-regal breed. Winston the French bulldog was gunning for the title after coming oh-so-close last year.

An Australian shepherd named Ribbon, an English setter called Cider, a giant schnauzer named Monty and an American Staffordshire terrier called Trouble also were in the pack of contenders.

If Buddy Holly was feeling the pressure, he wasn’t letting it show ahead of finals. Instead, he seemed more concerned late Tuesday afternoon with playing with his people and rejecting the notion of a nap in his crate.

“He just screams PBGV,” Hayes said. “They’re just very independent but very charming and just silly. Their goal is to make you laugh every day.”

Originally from France, the small hounds were traditionally rabbit-hunters. (Their name means “low-lying, wire-haired dog from the Vendée region” and is pronounced peh-TEE’ bah-SAY’ grihf-FAHN’ vahn-DAY’-ahn.)

Buddy Holly — so named because “he’s a buddy,” breeder Gavin Robertson explained — has also lived and competed in his native United Kingdom and in Ireland and Australia.

Ribbon is “like the fun girl at the party,” handler Jessica Plourde said. Rummie is “true to Pekingese type, lots of carriage, presence — everything in one, here,” said owner and breeder David Fitzpatrick, who guided Pekes Malachy and Wasabi to Westminster wins in 2012 and 2021, respectively.

Winstoncame in second at Westminster last year and went on to win last fall’s National Dog Show, hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. Now he’s representing the most prevalent dog breed in the United States, as of rankings released in March.

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He “just steals your heart,” handler and co-owner Perry Payson said after Winston’s spirited semifinal turn, which included an impromptu leap into a decorative box in the middle of the ring.

Each Westminster finalist first has bested other dogs of its breed, and then of its “group,” such as toy dogs or hounds. Among the breeds up for semifinal group judging Tuesday night was the newly eligible bracco Italiano, won by a dog co-owned by country music star Tim McGraw.

Besides the chosen finalists, there were other fan favorites, too.

There was the bloodhound that bowed deeply before a judge, the golden retriever cheered by the breed’s many fans, and the spunky German shorthaired pointer that did a few leaps before its lap around the ring. Spectators applauded 10-year-old handler Audra Maes and her shiba inu and breeder/owner/handler Alexandria Mitchell and her Ibizan hound. They made the judge’s first cut, an accomplishment at a show where many exhibitors handle other people’s dogs as a career.

The Westminster show, held this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, also includes obedience and agility competitions that are open to mixed-breed dogs.

About 2,500 dogs of 210 breeds and varieties vied for the trophy. Hundreds more competed in agility, obedience and other events.

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