On February 15 and 16, 2016, New York City’s Madison Square Garden hosts one of the grandest dog galas, The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (WKC). This year, the show celebrates its 140th year with thousands of dogs vying for group honors. For each group—herding, sporting, non-sporting, hound, terrier, toy, and working—around 30 dogs compete to be among the seven vying for Best in Show honors.
The dogs in the show not only represent their breeds and groups, but also different countries. Westminster is definitely a global affair! With that in mind, there are several breeds representing their Asian roots. Keep your eyes open for these dogs during this year’s show.
Afghan Hound | Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran | Hound Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Two (1957, 1983)
Originating in the region now known as Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, the Afghan Hound—due to its speed and agility—was used primarily for hunting gazelle, antelopes, and even leopards. The dog was cherished as an independent thinker, which helped hunters since the dogs could act without direction.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Afghan Hound in 1926. Known as a sight hound, the dog is recognized by its long, flowing fur, hooked tail, tall stature, and bouncy gait as well as it’s cheerful, independent, but goofy personality. Many with a fondness for the breed call it an “aristocrat dog” given its royal look.
Afghan Hounds may not be for everyone as they are high-energy dogs that require lots of space to run. They also require plenty of grooming thanks to their long coats.
According to the AKC in 2015, the Afghan Hound is the 95th most popular dog breed in the United States. The dog is also known as one of the oldest dog breeds and is possibly the dog portrayed in Egyptian art dating back to around 4000 B.C.
Akita | Japan | Working Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
The Akita dog may date back to the 15th Century, but records and skeletal remains may date the dog back 5000 years. The Akita originated in the Akita prefecture in Honshu, Japan, and was thought to be a companion dog for Japanese warriors and named a national treasure in 1931. In 1972, the Akita was recognized by the AKC.
The Akita is a large dog with moderate energy. The dog is known to be dignified, sometimes aloof, and courageous; most of all, it’s known for its unwavering loyalty to its owners. The most famous example of the dog’s loyalty is Hachiko, the dog who waited for his owner, Professor Ueno, at the Shhibuya train station for ten years after Ueno’s death. A statue of Hachiko stands in his memory.
Akita dogs need moderate exercise according to the AKC. For grooming, the AKC considers the Akita as “cat-like” in that they like to clean themselves.
In 2015, the Akita was considered the 45th most popular dog in the United States.
Anatolian Shepherd | Turkey | Working Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
The Anatolian Shepherd Dog’s roots start in what is now known as Turkey. The dog’s purpose was to herd and guard livestock and were revered for their abilities and gentle handing of sheep and goats. The dogs were so important to shepherds that if one was killed, the killer had to pay in grain. The dogs were rarely kept as pets.
This large-sized, medium-energy dog is calm, loyal, but possesses an independent spirit. They are highly intelligent and require activities that keep them mentally stimulated. They are not apartment dogs and need space. Grooming-wise, a weekly brushing may suffice.
The AKC recognized the Anatolian Shepherd in 1996. As of 2015, they are the 92nd most popular dog in the US.
Black Russian Terrier | Russia* |Working Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
High-energy, loyal, protective, intelligent, and powerful, the Black Russian Terrier was recognized by the AKC in 2004. The AKC reports it’s the 121st most popular dog.
History suggests the Black Russian Terrier was developed by the Soviet Union and used as a military breed. The dog is meant to be a utility dog that could adapt to its environment. It’s a highly intelligent breed that excels in agility and needs mental stimulation and socialization. This dog is not for first-time dog owners.
Despite being called a terrier, the Black Russian Terrier is not a true terrier. It’s believed to developed from the Newfoundland, Airedale Terrier, Rottweiler, Giant Schnauzer, and the Ovtcharka. It looks close to the French Bouvier des Flandres.
Borzoi | Russia*, Kyrgyzstan | Hound Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Agile and graceful, the Borzoi looks like it’s in motion even when standing still! Like the Afghan Hound, the Borzoi is a sight hound that’s built to be fast and agile for catching small prey and even wolves.
The Borzoi has a storied, noble history starting with how one Borzoi, Tasha, is said to be the “pedigree ancestor of most British Borzoi bloodlines,” according to Desiree Scott. In popular culture, the Borzoi appears in art as well as several books, anime, and movies including Lady and the Tramp, The Hunger Games, War and Peace, and Medaka Box among others.
While Borzois can be energetic, they are considered a low-maintenance dog. Beware, as some like to chew! They don’t require a lot of grooming: Just an occasional brush and trim makes them happy.
The Borzoi, which is the 99th most popular dog breed, is one of the oldest AKC-recognized dogs as it was recognized in 1891.
Update: On Tuesday February 16, watch Lucy compete in the Best-in-the-Show final for the WKC dog show. She won the Hound Group on Monday February 15, 2016.
Canaan Dog | Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria | Herding Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Hailing from Israel, the Canaan Dog has been around for thousands of years. In its early years, it wasn’t recognized as a pet but as a feral dog. The dog didn’t start to become a domesticated animal until the 1930s when Dr. Rudolphina Menzel wanted to use them as guard dogs due to their high trainability. Dr. Menzel once wanted to use them as guide dogs, but because of their independent natures, this project—save for a few—was unsuccessful.
Canaan Dogs are intelligent, often learning tasks quickly. However, they do not like repetition and need new activities to keep them stimulated. Because of this, they excel in herding, agility, and obedience activities. They do require space and plenty of exercise to keep them happy. With this, they love their families and aren’t aggressive, but they are defensive, especially when strangers are introduced. They are alert, confident, and vigilant according to the AKC, so they still make excellent guard dogs.
The AKC recognized the breed in 1997. It’s the 170th most popular dog as of 2015.
Chinese Crested | China | Toy Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
The Chinese Crested comes in two varieties: Smooth and powder puff. The smooth variety looks like a small Clydesdale horse with a “mane” and fur at its feet. The powder puff variety has a full coat.
This friendly, cheerful, small dog has roots in China, but research into the dog shows they have connections in Mexico and Africa. The Chinese variety dates back to the 13th Century where records show the dog was used as a companion and to kill rats on ships. As time progressed, breeders, including burlesque actress Gypsy Rose Lee, helped to increase the breed’s popularity into Europe and the United States.
Both varieties of Chinese Crested require care. The powder puff version does need plenty of brushing, while the smooth variety is prone to sunburns and dry skin and need care for those issues. As with many other toy dogs, health issues—specifically with the eyes—may crop up. With these negatives aside, their cheery and affectionate natures make them great with children. They are energetic and work well on the agility circuit.
The 63rd most popular dog breed was recognized by the AKC in 1991.
Chow Chow | China | Non-Sporting Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Famous for its recognizable blue tongue, the Chow Chow is the notable dog of choice by Martha Stewart. The AKC’s 68th most popular dog is a serious, dignified dog that may be aloof.
While there is information missing about the dog’s history, the Chow Chow is traced to China where it served as a hunting dog for nobility. When imperial hunts ceased, pure bloodlines of the dog were kept at monasteries and by the wealthy. The Chow’s spread into Europe was helped due to them coming over on cargo ships. Queen Victoria was a Chow fancier, helping their popularity increase.
Despite their size, Chows can be lazy and make surprisingly well-adapted apartment dogs. Don’t expect them to be too playful either. They do require plenty of grooming as their fur can become matted. With proper care, the Chow resembles a lion. It’s a protective dog, but shy around strangers.
The AKC recognized the breed in 1903.
Japanese Chin | China, Japan | Toy Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Recognized in 1888, the Japanese Chin is another dog with a long history with the AKC. Affectionate and charming, the Japanese Chin—which doesn’t originate in Japan—was kept by Chinese aristocrats. There are three different stories regarding how the Chin made its way into Japan, with some stories suggesting zen Buddhists brought the dogs to Japan in the 500s A.D., or a Korean prince bringing the dog into the country in the 700s A.D. Another story suggests a Chinese emperor brought the dog to Japan and gifted it to an imperial family. No matter the story, the dog was kept as a lap dog and became a symbol of luxury before Portuguese sailors brought the dog to Europe in the 16th Century.
The Chin was once known as the Japanese Spaniel and was once larger than its present form. Animal Planet reports the dog may have been mixed with toy spaniels in order to give it its modern height and appearance.
The 91st most popular dog is known to be clown-like with its people, but reserved around strangers. With regular grooming, the dog is soft and silky. Unfortunately, due to its buggy eyes and pushed face, the Chin is prone to breathing and eye issues. It does like to play, so it is an energetic pup.
Lhasa Apso | Tibet | Non-Sporting Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Cute, fluffy, smart, and confident, the Lhasa Apso was once the dog of Buddhists. The sacred, revered dog’s history is wrapped in Buddhist beliefs of reincarnation as it’s believed the souls of Buddhist lamas entered the dog’s bodies upon death. The dogs were also used to guard Buddhist temples.
Introduced in Europe in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the Lhasa was originally known as a Lhasa Terrier even though the dog is not a terrier. Records suggest, however, that the dog did not arrive into the Western world until 1930 when the Dalai Lama gave the Lhasa as a gift. It was later recognized by the AKC in 1935.
Lhasa Apsos are the 65th most popular dog breed. Don’t be fooled by its long hair: This dog is known to be a clown, especially around its family. It’s a happy, energetic breed that performs well on the agility field, but it’s also happy lounging with its family. If the hair is kept long, it will require plenty of brushing to avoid tangles.
Pekingese | China | Toy Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Four (1960, 1982, 1990, 2012)
Regal, affectionate, and loyal, the Pekingese was recognized by the AKC in 1906 and is currently the 80th most popular dog breed in the United States. Many consider the dog to be an animated ottoman, and they may not be far off given its low stature, rolling gait, and push-face.
Lamaist Buddhists in China helped develop the dog thousands of years ago and were bred so they resemble a small lion. From 700 A.D. to 1000 A.D, the Pekingese were considered royal dogs and even had their own servants. Perhaps this is why they’re still regal and aloof to this day.
In the late 1800s, some of the dogs were stolen from wealthy Chinese and brought back to England where Queen Victoria helped their popularity. Soon, more dogs were needed and their popularity grew, but they were still only for the rich. Today, Pekingese dogs are popular pets, but they’re mostly known for their show abilities.
True to their natures, Pekingese aren’t very energetic, but they are high maintenance, requiring hours of grooming. The dog has an overcoat and an undercoat, so the two often become tangled if not cared for properly. The dogs are great for children and are perfect lap dogs for a family who desires a companion.
Pug | China, Tibet | Toy Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: One (1981)
The Pug is one of the world’s oldest dog breeds with records indicating it’s been around since before 400 B.C! While small in stature, it’s believed to be a descendent of the Mastiff, making it a large dog in a compact package.
The Pug was a favorite dog of Buddhists because of its calm personality. The Chinese adored it because of its wrinkles and dignified look. In fact, one of the wrinkles on the dog’s face is said to resemble the Chinese character for “prince.”
In the 1500s, the Pug made its way to the West via ships and, perhaps, the Dutch East India Trading Company. From here, the dog grew in popularity.
Today, the Pug, first recognized by the AKC in 1885 and currently the 32nd most popular dog, is a charming, low-maintenance, loving family pet. They look strong and athletic, but are perfectly happy on a lap or in the arms of children.
Saluki | Saudi Arabia | Hound Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Stunning and graceful, the Saluki embodies art in motion. Evidence of the Saluki’s existence date to before Christ. They were used to hunt gazelle, rabbits, and foxes. The Saluki was also the only dog accepted in the Muslim region and was referred to as the “noble one.”
The Saluki has one of the purist bloodlines of all the dog breeds as it was kept from breeding with other dogs. The Saluki we see today resembles the Saluki from thousands of years ago, so it’s like watching living history.
Naturally athletic, the Saluki requires exercise as well as a tall fence since they like to jump. For those who want to put forth the time and effort, it may be worth training a Saluki for agility.
On the flip side, these dogs are gentle and loving, making them good with children. They do have an independent spirit, so they require patience when it comes to training. When it comes to grooming and care, they do not shed much and the AKC considers them to be generally healthy dogs.
In 1929, the AKC recognized the breed; they are the 128th most popular dog breed.
Samoyed | Russia* | Working Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Known for its “Samoyed smile,” this snow-white dog has a sunny disposition and a gentle soul. Hailing from Siberia, the Samoyed watched over reindeer, towed boats, were a “nanny dog” for children, and occasionally hunted bear making the dog a jack-of-all-trades.
In the 1800s, the Samoyed came to England as a gift to Queen Alexandria. She championed the dog, helping it gain traction. At the turn of the century, the Samoyed landed in America as a gift from Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia. Around this time, the Samoyed was found to be a formable sled dog and had the honor of joining the expedition to the South Pole. With the expedition, the dog’s popularity grew favorably in the United States.
Today, the Samoyed is the 66th most popular dog breed. It was recognized by the AKC in 1906. Known as a loving family member, many consider the Samoyed to be a kid in a dog suit thanks to its jovial personality. It is a highly active dog that requires space to run or a job to do; the AKC suggests a fenced in exercise area to help it burn off energy. Furthermore, it needs weekly grooming to prevent mats; during shed season, it will require more grooming.
Shar-Pei | China | Non-Sporting Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
As far as records suggest, the Shar-Pei dates back to the Han Dynasty around 200 B.C. However, the dog’s records have been lost over time, starting when China became a Communist nation. What is known about the dog is that it was a popular breed among the peasant class as it was a strong hunter and protector.
In the 1960s, the Shar-Pei almost became extinct due to them being killed off in China. The breed survived and was later revived thanks to a number of dogs that were smuggled into Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Shar-Pei was then brought to America when, in the 1970s, it almost went extinct again. Enthusiasts of the breed worked to breed the dog and develop the breed, saving it from extinction once more. Today, the Shar-Pei thrives and was recognized by the AKC in 1992.
Like the Chow Chow, the Shar-Pei also has a distinctive blue tongue, so it is believed they share a common ancestor. Besides the tongue, Shar-Pei’s are mostly recognized by their distinctive wrinkles. These calm dogs are known to be loyal to their families while maintaining a sense of independence. They also make good watch dogs. They don’t like to be groomed, so they will need to be trained from a young age to accept the grooming process.
As of 2015, the Shar-Pei is the 52nd most popular dog according to the AKC.
Shiba Inu | Japan | Non-Sporting Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
In recent years, the Shiba Inu has been made famous thanks to Internet memes. Today, the Shiba Inu is the 46th most popular dog breed thanks to its Internet fame, foxy appearance, jovial nature, and attentiveness. While it was only recognized by the AKC in 1992, the Shiba Inu, a Japanese dog, may date back to 300 B.C. where it was used as a small game hunting dog.
In Japan, there were three types of Shiba Inu named after the different prefectures from which they hailed: The Shinshu Shiba (Nagano Prefecture), Mino Shiba (Gifu Prefecture), and the Sanin Shiba (from Northeast Japan). The three types played an important role in developing today’s Shiba Inu after the dogs were nearly wiped out following WWII and a plague of distemper. The blending of the breeds became one dog that soon came to the US in 1954.
Shiba Inus love play! So much so, they require it daily to keep them active and healthy. They thrive on play that’s vigorous and keeps them on their toes. They are alert dogs, so owners also find them to be easily distracted. They will need a family that is willing to work with them and socialize them.
Shih Tzu | China, Tibet | Toy Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Known as the “Lion Dog” or the “Chrysanthemum Dog” in China and Tibet, the Shih Tzu, most recognized by its flowing locks, is one of the dogs most closely related to wolves; a surprise given its small stature.
The Shih Tzu may date back to before 800 B.C. when it started to appear in Chinese art, but the AKC states it may be later than that due to art found in the 600s A.D. Another favorite dog of Buddhists, the Chinese loved the breed due to the connection. In the 1600s, Tibetans viewed the Shih Tzu as a holy dog, and it was celebrated as such. However, the dog didn’t gain outside attention or its modern appearance until the late 1800s thanks to China’s Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi (Qing Dynasty).
The Shih Tzu wasn’t its own distinct breed until the 1930s. Prior to take, it was lumped as a Llasa Terrier with Lhasa Apso dogs. The dogs were later separated due to their distinctions.
The Shih Tzu made its way to the United States in 1940s, but didn’t grow popular until the 1960s. Its popularity could be in part thanks to its playfulness, outgoing personality, and affections it has toward its people. Because of its growing popularity in the 1960s, the Shih Tzu became AKC-recognized in 1969. Today, it’s the 17th most popular breed.
Update: For this year’s WKC dog show, all hopes fall on Panda, the winner of the Toy Group that advanced to Tuesday’s Best-in-Show ring. If Panda wins, he will become the first Shih Tzu to win at Westminster.
Siberian Husky | Russia* | Working Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: One (1980)
Developed to be a sled dog by the nomadic Chukchi people, the Siberian Husky can trace its roots to Northeast Asia before making its way to Alaska (which wasn’t a state at the time) during the All-Alaska Sweepstakes. However, the Siberian Husky, while useful and hardworking, didn’t earn love and acclaim until 1925 during the Alaskan diphtheria outbreak where sled teams were credited for saving Nome. From this event, Balto, a black and white Siberian Husky, became the most famous Husky and even has a statue in Central Park in New York City. After the dogs’ heroic efforts, Canadians and Americans started a love affair with the breed, causing it to be AKC-recognized in 1930.
The Siberian Husky played an important role in WWII, serving as a search and rescue dog for the US Army. This, too, helped the dog earn more popularity. In 2015, the AKC ranked it as the 13th most popular breed.
The Siberian Husky is considered to be friendly, loyal, and somewhat mischievous, so it needs an owner that can keep up with it. Since it was bred to haul sleds and run, it needs a lot of exercise to keep it happy. In the summer months, air-conditioning is a must. Potential owners should be aware that Huskies shed a lot and need weekly grooming.
Tibetan Mastiff | China, Tibet, The Himalayas, Nepal, India | Working Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Large and somewhat intimidating, the Tibetan Mastiff is a calm, reserved, independent dog that has majestic beauty.
Like many ancient dogs that come from China and Tibet, much of their history is lost, but it is believed the dogs date back to 1100 B.C. What is known is that the Tibetan Mastiff– or some form of today’s Tibetan Mastiff– were the dogs of choice by Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Nomads living in the Himalayas loved the Tibetan Mastiff and used it as protection as well as to guard flocks. Eventually, it became a guard dog for villages and monasteries. The dog mostly did not exist past these regions until the 1800s when a dog was sent to Queen Victoria by the Viceroy of India.
In the 1950s, the dog was endangered thanks to China’s invasion of Tibet. The dog became “misplaced” according to Animal Planet. As a preservation tactic, some took the dogs and fled, while the Dalai Lama sent two to US President Eisenhower; no one knows what happened to Eisenhower’s dogs. Luckily, breeders from India and Nepal preserved the breed, which started its re-emergence in the 1970s.
Following its recognition as an AKC breed in 2007, the Tibetan Mastiff surged in popularity in China where people were paying millions of dollars just to own the prized dogs. However, this led to misuse and breeding abuse as well as a lack of attention, care, proper handling. Owners of the dogs began abandoning them and prices dropped. The mishandling of the breed has led dog lovers and representatives from different dog-related groups to head to China in an attempt to educate people on proper care and keeping of Tibetan Mastiffs and other dogs.
While large, Tibetan Mastiffs are not an active dog, only requiring moderate exercise. As an added bonus, while they do require weekly brushing, they only shed once a year. They are a protective dog, but they love their families. While their popularity declined in China, it is improving in the US where it’s the 129th most popular breed.
Tibetan Spaniel | Tibet | Non-Sporting Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Lamaist Buddhists called the Tibetan Spaniel “little lion dog” due to its close resemblance to the Buddhist lion symbol. Buddhists bred these small dogs and considered them sacred; in return, Tibetan Spaniels guarded monasteries and alerted Buddhists if predators or other people were near. In addition, the spaniels were considered prayer dogs and assisted in turning prayer wheels.
Tibetan Spaniels made their way to England in the 1800s, but they didn’t have a specific breed standard until the 1920s. In the 1960s, the breed made its way to the US thanks to two dogs that were imported from a Tibetan monastery.
While it’s called a spaniel dog, the Tibetan Spaniel is not a spaniel. The dog is made up of several toy breeds and does not fulfill the job description a spaniel has which involves hunting and flushing birds. Instead, the dog may get its name because of its resemblance to spaniels.
Smart, loyal, affectionate, and playful, the Tibetan Spaniel was recognized by the AKC in 1983. It’s currently the 116th most popular dog breed. The have a lot of curiosity and may find themselves engaging in mischief, so plenty of play is required. They do have a double coat that requires brushing to keep it from tangling. However, the Tibetan Spaniel makes a happy, well-adjusted family dog.
Tibetan Terrier | Tibet, India | Non-Sporting Group | WKC Best-in-Show Wins: Zero
Despite its name, the Tibetan Terrier is not a true terrier. Europeans called the dog a terrier because it resembled other terrier breeds.
Like other Tibetan dogs, Buddhists considered the Tibetan Terrier—the Tsang Apso—a holy dog. Unlike other breeds, this dog wasn’t revered for a lion-like appearance, but for the lucky qualities they possessed. While they watched over livestock, these dogs were kept mostly as companions because Buddhists believed they brought good fortune. If anyone mistreated a Tsang Apso, bad luck would befall the monastery and village.
Before its spread to the West, the dog became popular in India after a physician, Dr. Grieg, was given a dog. His love for the dog led to promotions and steady growth in India where it became a recognized breed. In the 1930s and 1940s, Europeans began a love-affair that later spread to the United States. By 1973, it was an AKC-recognized breed.
During its time in Buddhist monasteries, Buddhists considered the dogs to be “little people” because of their companionship. To this day, they are known for their loving natures and companionship. Depending on the dog’s personalities, it is known to be a barker. The Tibetan Terrier is an active dog, so exercise is required. Over the years, it has succeeded as an agility dog. If you’re high energy and want a companion that can equal your energy, this dog may be right for you. Currently, it’s the 86th most popular breed.
Of course, never adopt a dog without proper research into the breed or an evaluation of your lifestyle. Always act responsibly when looking for a new furry member of your family. Many of these dogs are dumped into shelters or rescues each year due to improper research into the dog and its needs, inability to care for the dog, or different life situations that may get in the way of giving a dog the love and attention it deserves and requires. Check sources like PetFinder.com or a local rescue or shelter to see if any of these breeds need a loving home.
Watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on CNBC and USA Network February 15 and 16, 2016. If these channels are unavailable, the show is available online.
*Russia is included in the article as it spans across Europe and Asia (Eurasia).
All photos provided by Wikipedia Commons.