Entertainment | Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:08am GMT

Distinguished dogs advance to final round in Westminster show

Jewel, an American Foxhound, runs with his handler during the Hound group judging at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Banana Joe, an Affenpinscher who won the Toy Group, walks during competition at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013. Banana Joe will advance to the Best in Show competition on February 12.
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Handler Colton Johnson runs with Swagger, an Old English Sheepdog and winner of the Herding Group, during competition at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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A Bearded Collie runs during competition in the Herding Group at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Dogs and handlers wait backstage before the Hound Group judging during competition at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Handlers line up Old English Sheepdogs while competing at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, February 11, 2013. More than 2,700 prized dogs will be on display at the annual canine competition. Two new breeds, the Russell terrier and the Treeing Walker...
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Tazer, a Belgian Sheepdog is groomed in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Honor, a Bichon Frise from Goshen, Indiana lays atop his cage as he waits in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Dui, an Otterhound from Chicago, stands next to his owner Kallie Gonzalez in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Looker, a Shih Tzu, waits in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Runner, a beagle, has his paws washed in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Halli, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from Germany, stands atop his cage as he waits in the benching area prior to the first night of Group judging during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 11, 2013.
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Jasper, a two-year-old Shih Tzu, is groomed during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, February 11, 2013. More than 2,700 prized dogs will be on display at the annual canine competition. Two new breeds, the Russell terrier and the Treeing Walker...
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Norwegian Buhund, Trollheimen's Pink Tourmaline sleeps on his owner's lap after competing at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, February 11, 2013. More than 2,700 prized dogs will be on display at the annual canine competition. Two new breeds, the...
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A man holds his Smooth Coat Chihuahua in the staging area at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, February 11, 2013. More than 2,700 prized dogs will be on display at the annual canine competition. Two new breeds, the Russell terrier and the Treeing Walker...
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - An athletic American foxhound, a little black affenpinscher, a fluffy white bichon frise and a shaggy old English sheepdog won best in group at the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday, advancing to the best in show competition on Tuesday.

Judges picked the best in the hound, toy, non-sporting and herding groups on Monday. The best of the sporting, working and terrier groups will be picked on Tuesday evening, before the winner of each of the seven groups goes forward to compete for best in show.

The old English sheepdog Swagger, the youngest group winner at 20 months old, won some of the loudest cheers of the night at New York's Madison Square Garden and took best of group for herding dogs. A happy-looking dog owned by Colton and Heather Johnson from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Swagger's eyes were barely visible under his shaggy white and gray coat.

"He's such a cool dog," said Colton Johnson, also the dog's handler. "He's a natural."

The 5-year-old affenpinscher Banana Joe defeated 22 other toy breeds, including an elaborately groomed toy poodle, a Pekingese and a shih tzu. Banana Joe lives with his handler Ernesto Lara in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and will return as a champion to the Netherlands, where he was bred, after the show.

"He's a beautiful specimen of his breed," Lara said. "They have to have a comic seriousness. They're not supposed to be aware they're so funny when they are."

The French name for the affenpinscher - diabolotin moustachu - means "moustached little devil," according to the Westminster Kennel Club.

The first winner of the night was a 3-year-old female American foxhound named Jewel, co-owned by handler Lisa Miller and Ellen Charles from the Baltimore area.

Jewel, a scenthound with a magnificent brown, black and white coat, won the best in breed competition for the foxhound last year as well. This year she advanced a step further, capturing the blue garland as the best among 30 breeds of hound.

The non-sporting winner, a bichon frise named Honor, 4, lives with his Australian-born handler Lisa Bettis in Goshen, Indiana.

"He has a great attitude and he's a cute little show dog," said Bettis, who has been going to the Westminster show for 22 years.

The buzz surrounding this year's show has been about whether a Labrador retriever, America's most popular breed, could finally win best in show with Westminster judges. Wire fox terriers, for example, have won best in show more than a dozen times.

In all, more than 2,700 dogs were due to compete over two days, including at least 50 Labrador retrievers in the sporting group whose owners are hoping to make history and bring home the top prize on Tuesday.

This year, two newly recognized breeds have been approved to appear in the show: the treeing Walker coonhound, a tall, flappy-eared descendant of the foxhound; and the Russell terrier, the subject of some controversy stemming from the differing taxonomic habits of kennel clubs in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.

This year's dogs come from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 dogs come from foreign countries, organizers said.

The 2012 show was won by Palace garden Mal achy, a male Pekingese, who, as is traditional, has since retired.

(Corrects number of foreign countries in 15th paragraph)

(Editing by Daniel Trotta, Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)

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