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NEW YORK (Reuters) - From the fearsome Doberman Pinscher to the battling Tosa, some of the world's most notorious breeds will strut their stuff in the next two days at New York's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, alongside the Toy Poodle, the Basset Hound and other smaller breeds.
The prestigious show throws the welcome mat out to the controversial canines every year, even as some are unwelcome on the streets of many U.S. cities because of their nasty reputations that breeders insist are undeserved.
Billed as the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States, behind only the Kentucky Derby, the Westminster show runs Monday and Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Of the 200 breeds and varietals competing for the "Best In Show" title this year, about two dozen are restricted or banned in some U.S. jurisdictions because they are considered to be potential dangers.
Here is a sampling of the "bad boy" breeds who are competing at the show:
-- The American Staffordshire Terrier is one of several breeds popularly known as "pit bulls," one of the most prohibited dogs in the United States. The terriers once bred to fight bears and bulls in the ring are banned in Denver, Miami and Cincinnati and other cities. But breeders and owners of the stocky, sleek-coated dogs say American Staffordshires are usually smart and good-natured companions. They are the American Kennel Club's 80th most popular breed.
-- Dogue de Bordeaux, also known as the Bordeaux Mastiff, is another dog initially bred for fighting. Instead of bulls and bears, the Bordeaux was often pitted against wolves. The AKC says most mastiffs are affectionate and protective, but not aggressive. Even so, the breed is banned from public housing projects in New York City.
-- Rottweilers have been cast as blood-lusting human hunters in films such as "Dogs of Hell" in the early 1980s. But in real life, it is usually reserved with strangers and affectionate with its family, according to breeders. They are the ninth most-popular breed within the AKC, whose recognition qualifies breeds to compete in Westminster.
-- The Tosa, originating from the island of Shikoku in Japan, is known for its extreme courage and athleticism. The burly canine, weighing up to about 130 pounds (59 kg), is still used for dog fighting in its native country. "In this arena the Tosa has no equal," the AKC says on its websites. Its brawling abilities might be why the Tosa is not just restricted in parts of the United States, but it is also banned in more than a dozen nations around the world.
-- Doberman Pinschers, the slender and alert working dog that originated in Germany in the late 1800s, is another notorious movie villain that has landed on restricted lists around the nation, including in the U.S. Army. Lovers of the breed admire the Doberman for its fearlessness and obedience. It is the AKC's 14th most popular breed.
-- Bred to herd sheep, German Shepherds were once demonized in the United States because of their association with Nazi Germany, which used them as guard dogs. But the breed's reputation has changed over time. It is now one of the most popular breeds in the United States for law enforcement. Despite their police ties, German Shepherds are among a handful of breeds that frequently cause their owners to be denied home insurance, according to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Editing by Frank McGurty and Alistair Bell