The 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, known as the most prestigious of its kind, starts today and will be featuring an "invited" Leonberger from Rumson — Hondo.
The show is nothing new for Hondo — short for Bronze Level Grand Champion Cherrywood's Slam Dunk — and his owners. He was in the Westminster show last year as well. What is new for his family, though, is that this year not only Hondo will compete, but two pugs, bred by owner Sheila Jett-Wickman, will be competing as well.
Showing tomorrow, Feb. 12, Hondo is a top five — top five nationally ranked in each breed — invited entry this year, said Jett-Wickman. He will compete in the AKC Working Group of dogs against nine other Leonbergers. "Last year, he was the youngest in a field of 15," Jett-Wickman said.
The Leonberger was just recently added to the Working Group category after being recognized by the AKC in 2010.
Leonburgers are a giant dog breed category. Double-coated family dogs, the "breed's name derives from the city of Leonberg in Baden-Württemberg, Germany," according to Wikipedia. "According to legend, the Leonberger was ostensibly bred as a 'symbolic dog' that would mimic the lion in the town crest."
It's a "big year for us, but especially for Hondo who snagged an invite!" Jett-Wickman said. "Invitations are only granted to the top five nationally ranked in each breed. We have worked very hard for this honor."
This year's Westminster has 2,721 dogs in 187 breeds coming from 50 states and seven foreign countries. The show will be broadcast live today, Monday, from 8 to 11 p.m. on CNBC and Tuesday from 8 to 11 p.m. on USA Network.