Do you remember your first Best in Show win? Me neither. For most of us, earning that top award remains a fixture on our annual list of New Year’s resolutions. For others, owner-handers and professionals alike, the goal is not winning a Best in Show, it’s how many all-breed Bests can be achieved. Select fanciers will have 100 Bests as their goal for 2013, and if successful, their dogs will gain exclusive membership in a collective of show dogs generally known as the Century Club.
Fewer than three dozen individual dogs have earned 100 or more all-breed Best in Shows since the first such prize was awarded in the early years of the 20th century. Although the proliferation of shows in the 1990s and 2000s might suggest greater opportunity for membership, the difficulty of earning even a single Best in Show has in all likelihood only increased during this period.
As the 2013 show season gets under way, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the breeds that have earned 100 or more Best in Show wins. My observations do not constitute an official and complete summary, and are intended only as motivation to aspire to achieving your own goals for the coming year, whatever they may be.
Not all show dogs, of course, are created equal. Some individuals (and some breeds) seem predisposed to greater show ring success than others. Of the more than 30 dogs with 100 or more Bests, five Standard Poodles and four German Shepherd Dogs are included on the list. The only other breeds with multiple members are Pekingese with four, and Black Cocker Spaniels and Scottish Terriers with two each.
Terriers, perhaps not surprisingly, have more club members than any other Group. Eight individuals of six breeds are members, including two Scotties and two Wires, plus one Kerry Blue, Lakeland, Welsh and Smooth Fox Terrier.
Of the six remaining Groups, the Non-Sporting members include a Bichon Frise with the five Standard Poodles, and a Bouvier des Flandres rounds out the Herding Group together with the four German Shepherds. Toy Group members include three Pekingese as well as a single Toy Poodle and a Maltese. The Sporting breeds are represented by the two Black Cockers, as well as an English Springer Spaniel, an English Setter and a Pointer. The Working Group includes a Doberman Pinscher, a Boxer and a Giant Schnauzer, and the Hound Group, despite the multitude of scenthounds and the unfailing beauty of the sighthounds, is represented by a single member, an Afghan Hound.
Membership in the Century Club appears heavily influenced by a dog’s coat. Nearly three-quarters of the dogs listed are of coated breeds that require stripping, trimming or scissoring to look their best. A quarter of the members are black or predominantly black in color, with slightly fewer white or mostly white. More than half are a color or combination of colors other than primarily black or white.
Club membership began in the 1950s with the English Setter Ch. Rock Fall’s Colonel. For nearly three decades, only two dogs managed to join the Colonel: the Pekingese Ch. Chik T’Sun of Caversham; and the Boxer Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest. It was not until the 1980s that the Century Club witnessed an influx of members. One-fifth of the membership gained admission during this decade, including the Doberman Pinscher Ch. Brunswig’s Cryptonite and the Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Galsul Excellence. The 1990s saw unprecedented expansion of the dog sport, and fully one-third of the dogs earning 100 or more Best in Shows achieved this benchmark during this decade.
Since 2000, nearly a dozen show dogs have joined the Century Club, including several of the best-known competitors of recent years. The Pointer Ch. Cookieland Seasyde Hollyberry, the Smooth Fox Terrier Ch. J’Cobe Kemosabe Vigilante Justice and the Giant Schnauzer Ch. Galilee’s Pure of Spirit have each joined the club as the only member of their respective breeds.
The Century Club, it must be understood, is definitely not a “boy’s-only club,” since more than 40 percent of the membership is of the fairer sex. In fact, the top three spots are held by girls: German Shepherd Dog Ch. Altana’s Mystique, Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Registry’s Lonesome Dove and Scottish Terrier Ch. Braeburn’s Close Encounter. Each of these show girls earned more than 200 Best in Shows in their lifetimes, with ‘Mystique’ achieving 275 career Bests. Only one male, the German Shepherd Dog Ch. Covy Tucker Hill’s Manhattan, accompanies the ladies as a Duo Century Club member.
The total of Best in Show wins achieved by Century Club members numbers in the thousands. As the 2013 show year gets under way, several top dogs (and bitches) are already knocking on the clubhouse door. It’s possible that before this month is through, they’ll be issued their very own membership cards.
Whether your goal is one or 100 Best in Shows, may the coming year be filled with wonderful memories of you and your dogs having fun together.