Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On the Benches a Century Ago



Looking back at American dog shows in the early 1900s







A contestant poses for a photo at a 1916 dog show. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



“Shamus O’Brien”, an Irish Wolfhound owned by Lt. Col. Francis A. Junkin, and “Cortez”, a Mexican Chihuahua, owned by A. Radcliffe, pose for a photo at the 7th annual Dog Show of the Washington Kennel Club on May 8, 1920. (National Photo Company Collection/Library of Congress)



St. Bernards wait in their crates at a dog show in 1908. (Bain News Service/Library of Congress) 


Dog shows are famous for their spirit, their spunk and, as satirized in Christopher Guest’s 2000 film “Best in Show,” their cult following. That following — visible in these delightful frames — shows a devotion that predates the invention of the lightbulb, woman’s suffrage and the World Series.


Dog shows, which originally started as side attractions to cattle shows in England in the 1850s, quickly crisscrossed the globe to become competitions worthy of their own fanfare and personality.

Last week, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show had its 141st annual show in New York, making it second only to the Kentucky Derby as the longest continuously held sporting event in America. The show’s appeal spread nationally, and it is now part of a large network of local and regional shows. The Kennel Club of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania started the National Dog Show just a few years later in 1879, and the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship, which started in 2001, has since become the largest show in the country. In December 2016, 4,710 dogs competed for the title of national champion.


From dalmatians to Russian wolf hounds, much has changed since the canines in these Library of Congress images had their 15 minutes of fame, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still enjoyable to bask in their glory.



A contestant poses for a photo at a 1915 dog show. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



Another 1915 dog show contestant. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



A 1915 dog show contestant. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



A 1915 dog show contestant. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



A 1915 dog show contestant. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



A 1915 dog show contestant. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



Owners pose with the largest and smallest dogs at a dog show on Jan. 26,1923. (National Photo Company/Library of Congress)



A contestant poses at a 1916 dog show. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



Marion C. Bourne poses with Michael Strogoff, the best American-bred Russian wolf hound in the Mineola dog show in 1908. (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)



A contestant poses at a 1915 dog show. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



More contestants at a 1915 dog show. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)



Walter Johnstone, son of Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Johnstone of D.C., poses with Shamus O’Brien, an Irish wolf hound belonging to Col. Francis A. Junkin, at the 7th dog show of the Washington Kennel Club on May 8, 1920. (National Photo Company Collection/Library of Congress)



A contestant at a dog show between 1910 and 1920. (Bain Collection/Library of Congress)



Dalmatians wait in their crates at a dog show in the early 1900s. (Bain Collection/Library of Congress) 
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Two pictures above describe dogs "in their crates." (the 3rd and the last photos.)  In fact, these dogs are not in crates.  They are on "benches."  "Benched shows" were once common.  The dogs were chained on raised benches, with wire partitions between them.  


"There are two kinds of dog shows: Benched and Unbenched. There are only 6 Bench shows in all of the United States. If you've been to a dog show, it was probably and Unbenched shows. In Unbenched shows, dogs that are entered need to be present only for the judging of their breed or obedience class. As soon as that is done they may leave. Bench shows, on the other hand, require all of the dogs entered to stay on assigned benches the entire time of the show unless they are exhibiting (showing) or exercising (going potty) or being prepared to show (groomed). This is so fellow exhibitors, breeders and spectators can view and discuss the atributes and qualities of the dogs.

Westminster Kennel Club is a two day show. Dogs entered must be present for both days. They are allowed to leave at night but only with a deposit that is returned when the dog returns the next day. That way, spectators that come for the second day of the show have just as much of a chance of seeing all of the dogs entered. Benches are generally partitioned off stalls. They are marked for each individual dog with the breed and indentification number of the dog."

There are only a handful of benched shows left in this country.  Two of the best known are the Westminster Kennel Club Show, and the Golden Gate Kennel Club Show in San Francisco.  

Since at benched shows the public is allowed to approach and even touch the dogs on their benches, fear of disease - especially distemper and parvo - has been responsible for most clubs choosing unbenched show venues. 

Early 20th Century
 
1930
1924

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