From poodles to deerhounds, dogs seek honors at Westminster Kennel Club

NEW YORK - Perfectly coifed Standard Poodles and small and sprightly Bichon Frises were among more than 2,700 dogs from 15 countries primping and prancing on Monday at the opening of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The show, which is in its 139th year, is the second longest continuously running sporting event in the United States, behind the Kentucky Derby horse race.

"It's the most exciting dog show in the world," said Cecilia Dove, from Flint Hill, Virginia, while seated in front of her 3-year-old Scottish deerhound, Chelsea, who rested on a checkered dog bed while awaiting her first run in the competition.

Chelsea's mother, Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, was the show's grand champion in 2011.

The event, taking place at Piers 92 and 94 and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, culminates late on Tuesday with the selection of the Best In Show winner.

The field of 192 dog breeds this year includes two newcomers: the Coton de Tulears and the Wirehaired Vizsla, hailing from Madagascar and Hungary, respectively.

Judges select the best of each breed and group, divided into seven categories - hound, toy, non-sporting, herding, sporting, working and terrier.

A sleek Beagle from Bangkok, named Thunder, and a puffy-haired Old English Sheepdog from Dallas, called Dizzy, were among the canines competing in the hound and herding groups on Monday.

Hound, toy, herding and non-sporting groups are judged on the first day of the show. Sporting, working and terrier groups are judged the following day.

Those selected as the best in their groups compete for the ultimate Best In Show prize. The winner gets a trophy and embarks on a media tour.

Dogs from 15 countries and all US states, except North Dakota and Idaho, are competing in this year's event.

In last year's show, a wire fox terrier named Sky won Best In Show, making it the record 14th time that breed won the prize.