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Embark at the National Dog Show


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The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s National Dog Show is a beloved tradition for many families across America. About 25 million people tuned in this year. Children and their parents, Americans cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and families waiting for football to start all tune in to watch the National Dog Show together on Thanksgiving Day.

This year, Winston the French Bulldog, also known as GCHP Fox Canyon’s I Won The War at Goldshield, took Best in Show honors besting a field of more than 1,700 dogs. Three-year-old Winston, who has been DNA tested with Embark, strutted his stuff on Thanksgiving Day on NBC. He competed against a German Shepherd Dog, Irish Water Spaniel, Alaskan Malamute, Treeing Walker Coonhound, American Staffordshire Terrier, and English Toy Spaniel

Many popular breeds, including Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Bearded Collies, Doberman Pinschers, and at least 20 other French Bulldogs, tried to capture the top prize. Some rare breeds attending the National Dog Show included the Norwegian Lundehund, Sloughi, and Russian Toy Terrier.

Embark is a proud sponsor and the preferred dog DNA test of the National Dog Show. We sat down in 2021 with Wayne Ferguson, President of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, to talk about the National Dog Show, how DNA testing plays an important role in breeding, and what the future of dog shows will look like.

The history of dog shows in America

Dog shows started as a place where breeders could evaluate breeding stock and confirm that a dog had a proper coat, good temperament, and other qualities that met breed standards. Dog shows became a forum for experts and judges to help breeders make those decisions, before tools like DNA testing were available.

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia began in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition, an event that commemorated 100 years of American history. Since then, they’ve held a dog show almost every year.

How the National Dog Show started

A fun fact about the origins of the National Dog Show: it all started with the film Best in Show. Years after its 2000 debut, audiences still love this movie for its portrayal of American dog shows and for its sense of humor.

The president of NBC Sports at the time, Jon Miller, loved the movie. He and his wife called Wayne Ferguson, the President of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. They wanted to create an upbeat, family-friendly dog show for TV. Shortly after that, the National Dog Show was born, and now it airs every year on Thanksgiving Day.

Best in Show at National Dog Show 2021

The winner of the National Dog Show 2021 was Claire the Scottish Deerhound. Claire became the first repeat winner in the show’s 20-year history!

Claire, a four-year-old Scottish Deerhound, defeated 1,253 dogs to win back-to-back National Dog Show Bests in Show at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia on Saturday, November 20, 2021.

Owned, bred, and handled by Angela Lloyd, Claire bested nine other Scottish Deerhounds to win Best of Breed before heading to the Hound group, where she beat out 30 other Hound Best of Breed winners.

Claire’s AKC registered name is GCHS Foxcliffe Claire Randall Fraser, after the main character from the TV show Outlander. A fun fact about Claire: her grandmother, Hickory, became the first Scottish Deerhound to take top honors at Westminster in 2011.

Jeffrey Pepper was the Best in Show judge. Wayne Ferguson, President of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, was the in-ring announcer.

Top breeds at National Dog Show 2021

The top breeds at the National Dog Show 2021 included: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (47 total), Golden Retrievers (44 total), and more than 20 each of Dachshunds, Poodles, Samoyeds, and Vizslas.

Some of the rare breeds at the show in 2021 included the Lowchen, the Canaan Dog, the Clumber Spaniel, and the Glen of Imaal Terrier.

The Biewer Terrier made its debut at the National Dog Show in 2021. Nine Biewer Terriers competed for Best of Breed.

Dog DNA testing and early dog shows

Genetics and dog shows have a shared history. Early dog shows were not only where breeders gathered, but also where scientists went to learn about dog genetics. That’s how the earliest form of genetic testing was born.

In the late 1980s, the Bedlington Terrier Club was concerned about a health condition in dogs called copper toxicosis. They contacted a professor at the University of Michigan who studied a similar human disease called Wilson’s disease, and some scientists at Michigan State University. That group joined with the American Kennel Club, the Orthopedic Foundation of America, the Morris Animal Foundation, and the early stages of the Canine Health Registry. From all those groups working together, the first company to do genetic testing in dogs was born in 1995.

Fast forward to today: Embark, the world leader in dog genetics, also started out of a passion for research. Embark’s cofounders, Ryan and Adam Boyko, went on a world tour to capture the hidden genetic variation in indigenous village dogs. That experience kickstarted their passion for canine research. They started Embark to be able to do that research on a large scale that wouldn’t leave any genetic variation behind.

Genetic testing can help dogs live healthier lives

Embark’s mission is to extend the lives of all dogs. We do that by uncovering genetic health risks that would otherwise be hidden.

Breeders know that an important part of breeding healthy puppies involves looking at a dog’s future offspring. In a litter of puppies, some dogs might develop health concerns that other dogs won’t. Genetic testing can help breeders, and scientists at Embark, use that information to develop new health tests. It can also help dog owners, breeders, and veterinarians take preventive steps to lower a dog’s risk of developing disease later in life.

The future of The National Dog Show and dog DNA testing

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia aims to continue offering a great forum for purebred dogs to show, and for breeders and dog lovers to see them. At Embark, we share the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s mission and dedication to canine health. Together, we hope to advance canine health through our partnerships, and through events like the National Dog Show.

There are many more health discoveries to make, especially for complex diseases. Embark is partnering with breeders and breed clubs so we can better understand that complexity. One of the most important ways that dog owners and breeders can help advance canine research is by filling out Embark research surveys. That information helps us make new discoveries about complex health risks. We thank you for participating in research with us!

Mimi Padmabandu Contributor

Mimi Padmabandu is a scientific writer and Content Strategy Lead at Embark Veterinary. She has over a decade of experience writing about science and genomics for leading biotechnology companies. She holds a bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in Early Modern English Literature from King’s College London.

Read more about Mimi Padmabandu

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