Understanding the Wire Fox Terrier, One of Westminster’s Winningest Dogs

A decorated breed takes high honors in Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

America's premier canine club crowned a new top dog on Tuesday night: Sky, a five-year-old female wire fox terrier.

The pedigreed pooch was named best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. It was the 14th win for a wire fox terrier in 138 years of the show.

A group of 30 recognized breeds in the United States, from the short-haired bull terriers to long-haired Scottish terriers, terriers have taken the honor 46 times, more than any other type of dog.

The wire fox terrier breed was "perhaps the least quirky," the New York Times noted, in an event that saw the inclusion of mutts for the first time and that featured a strong showing from a charismatic bloodhound named Nathan, whose breed has never won at Westminster.

Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the New York-based American Kennel Club (AKC), says Sky's win at Westminster "was really no surprise at all."

"Sky is a fabulous example of her breed," she says. "The wire fox terrier is a classic, iconic breed ... beautiful looking, with very classic lines and wonderful personalities."

(Related: "Why the Dog Show Winner Looks Like a Monkey.")

Hunting Dog Pasts

Wire fox terriers are predominantly white with black or tan markings. They're named for their dense, wiry coats, which tend to shed minimally.

The AKC describes the breed on its website as "active, friendly, and playful; the breed is highly trainable and excels in events such as agility," noting that the dogs are thought to be good companions for children.

The kennel club also says the terriers make good watchdogs and are known to "dig tirelessly for underground vermin."

That behavior is a nod to their past as hunting dogs.

As with some other terriers, the wire fox is thought to have descended from the rough-coated black and tan terrier. That breed had been developed in Great Britain in the 17th century to chase foxes and other small game out of their dens.

The wire fox is seldom used for hunting today, although it is a relatively common pet.

(Related: "What's a Tibetan Mastiff?")

On Tuesday, Sky's handler, Gabriel Rangel, called her "the little perfect dog" that knows precisely how to act in the show ring. The dog's full name, on the other hand, is not so little. The animal known as Sky is officially named GCH CH Afterall Painting the Sky.

Best in show judge Betty Regina Leininger said she'd been won over by Sky's poise, grace, and beauty: "She just said, 'Pick me.' "

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