Showsight July 2020

LIVE STREAM CLUSTER the BY DAN SAYERS Innovation & Technology (Re)Define the Dog Sport

The “First Annual N.Y. Bench Show of Dogs” was certainly innovative for its day. “Workmen tore down barriers and partitions that had been part of the circus that had just closed and used the lumber to construct benching,” notes AKC President William F. Stifel in his celebratory work, The Dog Show: 125 Years of West- minster . Interestingly, before bandmaster Patrick S. Gilmore purchased the open-air arena, the structure at East 26th Street and Madison Avenue was the site of “Barnum’s Monster Classical and Geological Hippo- drome.” Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum had leased the New York and Harlem Railroad depot from Cornelius Vanderbilt. The showman, politician and business- man organized events at the site that featured acrobats, prancing horses, and chariot races with female drivers. Of the site’s transformation from railway depot to cir- cus tent to musical theater to dog show hall, the edi- tors of Field & Stream wrote, “There is no place in this country so admirably adapted for the purposes of a Bench Show.” As America’s interest in dog shows grew, the infant sport began to organize—and innovate. In 1878, a code of rules was arranged for holding bench shows and field trials throughout the country. A national governing body for dog registrations and shows was established in 1884, with Westminster selected as the American Kennel Club’s first member club. Two shows were held in New York City that year, the only time Westminster has hosted biannual events. A February show was open to the Sporting breeds, and a later exhi- bition in the fall was held for Non-Sporting breeds, Deerhounds, Greyhounds and Fox Terriers. In 1889, the AKC published its first issue of the American Ken- nel Gazette to connect the sport with fanciers in all (42) US states and territories. Innovations continued to propel the dog sport for- ward at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1904, arm bands with catalog numbers were worn by exhibi- tors for the first time. Three years later, a panel of 10 >

T oday’s breeder and exhibitor participates in a sport that embraces new technologies even as it upholds long-standing traditions. Online entry services, digital advertising and pedigree databases allow contemporary fanciers to preserve and promote purebred dogs in the new millenium. Innova- tion, however, is not new to the sport of dogs. In fact, technology has repeatedly been the breeder’s greatest preservation tool and the exhibitor’s best means to ensure a future for the sport. When the members of the Westminster Kennel Club held their first dog show in the Hippodrome at Gilmore’s Garden in 1877, a technological and cultural revolution was underway across the U.S. A dozen years after the Civil War had ended, imagination and inven- tion were changing the manner in which Americans lived, worked and played. Thomas Edison and Alex- ander Graham Bell led the way, certainly, but so too did a group of gentlemen hunters from New York City. Their exhibition of dog breeds from around the world sparked an interest in purebred dogs that has endured despite two world wars, the Great Depression, and the propogation of the “Doodle!”


Powered by