The Norwegian Elkhound Ch. Vin-Melca's Nimbus being exercised by the Pacific Ocean by his breeder, hander and co-owner Pat Craige (now Trotter). Nimbus won at least 60 BIS 1977-1979. Photo Jayne Langdon.
Fri, 06/28/2024 - 7:04pm

100 Years of Best in Show

The sixth decade, 1974-1983

In this series of articles about Best in Show dogs, we are now getting up to fairly contemporary dogs, names that some readers who have been around in dogs for a long time are bound to recognize. So I want the people who read this to be aware that the published number of wins for each dog is approximate — not necessarily including the odd BIS that the dog won especially early or as a sentimental favorite very late in his or her career.

There is no list of the number of wins that one can refer to, certainly not for all breeds and definitely not going back to 1924, the year when there was no inter-breed judging at Westminster while AKC modernized the competition for what had previously been a rather unimportant award, one that sometimes even required the dog to be entered before the show to be allowed to compete …

Since the restructuring in 1924, Best in Show has become a highlight of the all-breed shows, and I thought it might be interesting to see which dogs have won the most in this kind of competition.

I did not anticipate the grunt work that had to be done, however, comparing each dog's annual record with that of the previous year, and the one before that, and at least two years in the future as well. (Usually I have checked a dog's BIS record two years before it was included in the Top 10 of its breed, and two years after. Some dogs appear in the rankings for four or five years, which makes it necessary to check records for eight or nine years.) I have also found that there are some mistakes in the available information, and on occasion it's simply not possible to know each dog's correct number of BIS.


How many BIS did he have? The Whippet Ch. Sporting Fields Clansman is credited with a varying number, depending on the sources, and the owner — who was just a girl when “Buoy” was shown — isn't sure herself. The correct answer is either 58 or 60, both still a record for a Whippet male. Debbie Butt is shown with Buoy at the beginning of his career in 1979.


Take the Whippet Ch. Sporting Fields Clansman, for example. Some sources say he won 58 BIS, an all-time record for his breed and his sex, while other information adds up to a total of 60 all-breed wins. Debbie Butt was only a girl when “Buoy” started winning in 1977; his official handler Bob Forsyth is gone now, and so are Debbie's parents. Most of the all-time records are known, of course, but this one isn't – any Whippet male had better win 61 BIS before claiming a new record!

One reason for the mistakes I've found is certainly the sheer number of BIS awarded during the 1970s. In the 1920s there were only a little more or a little less than 100 AKC all-breed shows per year, but that number increased so that by 1974, the first year we are dealing with in this article, there were 656, and 10 years later there were 961. (Still, that's a lot fewer than the 1,662 AKC all-breed shows that were held in 2018, the last time AKC published the total in the “Conformation” section of its annual report.) Dog News’ “100 Club” shows that only three dogs won at least 100 BIS each during the first five decades of “modern” BIS judging (1924-1973); one won so much during the sixth decade that she also qualifies, and two more started at this time to collect BIS that would set records in the seventh decade — while a grand total of exactly 41 dogs have won 100 BIS each in later years! Whether it will be possible to mention them all in future articles is doubtful.


Scottish Terrier Ch. Braeburn's Close Encounter won 54 of her more than 200 BIS in 1983, when she was Top Dog all breeds. Photo Booth.


The one dog that qualified for the 100 Club during 1974-1983 is the white Standard Poodle Ch. Lou-Gin's Kiss Me Kate, who was handled by Robert Walberg to the previously unimaginable 140th BIS in 1980. It took several years to achieve this, but all the wins came within the sixth decade of BIS competition. That is not the case with the two dogs that eventually won even more: the Scottish Terrier Ch. Braeburn's Close Encounter and the German Shepherd Dog Ch. Covy-Tucker Hill's Manhattan. That I include the Scottie with this article and leave the GSD for the next is because the former won about half of her more than 200 BIS during the sixth decade and was No. 1 all breeds in 1983, while “Manhattan” had just won a few BIS by then but showed little indication of what would come later during the 1980s.


Golden Retriever Ch. Cumming's Gold Rush Charlie winning BIS at Monmouth KC in May 1974 under judge J. Warwick. Handler William Trainor. Charlie won 37 BIS during the mid-'70s. Photo Gilbert.


But what a wealth of beautiful dogs there were in the 1970s and early '80s, even if some of them won “only” some 30 BIS! There were several Sporting Dogs, including the Golden Retriever Ch. Cumming's Gold Rush Charlie, the Irish Water Spaniel Ch. Oaktree's Irishtocrat (BIS at Westminster 1979) and not one but THREE Salilyn Springers: Classic, Continental and Hallmark, the last-named the most successful of them all with 41 BIS.


English Springer Spaniel Ch. Salilyn's Hallmark, shown winning BOB at the ESSFTA National Specialty in 1975, shown by Dick Cooper. Hallmark won 41 all-breed BIS and sired 100 AKC champions. Photo Chuck van de Merlen.


There were some Hounds, of course: “Punky,” the brindle Greyhound bitch Ch. Aroi Talk of the Blues (No. 1 of all breeds 1976), Pat (Craige) Trotter's Norwegian Elkhound Ch. Vin-Melca's Nimbus and the Mini Wire Dachshund Ch. Spartan's Sloe Gin Fizz — all of them won at least 60 BIS each, as did maybe the previously mentioned Whippet Ch. Sporting Fields Clansman. The Afghan Hound Ch. Kabik's The Challenger (Pepsi”) took, according to my records, “only” 44 BIS, but instead he won Westminster and was No. 1 of all breeds in 1983.


Bouvier des Flandres Ch. Taquin du Posty Arlequin, handled by Roy Holloway to BIS under judge Ed McGough. Taquin placed among the Top 10 Dogs in the U.S. for three years, 1974-1976, and won at least 38 BIS. Photo Gilbert.


Bouviers des Flandres did the best of the Working Group breeds. (And remember that the Herding breeds did not get their own competition until 1984.) Early on, Ch. Taquin du Posty Arlequin won 38 BIS (he was owned by Chet Collier, later known as Westminster Kennel Club's president), and a few years later there was Ch. Beaucrest Ruffian, who probably won even more, although we don't quite know how much: 35 BIS are documented, but he placed among the Top Ten dogs of 1980 as well, and there is no record of how many BIS he won that year. The Samoyed Ch. Quicksilver Razz Ma Tazz shone bright for a couple of years and assembled at least 53 BIS. The Doberman Pinscher Ch. Marienburg's Mary Hartman won more than 40 BIS, was No. 1 all breeds in 1978, and was one of many great winners from the same kennel. In the same breed Ch. Galaxy's Corry Carina placed as No. 5 all breeds 1974. This was the only instance of a sibling to a No. 1 all-breed dog placing among the Top Ten dogs: She was litter sister to the previous decade's Ch. Galaxy's Corry Missile Belle.


Alaskan Malamute Ch. Talak of Kotzebue pictured winning a Working Group under judge Peter Knoop in 1974. Talak was No. 4 all breeds that year despite winning “only” six BIS; the Working Group was then so big that it was enough to win it 22 times and place second or third 33 times, as Talak did, to place high in all-breed competition. Handler Marna Pearson. Photo Bill Francis.


Incidentally, the Working Group was still so big that you didn't need to win many all-breeds BIS to do well in that group and place high in the all-breed statistics. The Giant Schnauzer Ch. Ebenholtz D'Lux v Deberic, the Old English Sheepdog Ch. Loyalblue Hendihap, the Alaskan Malamute Ch. Talak of Kotzebue and several others — none won more than 10 BIS, and all still amassed enough points to place among the Top Ten of all breeds, some even for two years running.


The Old English Sheepdog Ch. Loyalbue Hendihap prior to his specials campaign, getting a five-point major from judge Tom Stevenson. Hendihap was #2 all breeds in 1976, but since OES were then in the Working Group, he needed few all-breed wins to place high in the competition: He won six BIS during that year! Photo Robert.


Terriers had some of the highest BIS figures of all. The Scottie called “Shannon” and shown by George Ward has already been mentioned; Ch. Jo-Ni's Red Baron of Crofton won (at least, which applies to all these!) 73 BIS, some of them during the previous decade (he was pictured with the previous article); another Lakeland Terrier, Ch. Cozy's Mischief Maker, won 75 BIS and was in a close race with the Standard Poodle for No. 1 of all breeds in 1979. (According to my records the Poodle amassed 63,896 points, the Lakeland 63,369!) The English import Norwich Terrier Ch. Thrumpton's Lord Brady took 80 BIS. Peter Green handled him; another of Peter's charges, the Sealyham Ch. Dersade Bobby's Girl, won 48 BIS and Westminster in 1977, while the Wire Fox Terrier he handled, Ch. Sunnybook Spot On, during his long career as far as I know won 38 BIS. Before Shannon, George Ward also showed a Wire Fox, Ch. Aryee Dominator, with at least 65 BIS. Another Wire Fox, the English import Ch. Harwire Hetman of Whinlatter, was No. 1 of all breeds 1977 and won 49 BIS. And then there was the Smooth Fox Terrier from Australia officially shown by Ric Chashoudan, but I think his friend Peter Green and even Ric's wife showed him to a couple of the biggest of his 55 BIS. And remember what I said above about this being just the approximate numbers of BIS!


Wire Fox Terriers at Westminster: Left, Peter Green with Ch. Sunnybrook Spot On (38 BIS); right, George Ward with Ch. Aryee Dominator (65 BIS). Photo Booth.


Toys were dominated early on by a number of the Jay-Mac Miniature Pinschers: Most successful of them were Ch. Jay-Mac's Impossible Dream (45 BIS) and Ch. Jay-Mac's Dream Walking (30 BIS). The Yorkshire Terrier Ch. Cede Higgens won 33 BIS, including Westminster in 1978. The most successful Pekingese was Ch. Mike-Mar's China Dragon, who accounted for 34 BIS, and the Pug Ch. Dhandy's Favorite Woodchuck won not only BIS at Westminster in 1981 but was No. 1 of all breeds that year and took a total of 56 BIS.


Miniature Pinscher Ch. Jay-Mac's Dream Walking. She won at least 30 BIS in 1976 and 1977. Photo Booth.


The top winning Non-Sporting breeds basically consist of the previously mentioned  Standard Poodle, Kate; a Dalmatian, Ch. Green Starr's Colonel Joe  (35 BIS); a Chow-Chow, Ch. Wah Hu Redcloud Sugar Daddy, that won 68 BIS but did a lot of his big winning at the beginning of the next decade, and by an extremely successful group of Bulldogs: Ch. Wesfield Cunamorous Stone (38 BIS), Ch. Marinebull's All the Way (48 BIS), Ch. Lord Timothy Scott (32 BIS) and Ch. Lodel's Hi Jacker of Kralan (49 BIS).

So, there you have it … or at least as much as it is humanly possible to get from the available sources. Whether we return with a couple more articles, bringing the major BIS winners up to today, feels extremely doubtful at the time of writing. We'll see, but it's clear that there are a LOT more BIS awarded than we ever dreamed of, particularly in the last few years. A rough estimate shows that there were more than twice as many BIS awarded during the most recent four decades (1984-2023) as during the first six (1924-1983) …


© Dog News. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.

Stay Connected

YES! Send me Dog News' free newsletter!