At the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Madison Square Garden

The second oldest sporting event in the United States - the first is the Kentucky Derby, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York features competitors with a keen sense of smell and hearing. For the champion dogs that convened on the first day of the show in Madison Square Garden today, who knows what they heard and smelled? Maybe they sniffed out the unfamiliar scents of the three breeds new this year - the Norwegian Buhund, the Pyrenean Shepherd, and the Irish Red and White Shepherd, or the sellout crowd (the tickets were gone by 12:30 p.m.), or maybe it was just a faint whiff of the Knicks locker room. No matter the distraction, however, each member of the competition kept a keen eye on their human companion, as many of these images attest.

Today, the first day of the two-day event featured judging in the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding breeds and varieties. Tomorrow, it will be the turn of the Sporting, Working, and Terrier breeds and varieties. Today's competition provided a rare opportunity to see such dogs as the sleek and elegant Pharaoh Hound and the handsome reddish Begian Tervuren and the stout spirited Swedish Vallhund. Still, some old faithfuls commanded attention, especially the popular Dachshund varieties, Beagles, and Australian Shepherds. All the dogs, not just the Poodles, received the royal treatment in the grooming area.

A $40 general admission ticket is good for all day and includes access to the backstage areas. Much of the fun of Westminster is meeting the individual dogs, usually while their companion is combing out tangles, and then following them out into the floor of the vast Madison Square Garden. Who knows if they can sniff out the winners?

The competition culminates on Tuesday evening. Both Monday and Tuesday evening group judging events will be televised on the USA Network beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from February 15, 2010.

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