This week, New York City plays host to the 137th edition of the Westminster Kennel Club's Annual All-Breed Dog show, or as we know it better, the Westminster Dog Show.
While this might feel more like the Miss America pageant for dogs than an actual sporting event, there's a lot to enjoy about the Westminster Show. But of course you've got questions you need answered first, right?
OK, so there are dogs. Being shown. Why do I care?
Opening in 1877 as America's first organization dedicated to purebred dogs, Westminster Kennel Club hosts not only the longest-running dog show in the United States, but the second longest-running sporting event. Only the Kentucky Derby, which began in 1875, is older.
That alone might not be reason enough for the casual fan to care. However, there are 3,200 other reasons to care. That's the permitted size of the field in this year's competition, although 2,700 is the number of entrants typically given.
3,200 dogs?! Where do they put them all?
This year, the Westminster Dog Show is being hosted at two venues: Piers 92/94 will host breed judging during the daytime hours on Monday and Tuesday. Best of Show, as well as group judging and junior showmanship, will still be held at Madison Square Garden during evening competition.
Less clear is how many fire hydrants were imported.
What kind of dogs should I expect to see?
All the dogs need to be registered purebreds, and most if not all will come with well-planned pedigrees.
What you will see is 187 breeds represented -- which is probably several times more than you could name off the top of your head. Go ahead. We'll wait. ... Don't worry, you're not alone.
Breeds are further divided into groups, which sound a lot more familiar: working (boxer, mastiff), herding (German shepherd, border collie), hounds (beagle, both 13- and 15-inch varieties), sporting (pointers, setters), non-sporting (bulldog, poodle), terrier (cairn terrier, miniature schnauzer) and toy (papillon, pekingese).
Westminster provides a breakdown of every group, as well as the dogs that will complete in that group. Even better: there are links and photos so you can learn more about all the breeds you didn't know existed.
This year has two new breeds represented: the Treeing Walker Coonhound (in the hound group) and the Russell Terrier (terrier group). Don't worry, those are new to us, too.
How are the dogs judged?
Dogs are judged against the standard, which is basically a set of rules that tell you a dog's ideal size, what kind of temperament it should have, what the dog's coat should look like and how it should be trimmed, what kind of gait it should have, etc. These standards may seem random, but they actually came about as breeders tried to create the ideal dog for its intended purpose. For example, under American Kennel Club specifications a German shepherd's coat should be short-haired with warm undercoat and a waterproof topcoat so that it remains warm and dry while protecting its herd in poor weather.
Judges watch the dogs as they circle and then inspect each dog closer. Judges might have slightly different interpretations of each breed standard, leading to subjective results.
Needless to say, it is imperative not to bite the judge during the competition.
What kinds of awards are given out?
Judges choose a best in breed. But they don't stop there. There are best of varieties and best-in-show too.
Best in show always draws great interest. Seven dogs are selected as finalists from across the different breeds before one is given the ultimate prize.
What's the schedule look like?
Monday's action has already concluded for breeds in the hound, toy, non-sporting and herding breeds. Sporting, working and terrier fans can expect to watch their favorites on Tuesday afternoon.
OK, so I do care! But how do I catch the action?
CNBC has Monday night's televised action. The show will air live 8-11 p.m. ET for the eastern half of the nation. However, the Pacific Time coverage will run tape-delayed at 8-11 p.m. PT. USA Network picks up coverage Tuesday, running in the same 8-11 p.m. timeslot and again running tape-delayed on the West Coast.
You can catch live streaming as well, with cameras set up in multiple rings.
Of course, if you're in New York City and feeling so inspired, you could head down to the Piers or MSG and see it in person. Here is some ticket info for the Westminster Dog Show.
And yes, there's an app for that.
Great, so who's going to win best in show?
Your guess is as good as mine!
In the past five years, judges have picked dogs from across different breeds and groups. Last year's winner was a pekingese. Before that, winners were a Scottish deerhound, Scottish terrier, Sussex spaniel and even a beagle.