- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A colored bull terrier called Rufus used his head Tuesday night to become America’s top dog.

The tan-and-white mix won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club, beating out six strong contenders and drawing a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Rufus’ selling point? His head — perfectly shaped like an egg.

“The classic profile of a colored bull terrier,” judge James Reynolds said.

Rufus was the first dog in his breed to win at the nation’s most prestigious show. Handler Kathy Kirk said she was “ready to pass out” from the pressure, but her nearly 6-year-old dog that she playfully calls “Puppyhead” seemed to take it all in stride, flawlessly posing for the judge and wagging his tail when he won.

At a show that drew 2,622 entries in 165 breeds and varieties, Rufus really earned this victory. He beat out a favorite Norfolk terrier named Coco and a Dandie Dinmont co-owned by Bill Cosby just to reach the final ring.

When it got down to Best in Show, Rufus was picked ahead of a popular golden retriever, a Rottweiler handled by a former Florida State linebacker, a prize pug and a spirited Dalmatian.

An old English sheepdog and a Scottish deerhound also made it to the final seven.

Terriers have dominated in 130 years of Westminster, now winning 44 of 99 times that Best in Show has been presented. But usually it’s fancier kinds, such as the wire fox, that take home the silver bowl.

This time, the dog registered as champion Rocky Top’s Sundance Kid won the prize for owner Barbara and Tom Bishop of Holmdel, N.J. It was his 32nd overall Best in Show victory, including a win at NBC’s National Dog Show in November and, by any standard, his biggest.

A day earlier, Miss Kirk celebrated his upset win in the terrier group by going shopping. Her new outfit, looking like a black tux, proved lucky.

“Armani was good to me tonight,” she said.

This show was full of newcomers. Of the seven breeds to reach the Best in Show ring, only the old English sheepdog and pug had won it all.

Boomer the Dalmatian made a strong bid to take home the title. The black-and-white special was a crowd favorite on Monday night in the non-sporting group and again while facing Rufus.

“I thought the Dalmatian was perfect,” Miss Kirk said.

No Rottweiler had ever won the working group until owner-breeder-handler Keith Carter guided Shaka to victory Monday night on the green carpet.

Mr. Carter is accustomed to winning on another green field. He played with Deion Sanders for coach Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles in the late 1980s, won four bowl games and carried on a fierce rivalry with Miami.

Dermot the pug won the toy group at his final event. He traveled about 50,000 miles last year by motor home, and had 65 overall Best in Show wins. Andy the golden retriever was the top sporting dog.

Goldens are the second most popular breed in the United States, yet always have been shut out at Westminster.

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