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Affenpinscher Is Westminster's Top Dog


It is a scruffy, little black pooch named Banana Joe that is now America's new top dog. Joe, an Affenpinscher, won Best in Show last night in New York at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Josh Dean is author of the book "Show Dog." And he joined us to talk about the results. Good morning.

JOSH DEAN: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So, a lot of people may not know what an Affenpinscher actually is.


MONTAGNE: Why don't you describe the breed for us?

DEAN: That often happens at Westminster. It's a small, fuzzy-faced German dog. It's actually one of the older toy breeds and it looks like - it looks terrier-like, but it's actually not a terrier group. Definitely not in your most popular breeds. I think it's somewhere in the 120s in terms of popularity here in America.

MONTAGNE: Well, I gather they call it - some people call it affectionately - a monkey dog.


DEAN: The Affen, apparently I don't speak German, but means monkey, or at least have the same roots. So basically, yes, it's named a monkey-faced dog because it's unquestionable. If you look at the dog's face, you think that's not a dog. That's a monkey.


MONTAGNE: Well, all right. Well, tell us, they often get these cute dogs who end up being Best in Show. Well, tell us about this one, Banana Joe.

DEAN: He's actually a very successful dog. He was a big, big champion in Europe before he came to America. And last year, he was considered to be one of the favorites, so this wasn't a really big surprise to dog show people. And I think that he became one of the favorites for the crowd too, because he does have an adorable face. And he's got a lot of personality, as little dogs often do.

MONTAGNE: Well, I also hear that what you might call the real story of the night, is the dog that came in second.

DEAN: Swagger.



DEAN: This was the dog that really, you know, I don't know if it's fair to say captured America's imagination 'cause that looked - I guess implied that most of America was watching. But definitely, the crowd fell in love with that dog. This is a dog...

MONTAGNE: And he's what? He's what breed?

DEAN: Oh, he's an old English sheepdog. And he is out of Colorado Springs. And this is as close as you'll ever see, at Westminster, to an out of nowhere, just regular old dog. Now, I say that, of course, this is a highly bred show dog. And his owners wouldn't've brought him to Westminster if they didn't think they had a chance to do well.

But this is the first year at Westminster has allowed what they call a Class Dog, which are dogs that are not yet champions. So he'd only entered three dog shows in his life. Westminster was his fourth. His owners decided to bring about from Colorado, entered him, and he beat all of that country's best sheepdogs. And then he beat all of the country's best herding dogs.

And then, suddenly there he is last night in Best in Show, against some of the most expensive dogs in the country; dogs that have been shown for years and years. And he was definitely getting the biggest cheers. And I started to let myself believe, for a minute, that there was a chance he could win.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, like a Cinderella story.


DEAN: Oh, complete Cinderella story. It would have been - you know, there would be movie rights would probably already be sold.


MONTAGNE: Well, OK, he didn't win. Banana Joe did. But does Banana Joe's victory mean we're going to see more of his breed - the monkey-faced dog breed?


DEAN: You definitely - every year, there is a Westminster effect. So I think you'll see a few more of them, but not to the degree of - for instance, you know the Beagle won a few years ago. And Beagle already being a popular breed, I think that reminded people how much they love those dogs. So I wouldn't necessarily look for Affenpinscher all over your park next year.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, Josh Dean is author of the book "Show Dog," talking to us about the winner of last night Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Thanks so much.

DEAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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