Why are they called “Terriers,” “Pekingese,” and “Bluetick Coonhounds?”

Many people approach the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with a combination of fascination and trepidation. Awfully cute canines appear in some odd situations. Here’s some information about the fascinating names of the breeds considered the top contenders for Best in Show this year, as well as the poetic and eccentric name of one of the dog breeds making their official debut, the Bluetick Coonhound.

This year the front-runners for Best in Show are two Smooth Fox Terriers, one named Dodger and the other named Adam, a Pekingese named Malachy, and a Boxer named Scarlett.

The Terrier group has earned more than twice as many wins as any other group competing for the top prize. “Terrier” comes from the same root as “terrain.” The Old French basis for terrier is chien terrier, literally “earth dog,” named for the burrowing creatures they were bred to pursue.  The Smooth Fox Terrier is named for its smooth, dense coat and for the cunning burrower known as the fox.

(An aside: do you know why the common word “dog” is considered a mystery of the English language? Find out, here.)

Dating back to 800 A.D., the Pekingese or “Peke” is an ancient breed of toy, or small, dog originating in China. The name relates to the ancient city of Peking, now Beijing. Commonly referred to as the lion dog due to their likeness to the Chinese guardian lion, Pekingese were held sacred in ancient China, where the punishment for stealing them was death.

It is surmised that the name “Boxer” is derived from the breed’s propensity to stand on its hind legs and playfully ‘box’ with its front paws. Developed in Germany in the late 19th century, the Boxer was bred from the English Bulldog and the now extinct Bullenbeisser. The breed was introduced to the United States around the turn of the 20th century. In 1915, a Boxer named Dampf vom Dom was the first of its breed to win Best In Show at Westminster. Evidence that the name was popular years before the introduction of the breed, Boxer is the name of the dog owned by John Peerybingle, the main character in the best selling 1845 book The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens.

The Bluetick Coonhound is one of six new breeds being introduced at Westminster this year. Originating in Louisiana, the Bluetick is a descendant of the French bred Grand Bleu de Gascogne and the English Foxhound. The name is derived from the Bluetick’s coat pattern: dark blue in color and covered in a ‘ticking’ or mottled pattern.

Perhaps this year will see the crowning of a new breed and the underdog will have its day. Are there any other breeds or you’d like to know about, or do you have any other questions that are dogging you? Let us know.

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