The nation’s top dogs are getting a weekend in the country.
The Westminster Kennel Club, the organizer of the popular dog show that has been a midwinter tradition in New York City for more than a century, announced Wednesday that its 2021 event would move from Madison Square Garden, its longtime home, to Lyndhurst, a riverside estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., north of the city, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The dates for the main judging competitions will be June 12 and 13, though the weekend will begin with the masters agility championship on Friday, June 11. The best-in-show judging will be broadcast live on Fox, which will take over the event from its cable partner for the Sunday night finale.
The change to a warm-weather, outdoor show was necessary, organizers said, to ensure the event could take place and still comply with the “ever-changing government restrictions” brought on by the health crisis. The Lyndhurst grounds have a long history as the host of dog shows, including dozens of events run by the Westchester Kennel Club.
“The wide-open outdoor space at this extraordinary venue allows us to hold a dog show safely while following current social distancing guidelines and public health regulations,” Westminster’s president, Charlton Reynders III, said in a statement.
Many of the specifics of next year’s show, from the setup of the judging areas to whether fans will be allowed to attend, remain unclear, given the continuing spread of the coronavirus and the fluidity of health recommendations and rules to fight it. In other leading shows held outdoors, competition areas are sometimes set up in large tents without sides. In any event, the vast collection of antique furniture inside Lyndhurst’s iconic castle — which is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation — will, presumably, remain off-limits, even to champions.
The change in venue, which was made possible when two other shows agreed to surrender the June dates, will allow the Westminster show to extend a continuous run that dates to 1877, and includes 100 years of shows at various iterations of Madison Square Garden. Only the Kentucky Derby, which was first run in 1875 and crowns a horse, not a dog, as its champion, has had a longer run among American sporting events.
Westminster also announced Wednesday that three new breeds would enter the competition in 2021: the Barbet (“the archetype water dog of France”) in the sporting group; the Belgian Laekenois (“an affectionate, alert and intelligent dog bred to herd and guard flocks and fields”) in the herding group; and the Dogo Argentino (“bred to find, chase and catch dangerous game”), which will join the working group and captain the kennel club’s soccer team. (OK, that last part isn’t true.)
The additions will join the 208 eligible breeds competing for best in show.