Tonight is the finale of the Westminster Dog Show. The show is always entertaining if you are dog lover and educational whether you are or not—what the heck is a Plott?–but it is also a strange epitome of what human beings will accept as fair and reasonable because of tradition alone. The pretense that the judging at this stage of the show, after the best of the individual breeds have been selected, is anything but deluded arbitrariness presented as scientific expertise is astounding, because so many intelligent people not only accept it, but accept it with good humor and certitude.
The American Kennel Club has exacting standards for each breed, and its judges are well-trained and knowledgeable to be sure. The Group competitions and climactic Best of Show determination, however, are blatant exercises in the suspension of disbelief. It is a true apples vs. oranges extravaganza that the owners, crowd and commentators treat with the solemnity of a major Supreme Court ruling, yet has no more real meaning than a series of coin flips. Last night, for example, a Scottish deerhound, one of my favorite breeds, won the Hound Group. This meant that the Group’s judge determined, in a matter of minutes, that the winning deerhound was a better deerhound than the best long-haired dachshund was a long-haired dachshund. How? What does that even mean? Continue reading