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Meet the Azawakh, the new breed competing at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

A new breed is looking to be top dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

For the first time, the Azawakh will be competing at the annual New York City event running Feb. 8-11. It will be one of more than 200 breeds and varieties represented in the competition for which there is no cash prize. 

“It’s all about honor, and prestige, and a trophy and being part of history,” says Gail Miller Bisher, Westminster Kennel Club Show national spokesperson.

The sighthound originating from West Africa is now recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and therefore eligible for Westminster. In order for a breed to become recognized by the AKC, “there must be a minimum number of dogs geographically distributed throughout the U.S., as well as an established breed club of responsible owners and breeders,” according to Samantha Seymour, AKC public relations manager. 

Bisher says new breeds are recognized “almost every year.”

“These breeds – they may be very old breeds, actually, in other parts of the world, but they’re becoming more popular in the U.S., and so that’s the case with the Azawakh,” she says.

In December, the AKC recognized two other breeds: the Barbet, a sociable French water dog, and the Dogo Argentino, an Argentine big-game hunter. However, these newcomers aren’t eligible to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show until 2021.

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The Azawakh will compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the first time in February.

Azawakhs are loyal dogs that ‘look like an art piece’

For Fabian Arienti, the proud owner of six Azawakhs, the addition of the breed is quite substantial.

“It actually means a lot because it is an extremely beautiful breed,” he says. “I believe that they look like an art piece, like a sculpture.” 

He’s excited about the exposure for the canine, which first caught his eye nearly 30 years ago at a dog show in Argentina. 

“(The show) only had one, but it was walking and me and my partner (were) like, ‘Wow, what is that?'” he recalls. “After that, for many years,” the breed stayed “in our heads.” Seven years ago the search for an Azawakh began, and the pair got their first one. 

Arienti says he’s showing three Azawakhs at Westminster, including an AKC Grand Champion for the breed. He names the dog’s devotion among its best attributes.

“That they are extremely loyal to you,” he says, “the way they love you, the way they protect you. ”

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Both Bisher and Arienti comment on the hunting dog’s propensity to be active.

“They’re similar, I would say to some of the other sighthounds in that they’re very relaxed and they’re fine laying on your sofa all day,” says Bisher. “But when you get them out in the yard, and they start running and going, then look out because they’re fast, and they’re swift and you don’t want them to get away from you.”

The dogs do best when they have space to exercise, agrees Arienti.

“People (ask) me, ‘Oh, can we have them in an apartment?’ And, I think it’s just (better) to have them where they can go ahead and run and have fun,” he says. 

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