It's almost time for dog lovers to curl up in front of their TVs for the Westminster Kennel Club 137th Annual All Breed Dog Show. The two-day event -- which is the second-longest-running sporting event in U.S. history, after the Kentucky Derby -- might have a lot of long-standing traditions, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to mix things up a bit. This year, viewers will see the exciting addition of two new breeds to the competition: the Russell terrier and the treeing Walker coonhound.
The Russell terrier, also referred to as the Jack Russell terrier (same as the adorable Eddie from "Frasier"), is different from the AKC and UKC Parson Russell terrier. What sets this breed apart is its physical features (such as its small size and compressible chest), which allow for underground hunting and for maneuvering around tight turns and through precarious tunnels.
[Related: See the 10 cutest TV dogs ever]
Russell terriers originated in 1800s England, where they helped fox hunters catch their game. Their small size allowed them to be carried in terrier bags on horseback. This breed is known as particularly friendly, intelligent, and loyal. And no need to worry about these dogs biting anyone; they are nonconfrontational and nonsparring. Their coat -- which can be smooth, broken, or rough -- is mostly white with spots.
Some dog lovers are surprised that the beloved Russell Terrier has not yet been a part of the competition. The American Kennel Club primarily considers recognizing a breed if it meets certain criteria: adequate numbers and geographic dispersion in the United States; and a growing national interest, which must be supported by an active parent club. Luckily, the Russell Terrier has finally made the cut and will be competing in the Terrier group.
The treeing Walker coonhound was also bred to track woodland animals -- treeing raccoons and opossums, in this case. With their tirelessness, top-notch sniffer, dedication to task, and treeing ability, these hounds are amazing at what they do. Not to mention that they're swift, courageous, and friendly. They also have a buglelike howl, which changes when they arrive at the tree they're seeking. Treeing Walkers are descendants of the Walker, Virginia, and English foxhounds, but they look most similar to the Walker in color and build.
These two breeds are getting a lot of attention, but will it be enough for them to stand up to the 2,700 dogs from 187 breeds and varieties that will be competing? Last year, a Pekingese named Ch Palacegarden Malachy (or just Malachy for short) took the grand prize of Best in Show. In the Hound category, in which the treeing Walking coonhound will be competing, last year's winner was a wirehaired dachshund. As far as the Terrier category, last year's winner was a Kerry blue terrier. Looks like these two newbies have their work cut out!
2012's Best in Show winner visits "The View":
To see which dogs take home the coveted trophies, tune in to the Westminster Kennel Club 137th Annual All Breed Dog Show, which begins Monday, 2/11 at 8 PM on CNBC. Best in Show will be awarded live Tuesday, 2/12; the show starts at 8 PM on USA.