Steven Donahue / See Spot Run Photography
For the first time in the 20-year history of the National Dog Show presented by Purina, we have a repeat Best in Show winner: Claire the Scottish deerhound, the dog who took home top honors last year.
The graceful hound bested 1,583 other dogs representing 187 breeds at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center on Saturday. Best in Show Judge Jeffery Pepper selected her in the final ring, capping the roughly 12-hour show that was broadcasted Thanksgiving afternoon on NBC.
Claire's handler, Angela Lloyd, told reporters after the show that she wasn't thinking about back-to-back Best in Shows.
"I was thinking more about keeping her happy and getting a really good performance out of her and having a good time," she says.
Pepper said the 4-year-old dog "really filled my eye," giving credit to both her and her handler.
"She is beautifully balanced and fits the requirements of the Scottish deerhound breed standard in terms of both type and construction," Pepper, a judge with 36 years of experience, said in a news release. "The handler moved her at exactly the right speed, exhibiting excellent athleticism."
Which Dogs Were the Other Group Winners at the National Dog Show?
After winning the hound group, Claire, whose full registered name is GCH Foxcliffe Claire Randall Fraser (she's an Outlander fan, her handler confirmed), entered the ring with the six other group winners:
Sporting Group: German shorthaired pointer Jade
Working Group: Kuvasz Mo'Ne
Terrier Group: Lakeland terrier MM
Toy Group: Affenpinscher Chester
Non-Sporting Group: English bulldog Winter
Herding Group: Pyrenean shepherd Sasha
The Pyrenean shepherd took home Reserve Best in Show (second place).
And how competitive was that group? Very. Chester also won the toy group at last year's National Dog Show while Jade won the sporting group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show earlier this year. All seven dogs in the group boast either top rankings, multiple Best in Show wins, group victories, or a collection of all three, according to the Kennel Club of Philadelphia.
(The Daily Paws People's Champion—which is definitely real—goes to Winter, who had his handler carry him to the ring's judging platform like a sack of potatoes. My guy knows it's about working smarter, not harder.)
Get to Know Claire the Scottish Deerhound
The 2021 National Dog Show title is yet another trophy for Claire's bloodline. The Virginia hound took home the 2020 Best in Show honors, and her mother, Chelsea, won Reserve Best in Show at the National Dog Show in 2015. Before that, Claire's grandmother, Hickory, won Best in Show at Westminster in 2011.
"I think [Claire's] just at the top of her game, truly," says Lloyd, who's handled all three dogs. " … She believes in herself. She has a lot of confidence in who she is."
Lloyd is one of Claire's three owners. Cecilia Dove and Scott Dove are the other two.
Scottish deerhounds come from their namesake, Scotland, where they were bred as sighthounds who could hunt and capture stags. They're large dogs—weighing between 75 and 110 pounds and some measuring nearly 3 feet tall—but they're not as towering as Irish wolfhounds, the breed they're often confused with.
The National Dog Show 2021 Format Was Back to Normal(ish)
The 2021 National Dog Show looked more like its pre-pandemic versions. Unlike last year, the show was again benched—the dogs having their own spaces at the expo center—so fans could see them up close. Along with the crowds, vendors and sponsors were also back, but everyone in the building was vaccinated against COVID-19 and many wore masks.
Roughly 1,000 people took in the show in person while millions will likely watch on TV.
"It's a great family holiday," commentator David Frei says. "Everybody's gathered around waiting for the turkey to come out and they're all sitting in the same place, and boom, let's hit the TV."
If you missed all the fun, you can watch the National Dog Show 2021 replay Saturday at 8 p.m. eastern time. Younger dog fans can also watch National Dog Show Junior at 2 p.m. eastern time on Thanksgiving on NBC's streaming platform, Peacock.