SPORTS

Hungarian hunter and Madagascar's 'royal dog' will join competition at 2015 Westminster show

09/30/2014 03:53 EDT | Updated 11/30/2014 05:59 EST
NEW YORK, N.Y. - One is a rugged, versatile hunter conditioned to withstand frosty Hungarian winters. The other is a happy-go-lucky companion from the island of Madagascar. Both will join the pack at the Westminster Kennel Club show next year.

The wirehaired viszla and the coton de tulear are the latest breeds to be added to the nation's premier canine competition, set for Feb. 16-17. The club's leaders — and Luna the coton de tulear and Falko the wirehaired viszla — looked ahead to the show at a news conference Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Luna stood politely as organizers discussed plans for the first Westminster show to include her small-but-sturdy breed, dubbed the "royal dog of Madagascar" and known for its flowing, cotton-like coat and chipper disposition.

"I say they're a big dog in a small dog's boots," Luna's breeder and co-owner, Adrianne Dering of Morgantown, West Virginia, said afterward. The breed initially developed on its own in the island nation off southeastern Africa, then became popular with Madagascar's aristocracy and later with French colonists, according to the United States of America Coton de Tulear (pronounced koh-TOHN' du TOO'-lay-ahr) Club.

"They're just very adaptable, and they like everybody," Dering said. Prospective owners need to be prepared to brush the dogs' long coats a few times a week, unless they're kept in a shorter cut.

The wirehaired viszla (pronounced VEEZ'-shlah) was bred to be a hardy, all-weather hunting aide in the rough terrain of northern Hungary, with a brushy coat and somewhat heavier build than its cousin the viszla. But the wirehaired hunters know how to be low-key: Falko, owned by Anton Sagh of Montreal, Canada, relaxed on the floor before his star turn Tuesday.

"They're just phenomenal in the field," but "really easygoing to live with," though they do benefit from a yard to run in or a few-mile walk each day, Wirehaired Vizsla Club of America President Jean Schroeder of Wanatah, Indiana, said by phone.

Breeds are added to the show after the American Kennel Club recognizes them, which requires having several hundred dogs of the breed nationwide, among other criteria. There are now 180 AKC-recognized breeds.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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