06/26/2015 01:45 EDT | Updated 06/26/2016 05:59 EDT

Homely hounds compete to be top dog in contest that applauds imperfections

PETALUMA, Calif. - He's overweight and has a birth defect that left him a bit hunchbacked.

Quasi Modo is a 10-year-old pit bull-Dutch shepherd mix who was leading the World's Ugliest Dog contest, with nearly 10,000 votes by Friday. Resembling a hyena or Tasmanian devil, he can unsettle some people, but he makes up for it with a bubbly personality, his biography says.

Quasi Modo was far ahead of No. 2 Morris, a mutt who looks a little like a pig with a spiky haircut and has garnered more than 5,000 votes.

The two are among 27 dogs vying for the title of homeliest hound, which has been given to a pooch in the small California coastal town of Petaluma for decades. Dogs have arrived from as far as Florida, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona to compete in a contest that applauds imperfections.

The winner will receive $1,500 Friday night at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds.

Several of the competitors have been rescued from shelters, puppy mills or abusive homes. This year features a new "spirit award," honouring a dog and owner who have overcome obstacles or are providing service to the community.