The “best in Show” winner at the Westminster dog show, which begins tomorrow (Feb. 12), will probably be male. That’s because female dogs start out the competition at a huge disadvantage.
Almost 1,700 male dogs will participate in this year’s competition, while just 1,220 females will compete, according to Reuters. Female winners are usually taken out of competition to breed, while males are free to continue competing.
The prime age for competition is three- to five-years-old, which is apparently also the prime breeding age for female dogs. Last year’s winner, for instance, Rumor—a female German Shepherd—quickly retired from competition and has now littered many puppies.
Male dogs have thus won “Best in Show” at Westminster 71 times, almost twice as many victories as females (39).
The disparity is similar to the one in horse racing. Despite the fact that male and female horses are generally evenly matched physically, two-thirds of horse racing winners are males. They’re viewed as more commercially viable because one male horse can be used to breed many offspring. Female horses, meanwhile, can only produce one foal a year. Some owners are also scared off by their estrous cycles, which they say can make female race horses unpredictable.
Dog handlers have a similar fear. “They’re moody,” one handler told Reuters of female dogs during their cycles, which arrive about once every six months. Many dog breeders won’t show their female dogs in competition during those cycles.
For those unaware, the Westminster dog show judges dogs on how closely they conform to the judges’ imaginary ideal of how those breeds should look and behave. Female dogs can take solace in the fact that absolutely nothing matters less than the Westminster dog show and the entire practice, quite frankly, should be banned.