When it comes to this pageant, being a pretty pooch doesn’t cut it. On Friday, the 2013 “World’s Ugliest Dog” contest will commence, crowning a winner at the 25th annual pageant held at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif.
For the past 25 years, dogs from pitbulls to Chihuahuas have entered the contest to discover the worst-looking -- or best-looking depending upon your opinion -- canine on the planet. The winner of the contest gets a trophy, a grand prize of $1,500 and meal at a local restaurant prepared by a top culinary chef.
“You’ve never seen so many tails wagging than at the World’s Ugliest Dog contest,” organizer Vicki DeArmon told the International Business Times. The anti-Westminster pageant started off as a small “homegrown kind of contest,” but nowadays, it’s much more than just “small and quirky” event with thousands of fans coming to cheer on their unsightly favorite.
“It started out as just a little fair contest to entertain fair goers,” DeArmon said. “That audience of fair goers grew to everyone who loves dogs and wanted to hear about it and now it’s ascended to a worldwide chuckle and a belly laugh. It really speaks to how much we all love dogs and that little funny thing to get us through the day.”
The dogs as well as their owners, DeArmon said, are also in it for a good cause. “It’s a big dog party and a big celebration of dogs. A lot of these dogs are rescue dogs so they found their forever home and they were adopted,” she said, adding that many of these former rejects go on to become canine celebrities in their hometowns and worldwide. “Otherwise why do it if it’s not for a good purpose and people having fun?”
This year, 20-30 dogs will compete in the contest in which judges look for “shock factor, audience reaction, unusual attributes and a little attitude.” Two winners in two categories, mutts and pedigrees, will be chosen before both face off to crown the ultimate winner.
“These people are absolutely crazy about their dogs,” DeArmon said, reflecting on a moment when some of the owners took it way too far. The “big scandal,” as the organizers called it, happened one year when “some of the owners cared a little too much and hacked into the voting system,” DeArmon said. “We had to break down the contest and start again in the online voting.”
Of course, there’s a lot of fun involved in the contest, too, like the year organizers hired a doggie psychic to prove the dogs were happy to be in the contest. The psychic said, DeArmon recalled, “’It seems like they’re really just thinking about chicken strips,’ and I thought, ‘Well that takes care of that. Now I have an answer to that.’”
One time, one of the more frisky pups decided to partake in a bit of mischief during the contest. “I always laugh,” she said, “[thinking of when] a woman was sitting and a dog walked up to her, lifted a leg and peed in her purse.” DeArmon said there’s always a big laugh, too, when dogs will “do a little butt scoot across the stage and win the crowd over.”
“You fall in love with each one of the dogs in their own way,” DeArmon said. But this year, her favorite is Ellie Mae, a brown hairless dog with her tongue perpetually hanging out. “I’ve always loved the dog Icky, too, because of the personality of the dog and the owner. It’s the hair and the dead on look in the eyes,” she said. She also loved my favorite, Isaboo, too. And I’d have to agree with her, it’s the hair.
If you can’t make it to sunny California for the contest this year, you could enjoy the cute canines from the comfort of your own home. Thanks to DeArmon, a book entitled “World’s Ugliest Dogs: The Official World’s Ugliest Dog Contest Book” has mini-profiles about the contestants and their owners as well as stories and scandals from the competition where the dogs “who can lift one’s leg higher around the hydrant of publicity.” The book is available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback as well as Kindle.
So, who will be facing off this year in the hopes to be crowned the 2013 “World’s Ugliest Dog?” Here are this year’s competitors so far.
World's Ugliest Dog (R) Contest, Sonoma-Marin Fair