All-Time Whippet Records
In early February this year breed history was made when the red-fawn-and-white Whippet bitch Bourbon, one of the country's most successful show dogs last year, won her 73rd all-breed Best in Show in Atlanta, Georgia, and thereby set a new record for Whippets in the U.S.
Whippets have had success in all-breed competition for almost a hundred years in the U.S. Some apparently won even before the American Kennel Club introduced a competition for the best dog of all breeds at its shows in 1924, but those winners are lost in time and there is no way to find official records. Best in Show in those days was not an officially sanctioned event; this meant that the rules for the competition — if one was held at all — could be made by the organizing club. The result was often confusing, and it was with the intention of introducing a consistent, logical step-by-step ladder of success at each show, from Best of Breed to Group wins to Best in Show, that AKC introduced the rules that are mostly still in use today. However, there was no ranking system or annual Top Dog award for another few decades, so the early Whippet winners are not easy to identify.
It is known that in 1927 a fawn Whippet bitch named Ch. Edina Dot won Best in Show at three separate AKC events. We have a report from one of them, Pierce County Kennel Club's 6th Annual Show at the Greenwich Coliseum in Tacoma, Washington, from which we can learn that the show lasted for three days, March 9, 10 and 11 (midweek!), that approximately 400 dogs were shown and that they were all judged by all-rounder Walter H. Reeves, who started judging at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and "worked exactly to schedule, completing his selection of best dog in show at 9:30 o'clock Friday night." (I found this information during research for a book about early dog show history I was writing a few years ago.) Dot was owned by Norman McConnell and probably bred in Canada, most likely Vancouver, BC, by William Anderson Coull, responsible for at least a half dozen litters in the 1920s, most of them with the Edina prefix, and imported several dogs from British kennels. No descendants of Dot are known to have been registered.
At that time winning even a small number of Best in Shows automatically made a dog one of the most successful of the year: only four or five dogs of different breeds won more than Dot in 1927 — none of them a Hound, so you could even say that Dot was Top Hound. A German Shepherd Dog with seven all-breed Bests that year was the most successful of all in 1927, but it should be noted that there were only 183 all-breed AKC shows that year, a fraction of the total today.
After that no Whippet won consistently at all-breed shows until the early 1940s, when the white-and-fawn bitch who would become famous as Ch. Flornell Glamorous won her first Best in Show on November 16, 1940, under judge W. L. Kendrick at Camden County Kennel Club in Georgia. There was an entry of 724 dogs at the show. During the following three years Glamorous won another 20 BIS. This was still a few years before any official ranking existed, but in hindsight it's possible to establish that Glamorous was in fact among the most successful show dogs of any breed in the country during her entire campaign. The number of AKC shows had slowly increased during the 1930s but dropped again due to World War II — only 130 AKC all-breed shows were held during 1943. This made a consistent record of six or seven Best in Shows per year at that time even more impressive.
Ch. Flornell Glamorous, 21 BIS 1940-1943. Photo Brown.
Glamorous had an interesting background. She was imported from her breeder in England, Stanley S. Wilkin, whose Tiptree dogs provided much of the foundation for post-war breeders in both Great Britain and the United States. She was originally registered as Tiptree Bee, but in those days it was still possible to re-register a dog under a different name, and the man who imported and showed her, Percy Roberts (later a well-known judge), registered Glamorous with the name she is now famous under. His own kennel prefix, Flornell, is otherwise best known for Terriers. Glamorous' owner, Mrs. Margaret Anderson of the Mardormere kennels, bred at least three litters out of her; she produced a champion daughter and appears repeatedly in later Mardormere pedigrees.
There were other Whippets winning in the all-breed competition during the late 1940s, '50s and early '60s, but none stood out as much as the still famous "Ricky," alias Eng. & Am. Ch. Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth, a fawn-and-white male. He made his first appearance in the U.S. in late 1962, imported as an adult champion from his breeder Mr. E. A. Halliwell in England by Margaret P. Newcombe of the famous Pennyworth kennel. In December that year Ricky won the Hound Group from the classes at his first show in the U.S. — coincidentally under Mr. William Kendrick, the judge who had given Glamorous her first BIS more than ten years earlier.
In 1963 Ricky won eight Best in Shows, enough to make him Top Hound in his adopted country. That was only a warm-up to his big year, however: in 1964 Ricky became the only Whippet to win Best in Show at Westminster and was ranked Top Dog of All Breeds with 21 Best in Shows. Ricky was shown throughout his show career by professional handler Robert Forsyth. History repeated itself when Ricky was first Top Hound Sire in 1965 and Top Sire of All Breeds in 1966 (although he had to share that honor with a Yorkshire Terrier). Ricky sired a total of 45 AKC champions.
Eng. Am. Ch. Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth, 29 BIS 1963-1964. Photo Burwell.
The entire show record has been preserved for posterity and is worth mentioning. Ricky was shown a total of 86 times, including seven times in the classes. He was never defeated by any other male, won 75 Best of Breed and 11 Best of Opposite Sex, won the Hound Group 53 times (he was 12 times Second, 3 times Third and twice Fourth, which means that he was unplaced in the Group only five times) and was BIS 29 times. During his peak year, 1964, he was shown 36 times, won 21 BIS, 31 Group Firsts, 2 Seconds and 1 Third — and was once BOS to a bitch, Ch. Stoney Meadows Snow Queen.
In 1964 the number of AKC all-breed shows had increased to 496.
Ricky's position as the top winning Whippet in the U.S. of all time lasted until the late 1970s and the arrival of a white-and-red-brindle dog called "Buoy." This was Ch. Sporting Fields Clansman , who won 58 all-breed BIS during his long specials career from 1977 through 1981, as well as the Hound Group at Westminster in 1981. In spite of his kennel prefix, "Buoy" was bred by Bruce Teage and Richard Sufficool (best known for Beagles with the Shoreview prefix) but owned by Mr. and Mrs. James Butt, whose daughter Debbie also co-owned Buoy and alternated showing him with professional handler Robert Forsyth. (Bob Forsyth therefore was in the unique position of having shown the two all-time top male Whippets, Ricky and Buoy.)
Buoy sired only a dozen or so litters: when I wanted to breed a bitch to him in 1982 he had already been pronounced sterile. Nevertheless, from these few litters he sired more than 20 champions and is behind — far behind! — present-day dogs from the same kennel.
Ch. Sporting Fields Clansman, 58 BIS 1977-1981 with handler Debbie Butt. Photo Ashbey.
Buoy's total number of 58 BIS made him the all-time Whippet for more than 30 years. The number of AKC shows increased rapidly at this time: in the year of Buoy's first BIS, 1977, there were 775 all-breed shows, in 1981 there were 877. Buoy's record still stands for Whippet males, but two bitches in more recent years have set new records for the breed in all-breed competition. The first was the brindle-and-white GCh. (Platinum) Starline's Chanel, who won 72 BIS, the first in 2009 and the last in 2012. Chanel was bred by Lori and Carey Lawrence in partnership with Dianne Bowen, and owned by the Lawrences with their daughter, Nicole. Chanel's handler throughout her career was Lori Wilson-Paust, although on rare occasions Lori Lawrence, an excellent handler in her own right, took over. Her most memorable win, in spite of all the BIS wins, was probably the Hound Group victory at Westminster in 2010. Chanel only produced one single litter prior to her untimely accidental death, but that litter, born in 2012, included at least five champions.
GCh. Starlines Chanel, 72 BIS 2009-2012. Photo Carol Beuchat.
The number of AKC all-breed shows increased greatly in the early 2000s: in 2009 it reached a total of 1,548. Since then the number of shows per year seems to have settled somewhat: 2019 figures are not yet available, but in 2018 there were 1,644 AKC all-breed shows.
Finally Bourbon, or to list her full title and name: GCh. (Platinum) Pinnacle Kentucky Bourbon. She won her 73rd, record-setting Best in Show at the Conyers Kennel Club of Georgia in Atlanta on Sunday, February 2, 2020 over an entry of 1,687 dogs under judge Terry M. DePietro. Bourbon won her first Best in Show in 2018, picked up 64 all-breed BIS last year — more than any Hound previously — which made her No. 2 or No. 3 (depending on which point system you're looking at) of all breeds for 2019. So far this year, Bourbon has won seven all-breed Bests between January 4th and February 2nd.
Another record that Bourbon and her litter brother GCh. (Platinum) Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey have set is that they are, as far as is known, the only pair of siblings in AKC history to have been No. 1 in their respective Group (in this case Hounds). Whiskey was Top Hound in 2018 and Bourbon, of course, in 2019. Both have also won the American Whippet Club national specialty.
Bourbon was bred by Justin Smithey and Yvonne Sovereign, and is co-owned by a team consisting of Ken Latimer, Judy Descutner and Nancy Shaw and Justin and Cheslie Smithey. Cheslie also handles Bourbon.
The two top winning bitches are relatively closely related, since the all-time top sire, Ch. Starline's Reign On, is the great-grandsire of both. It would be nice to state that the old record holders are also behind the newer ones, and in fact they are, at least some of them — but so far back in the pedigrees, and so seldom, that it is hardly of any practical importance. Ricky is seven generations behind Buoy, and because Buoy was little used at stud before becoming sterile you have to search pretty hard to find him in the extended pedigrees of Chanel and Bourbon. The closest I can find Buoy is that his double grandson Ch. Sporting Fields Strider sired the great winner Ch. Sporting Fields Kinsman in the 1980s, and Kinsman is twice behind Chanel's great-granddam Ch. Wenrick's Vanity Fair. Kinsman is also several times in Bourbon's extended pedigree, but you have to go back at least five or six generations to find him. Chanel and Bourbon, however, also descend from Ricky multiple times through a different link, via early Flying W and Runner's breeding.
So what's in the future? If Bourbon is retired from competition after all this, can anyone ever achieve a similar or better record? The above should, if nothing else, make it clear that no record is ever safe ... but for any Whippet to ever win more in all-breed competition than Bourbon would be an amazing achievement.
GCh. Pinnacle Kentucky Bourbon, 73 BIS 2018-2020. Photo Nathalie Jaklewicz.