By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A bouncy beagle and a floppy Old English sheepdog were among a handful of canines selected on Monday to advance in the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a two-day event that draws more than 2,700 competitors from 15 countries.
In its 139th year, the show is the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States, behind the Kentucky Derby horse race.
"It's a beautiful group of dogs," said Colton Johnson, from Colorado Springs, whose three-year-old Old English sheepdog, Swagger, won best in his group and will advance to the finals.
From perfectly coiffed Standard Poodles to small and sprightly Bichon Frises, 192 breeds were featured in this year's event, taking place at Piers 92 and 94 and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
New to the competition are two breeds: Coton de Tulears, part of the non-sporting group, and the Wirehaired Vizsla, of the sporting group, hailing from Madagascar and Hungary, respectively.
As part of the show, judges select the best of each breed and group, divided into seven categories - hound, toy, non-sporting, herding, sporting, working and terrier.
On Monday, a lively 15-inch beagle, named Miss P, was selected to represent the hound group. Chosen to head the toy group was a silky-haired shih tzu with a sparkling ponytail, called Rocket. Flame, a dark and puffy standard poodle, will represent the non-sporting group. For the herding group, the friendly 110-pound Old English sheepdog, Swagger, was picked.
Sporting, working and terrier groups are judged on the second day of the show.
The seven dogs selected as the best in their groups compete for the ultimate Best In Show prize. The winner gets a trophy and embarks on a media tour.
"It's the most exciting dog show in the world," said Cecilia Dove, from Flint Hill, Virginia, whose Scottish deerhound, named Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, was the show's grand champion in 2011.
Foxcliffe Hickory Wind's daughter, Chelsea, competed in the show for the first time this year, but did not advance past her breed.
Dogs from 15 countries and all U.S. states, except North Dakota and Idaho, are competing in this year's event.
In last year's show, a wire fox terrier named Sky won Best In Show, making it the record 14th time that breed took the prize.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez)