THE STUDY FEBRUARY 15, 2012
Last night, an 11-pound Pekingese named Malachy took the top prize at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Malachy’s win brought some attention to this slightly obscure breed of toy dog. In the wake of all the fame and glory of the Best in Show prize, is America about to experience a Pekingese craze?
Probably not, according to a 2004 study. The study’s authors, noting that the popularity of dog breeds can change very quickly, attempted to find links between changes in breed popularity and the exposure of certain breeds in popular culture. The answer is not immediately apparent: While Dalmatians, for instance, experienced a burst of popularity after Disney re-released 101 Dalmatians in 1985, those ubiquitous Taco Bell ads in the late 1990s did not increase the popularity of Chihuahuas. But those are just isolated examples. To conduct a more thorough analysis, the authors studied the winners of the Best in Show prize at Westminster from 1946 to 2002, in order “to determine whether winning […] was associated with a higher-than-average growth in [the] number of annual registrations among winning breeds.” They ultimately found no support “for the hypothesis that winning the Westminster Show has an effect on the popularity of individual dog breeds.” Speaking as a fan of big, dopey dogs, that’s a relief.