NEW YORK - A tiny black affenpinscher called Banana Joe became top dog Tuesday by winning Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
His handler, Ernesto Lara, lifted him in the air and shook him joyfully, then placed him next to the winner's podium, where Banana Joe leaped up like a born winner.
After conquering his toy dog category, Banana Joe had to face serious -- not to mention much bigger -- competition in the final round pitting the best in breeds against each other.
Up against the miniscule pooch were a German wirehaired pointer, a smooth fox terrier, an American foxhound, a fluffy white bichon frise, a Portuguese water dog and an enormous shaggy old English sheepdog.
Swagger the sheepdog, which resembled a cross between a lion and a cotton ball, was a crowd favorite, earning huge cheers every time he ran around the judging ring. He won the contest's newly-created runner's up spot, termed Reserve Best in Show.
There was also tangible sympathy in the crowd for the little affenpinscher, and the dog himself seemed delighted by all the excitement at his win, licking his chops, then getting a quick brush down.
"I think it's just a wonderful thing, a tribute for a small breed with such a big heart," Lara said.
The handler said the champion would now rest on his laurels in The Netherlands. "He's going to retire back home where he was born," he said.
"That's where he's going to spend the rest of his life."
Lara recommended the affenpinscher as a pet, but said the breed liked to be given some slack. It's a "very human dog," he said. "You want to befriend it."
A total of 2,721 dogs from 187 breeds and varieties battled for the crown at Westminster, which is one of the most prestigious annual dog shows in the world.
Image: John Ashbey / via Westminster Kennel Club