Tuesday, June 22, 2010
By Julia Williams
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is one of the oldest, and most often repeated, sayings, and nowhere is it more evident than at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. This internationally acclaimed contest is held every summer at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. I lived in Petaluma for ten years and attended the event many times. It was a lot of fun, but it was also interesting to see just how much the owners (and the fairgoers) adored these hideously homely dogs.
To be crowned the winner of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, you must indeed be Ugly with a capital U – and these dogs definitely are! Many of these ugly dogs are hairless with odd tufts of hair here and there (often referred to as “Einstein hair”) and they usually have toothless grins or tongues that hang outside their mouths – in short, these ugly dogs have faces only a mother could love.
It got me to wondering, aside from this well-known contest whose past winners have achieved instant canine celebrity status, what the appeal is in owning an ugly dog. Some of these dogs are so ugly they make you laugh. And some are so ugly they make you shudder! In a society that values beauty so much, it’s fascinating to see ugly animals so revered. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if we humans held a “World’s Ugliest Person” contest? I have to laugh at this double standard; it’s not only okay to call a dog ugly, but we revel in their ugliness.
Do the owners of these ugly dogs love them even more because they’re so ugly, or do they fall in love with the dog’s “inner beauty” and become oblivious to the outside package? I don’t know. What I do know is that the World’s Ugliest Dog contest is immensely popular with pet owners and the general public alike. Contestants come from all over the U.S., from as far away as Florida. Animal Planet sponsors the contest and has broadcast the proceedings for the last several years. The World’s Ugliest Dog winner gets a $1,000 prize, a trophy, doggie bling (collars, leashes, bowls and toys) and worldwide fame, complete with talk show appearances, videos, glossy magazine write-ups, a professional photo shoot and a modeling contract with House of Dog. Whew!
This year marks the 22nd annual World’s Ugliest Dog contest, and judging by the entries posted on the official website, there is no shortage of homely dogs hoping to be crowned the King of Ugly (or Queen) and take home all of those fabulous prizes. Past World’s Ugliest Dog winner Rascal is back for another go at the title, and his family says “To us, Rascal is the most handsome being to ever live, and is a loving family member, but it's in fun when he is called ugly.” And then there’s Handsome Hector, whose motto is “eat like a pig, look like a rat and lounge like a bloated seal!” You can see all of the ugly dogs vying for this year’s title of World’s Ugliest Dog here.
Call me shallow, but I’m just not sure I could ever fall in love with an ugly dog, or an ugly cat for that matter. Inner beauty notwithstanding, I just really prefer my pets to have hair…and teeth…and tongues that stay inside their mouths instead of lolling lopsidedly out one side like a drunken sailor. Then again, maybe I just haven’t met the right ugly dog, the one who’s “so ugly he’s cute.” Since there are so many other pet lovers willing to overlook the ugly canines of the world, I guess it doesn’t really matter.
Would you – could you? – love the World’s Ugliest Dog?
Photos courtesy of the World's Ugliest Dog® Contest, Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma, California
Read more articles by Julia Williams