Hickory is lapping up the limelight after winning Best in Show at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show tonight in New York City.
The 5-year-old female Scottish deerhound -- full name Gch. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind -- has been the number one Scottish deerhound for the last three years. But this was her first Best in Show appearance at Westminster.
After entering the ring at Madison Square Garden under a spotlight to rapturous applause, handler Angela Lloyd - a junior handler winner at Westminster in 1998 - led her to a swift and popular victory.
Judge Paolo Dondina, who paid tribute to all the seven finalists as "the best he could remember," did not take long to select Hickory as his choice for Best in Show. He watched their initial entrance lap and took a closer look at each dog before quickly deciding on Hickory.
"I think she was beautiful," he told reporters after the award. "This one feels perfect - very well balanced and beautiful. She did a marvelous job."
The victorious dog and handler drew the adulation of a large crowd as she basked in the victory. Some attendees paid as much as $155 to attend Best in Show, which was also broadcast live on the USA Network.
Lloyd, who has been living with Hickory at her home in Virginia, heaped praise on the deerhound. "She went in there tonight and showed like she's never shown before," said the 31-year-old handler. "She was solid and steady despite all the flashbulbs and cameras. She came right through it."
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is considered the most prestigious in the nation, with more than 2,500 dogs each year vying for the top title of Best in Show. It is the second-oldest continuous sporting event in the country, trailing the Kentucky Derby by a year.
Tuesday night's seven finalists had all emerged victorious from several tough rounds, which began Monday at 8 a.m. ET. They had each advanced from their Best of Breed heats and then each went on to win their respective group categories -- Terrier, Herding, Sporting, Non-sporting, Toy, Hound and Working.
The contest was a little tougher this year because Westminster introduced six new breeds that had been officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. In total, 2,597 dogs representing 179 breeds from 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada competed in this year's show.