The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show welcomes seven new breeds in 2016. Among them is the Berger Picard, a French herding dog that was granted registration by the AKC in July 2015. Made famous by the movie, Because of Winn-Dixie, the Berger Picard was mistaken for a large mutt, with its nondescript looks and shaggy coat. But the breed is actually very old, almost made extinct after both world wars, and is designated a rare breed today.
The Westminster Kennel Club 140th Annual Dog Show is February 15 and 16 in New York City.
— Westminster Dog Show (@WKCDOGS) January 21, 2016
Pittsburgh dog owner Jackie Walker told The Inquisitr that she is experiencing a sense of deja-vu, since she attended the 100th Anniversary Show at Madison Square Garden in 1976.
“I showed a Giant Schnauzer. I showed her myself. She was Best of Winners and Best of Opposite Sex out of the classes. Since it was the 100th anniversary, I received a gold medallion which I still have and plan on taking with me.
“Fast forward 40 years to 2016. I am now, for the first time since 1976, returning to Westminster Kennel Club, with not only a new breed, but a Picard. He received a GOLDEN TICKET for being the number 4 Picard!”
Walker explained that Westminster sends the “golden tickets” – special invitations – to the top five dogs in each breed nationally.
Even the Westminster Kennel Club page mentions the film:
“The movie, Because of Winn Dixie, introduced America to the Berger Picard but the public primarily thought it was a mixed breed. This delightful medium-sized dog is people-oriented, loyal, and can make a good family pet if properly socialized. Their rustic coat does not require hours of maintenance.”
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The Berger Picard Club of America explains further how the Picard was chosen for Hollywood.
“When producers of the movie, Because of Winn-Dixie, needed to find a lead character for the film adaption of this popular children’s book, they chose this obscure breed. At the time, in early 2002, there were no Berger Picard breeders in America, so the production team contacted breeders in Bordeaux, France. Several puppies and adult dogs were imported for the movie and some continue to work at Universal Studios in California and Orlando today. The movie hit theaters in February of 2005 and brought attention for the Berger Picard to the general public.”
Walker’s Berger Picard is a French import named Garçon Du Domaine De Sursaint. He is brindle in color, appearing to be mostly black. Walker said that fawn-colored Berger Picards starred in Because of Winn-Dixie, so most people don’t realize the dogs also come in brindle.
The color hasn’t hurt Garcon’s success in the ring. He won Best of Breed at the prestigious Morris and Essex show in October 2015. This show is only held once every 5 years.
“I saw the movie, Because of Winn-Dixie, which came out in 2005. I thought, ‘Wow, what super looking mutts’, only to find out later it was a real breed.
“At that time I had a Giant Schnauzer and a Border Terrier.”
No stranger to active working dogs, Walker had been a part of the 9/11 Disaster Response Team. Her Giant Schnauzer and Border Terrier were both trained cadaver dogs, and were called in to the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville. She also took them both to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, when teams from all over the country were going to help.
“My giant died in 2009 and my border died in 2011. I didn’t see a Picard in real life till 2010 in Kentucky at an all-Picard show called the American Elevage.”
She said that Garcon was born July 28, 2011 in France and came to Pittsburgh in September 2011. He is currently her only dog. She said that like most herding dogs, he needs a job.
“Garçon is super at Frisbee. He was high roller at a Frisbee contest this past summer. He loves sheep but there are no sheep close to me.”
Is there a future for Jackie and Garcon in the dog showing world after Westminster? If not, he is passing the torch. Despite attaining breed recognition less than a year ago, Garcon’s daughter Joi is already an AKC Champion.
Even at this early stage in AKC, the Winn-Dixie dogs already look like winners.
[Photo of Garcon via Jackie Walker. Used with permission.]