Is there a glass ceiling for female show dogs?

Reuters ran a report this morning which revealed that male dogs have won the Best In Show title at Westminster almost twice as often as females. A dog has taken the title 71 times, while a bitch has triumphed on just 31 occasions.

This statistic prompted us to consider whether the same was true on this side of the pond, at Crufts. While the figures back to 1928 (the first year a “Best in Show” title was awarded) are not readily available, the figures for the winners from 2000 onwards show a similar trend:

Of course, as pointed out in the Reuters analysis, there’s an obvious reason for this inequality; motherhood. Top female competitors have to take time out from the ring if they want to become brood bitches for the next generation, while top males can act as stud dogs in between shows without affecting their performance.

Even females who don’t have litters will have to plan their show careers around their seasons, which can affect things like temperament and coat quality. If nothing else, a female in heat should not be taken to a busy dog show, so they may miss out if they ‘get their period’ at an inopportune time.

In fact, the ‘male advantage’ is a well recognised phenomenon in the showing world. As Bo Bengston put it in her book Best in Show: “There are more top male dogs then top bitches, partly because a little male swagger helps in the ring and partly because males don’t come in season twice a year with the attendant problems of coat loss, mood swings, and other headaches.”

However, this trend is not reflected in the Crufts 2018 entry figures. 15% more females are entered than males; 10,874 bitches versus 9,354 dogs.  This implies that more females qualified for Crufts during the 2017-2018 show season, which means there are more successful girl show dogs than boy show dogs in the pool. So why aren’t they winning the big ticket prizes? Is it possible there’s a canine glass ceiling which means that bitches are overlooked at the higher levels?



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