Wyoming Dog Dazzles At Westminster Show, Wins Best Of Breed

Rowan, a Bracco Italiano dog who lives in Douglas, won Best of Breed at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. He received a giant medallion for the win and bragging rights that the best Bracco Italiano dog in the world lives in Wyoming.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

May 26, 20245 min read

A screenshot from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show shows the competition’s judge hold the ribbon with Natasha Wilson and Rowan celebrating the win.
A screenshot from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show shows the competition’s judge hold the ribbon with Natasha Wilson and Rowan celebrating the win. (Courtesy Westminster Kennel Club via YouTube)

Rowan was a beast. He held up his head, stuck out his tail and showed why he’s the best of the best.

The 6-year-old Bracco Italiano pointer took a road trip with his human mom Jenni Nieft from their home in Douglas, Wyoming, to the Big Apple. There, he teamed up with handler Natasha Wilson and won Best of Breed at the Super Bowl of canine competitions, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

“It’s a huge deal to go to Westminster and get breed,” Nieft said. “The show site was huge, it was active. I don’t think you saw anybody unhappy the whole time they were there because it was just such an experience to just be there.”

Rowan qualified for Westminster by bringing home best of shows from competitions in Colorado and beating the No. 1 dog in his breed three days out of four at the America Kennel Club National Championships in Florida last year.

At Westminster on May 14, he and Wilson marched into the ring on the second day of competition to strut his stuff for judges.

“I was not even showing him myself, but I was so nervous and shaky the whole day because he was not showing until 1:30 in the afternoon,” Nieft said. “I was ridiculous, you would think I was doing it myself.”

Going Against The Best

When the time came, Rowan showed why he came into the competition ranked third in his breed. He stepped into the spotlight and before the cameras against five other top Bracco Italianos.

The Bracco Italiano breed goes back to the time of Christ and has only been in the United States since 2007. They were the first breed of hunting dogs in Europe, typically used to hunt pheasant.

A judge watched the dogs as they stood in a pointing posture and then had them run around the ring. She then examined the dogs, running her hands over their back and legs as they stood in a pointing position. Some of the dog handlers assisted their animals to keep the tails straight, but Rowan needed little prompting to get into the right pose.

More strutting and posing, another run, and after the nearly 20-minute session, the judge pointed to Rowan and Wilson as first. Wilson gave her partner a kiss.

“I kind of leave ring time all up to her and let her show him the way she wants to show him. He does stay with her,” Nieft said. “I am not anywhere around him so he can focus on just her because he is a little bit of a momma’s boy and he needs to listen to her and focus on her and be with her.”

During the competition, Nieft tried to stay high in the stands and out of sight and smell of her four-legged friend. She said at one point he raised his nose and looked in her direction. She panicked and thought he could smell her.

“So, I started crawling up the seats,” she said. “If he can see me or smell me he has not got his game face on and he’s acting a fool and barking and whining — yeah he’s funny.”

Because he was named Best of Breed, Rowan went on to compete against dogs in the sporting class, which includes retrievers, spaniels and other pointing bird dogs. Nieft said he did not place in that competition, but “looked really good.” A black cocker spaniel took that competition.

For being first in his breed, Rowan brought home a giant rosette and medallion.

And, of course, bragging rights that the top Bracco Italiano dog on the planet is in Douglas, Wyoming.

  • Douglas friends and Bracco Italiano dog breeders Paul and Mary Reed, left, Jenni Nieft and Rowan were excited about Rowan’s heading to Westminster earlier this month.
    Douglas friends and Bracco Italiano dog breeders Paul and Mary Reed, left, Jenni Nieft and Rowan were excited about Rowan’s heading to Westminster earlier this month. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • A screenshot from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show shows the beginning of competition for the Bracco Italiano breed. Rowan and handler, Natasha Wilson, are second from left.
    A screenshot from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show shows the beginning of competition for the Bracco Italiano breed. Rowan and handler, Natasha Wilson, are second from left. (Courtesy Westminster Kennel Club via YouTube)
  • Professional dog handler Natasha Wilson and Rowan hold up a ribbon from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best on Breed win.
    Professional dog handler Natasha Wilson and Rowan hold up a ribbon from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best on Breed win. (Courtesy Jenni Nieft)

Road Warrior

The long drive to New York and back also proved to be no problem for the pup who likes to crawl onto Nieft’s bed at night. Nieft, who operates a dog grooming business and also raises and shows beagles, described the whole experience of being at the Westminster show as “phenomenal.”

“I would go back again in a heartbeat,” she said. “I don’t know that I would drive again, it was brutal.”

As for Rowan’s future, Nieft said he will compete at a dog show at the end of July in Casper and after that she is not sure.

“I would like him to just be a dog now,” she said. “He’s always been my pet, he sleeps in my bed, he’s my boy. He’s going to be 6 at the end this month and I think it’s time for him to just be a dog, without having to put on a show. He’s given us so much.”

And what did she give him for bringing home the prize?

“He got chicken,” she said. “He loves cooked chicken.”

Contact Dale Killingbeck at dale@cowboystatedaily.com

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Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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