Westminster dog show 2011 Videos | Images | Results| Westminster kennel club 2011 

The crowd was equally certain of his chances for victory: although five dogs had been entered in the show, Baxter was the only one who showed up.

The dogs’ scarcity at Westminster is an apt metaphor for the breed itself. The otterhound — a big, goofy mess of a dog with a slobbery beard, unruly coat and happy-go-lucky grin — was once sought after in England because it kept the country’s river otter population in check. Today, an estimated 350 of the dogs are living in the United States, and fewer than 1,000 are said to exist worldwide.

The otterhound is one of several English breeds on display at Westminster that have dwindled to near obscurity despite a proud history. Much like an heirloom rose or tomato, the dogs are living artifacts of a bygone era kept alive by a group of passionate breeders.