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'Beauty Contests' Reflect Rising Enthusiasm for Pets

This was a beauty contest for both males and females. The winner was singled out by the way he or she stood and jogged. And from the judge, no sharp questions, just a few loving strokes.


This was for dogs.


The Beijing Kennel Club's World Dog Show started its fifth annual event yesterday, attracting 360 dogs from about 100 breeds. The three-day event at the Chaolai Football Centre ends tomorrow.


And today more than 130 purebred felines from across the world will compete in the two-day International Cat Show, which starts at the Guodu Pet Park in Beijing.


With pet ownership in China becoming increasingly common, opportunities continue to arise to showcase the best for aficionados nationwide.


About 20 per cent of participants in the World Dog Show, the largest in the country, are from outside China, hailing from countries such as Japan and South Korea.


"Most of the dogs belong to private pet houses, which have shown an increasing enthusiasm for such shows in the past two years," said Amy Liu, Beijing representative of the US-based pet food producer Pedigree, which sponsored the show.


The Long Zhaohua Pet House said it imported seven dogs for the contest and invited four pet beauticians from South Korea.


"We hope to establish our fame through this contest," said Hao Yulei, pet house manager.


As he expected, almost all his dogs won best-of-breed awards yesterday.


Luo Ying, a young girl in Beijing, said she has become a "dog show addict" since her Danny, a 1-year-old female Afghan, won a best-in-show prize at another contest last year.


"It was a big surprise for me. From then on, I've trained her for show," she said. "At each show I learned more things about dogs."


But Danny refused to jog on stage yesterday. Harley, a 2-year-old male, took the breed award.


Though most breeders said they regarded the show as entertainment, it is true that any best-of-breed dog receives a tremendous boost in its price. A German Schnauzer that won best-in-show two years ago was tagged at 350,000 yuan (US$43,200).


At least 20 dog shows are held every year in Beijing, three to four in October alone.


John Lyons, one of the two judges for the show and chief operating officer of the American Kennel Club, said he was amazed at the breed quality: "About half are as good as I see in the United States.


"But the organization of such events needs a lot of improvement in terms of its structure, regulations and operational standards. We come here in hopes of helping our Chinese counterparts develop such organization."


Meanwhile in Guodu Pet Park, more than 130 cats are attending another show today and tomorrow. They are registered with the US-based Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), the world's largest registry of pedigree cats and also the major sponsor of the show.


"Facing a rapidly growing number of cat raisers in China, we're offering them an opportunity to have a look at some of the best cats in the world," said Gao Yuan, deputy director of China Cat Fanciers, a CFA international division.


As part of the show, a "beauty contest" will be held under the critical eyes of two CFA judges: Walter Hutzler and Bob Zenda. Cats will be divided into four categories: championship, kitten, premiership and household.


Improving living conditions is not the only reason for the surging number of cat lovers in China, Gao said. "Research shows that having a pet can ease stress," he said. "That's why more and more white-collar workers who shoulder great pressure at work are becoming pet owners."


Zhou Xia, a professor with the psychology department at Beijing Normal University, went even further, saying that looking after a cat can help cure depression.


(China Daily October 4, 2005)

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