Article written by Diana Ramirez-Simon
Originally published by The Guardian (Sun, Jun 25, 2023)
The annual contest celebrates pets’ imperfections, such as Scooter’s backwards-facing hind legs and sparse hair
Linda Elmquist of Tucson, Arizona, smiled broadly as she held her little dog aloft. Finally, Scooter was being recognized for his best qualities on Friday as he was given the title of the world’s ugliest dog.
The competition, held as part of the Sonoma-Marin fair in Petaluma, California, for the past 50 years, is a world-renowned event that promotes dog adoption and showcases extraordinary canines that have defied adversity – and celebrates their imperfections.
Scooter, a Chinese crested with sparse hair, a ratlike tail and a tongue that just won’t stay in his mouth, has certainly overcome challenges in his seven years. When he was just a pup, a breeder brought Scooter to animal control in Tucson to have him euthanized. He had been born with hind legs that faced backwards, a condition that seemed to make it certain that he would never walk.
A rescuer took him home to give him “a chance at finding a good home and a fairly normal life”, reads Scooter’s contest entry biography.
With the help of therapy and a specialized cart, Scooter is able to walk and “has no idea that he is any different from any other dog”, his biography says.
“I am overjoyed and incredibly proud that Scooter has been crowned the winner of the world’s ugliest dog contest,” said Elmquist, Scooter’s owner, in a statement. “Despite the challenges he has faced with his deformed hind legs, Scooter has defied all odds and shown us the true meaning of resilience and determination.”
It was that determination that gave Scooter the edge over other contestants, including Prince, a chow chow mix with a scrunched-up face and a floppy ear, and Wild Thang, a pekingese who seemed to be more a luxurious walking wig than a pup.
The contest began in the 1970s when Ross Smith, a member of Petaluma’s Old Adobe Association, was looking for a way to raise money. After the pet parade had been replaced with a dog contest, Smith suggested an ugly dog contest. The idea stuck and the contest has lived on, standing in contrast to dog shows that highlight special skills or pedigree.
Former winners have included Scamp the Tramp in 2019, a mutt with bug eyes and matted hair; Quasi Modo in 2015, a shepherd and pit bull mix whose spinal birth defects left it hunchbacked; and Walle, a beagle, basset, boxer mix who one judge in 2013 said looked like it had been “Photoshopped” together from several different dogs. But Chinese cresteds have proven themselves to be the breed to beat, capturing the title at least 10 times since 2000.
On Friday, Scooter did his breed proud, winning the hearts of the judges and the top prize of $1,500 and a trophy.
Banner: Scooter, owned by Linda Elmquist of Tucson, Arizona,has captured the title of the world’s ugliest dog at the competition held in Petaluma, California.
Credit: John G Mabanglo/EPA