At the tender age of four, she’s already a standout champion. She has that natural presence of a pageant regular.

Winner of every possible prize at the local and regional level, she batted her unbelievably long eyelashes alluringly at a cluster of admiring visitors on a recent Sunday, wordlessly acknowledging that, yes, it’s a dog-eat-dog world here at the top.

But the gleam of her hair, the set of her chiseled jaw show she’s ready, poised to prance into the national spotlight at America’s most prestigious competition next month at storied Madison Square Garden.

Bred and owned by Ceil and Scott Dove of Flint Hill, Scottish Deerhound bitch Ch. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind has qualified for the historic Westminster Kennel Club show in New York City Feb. 15-16. There she’ll face other qualifiers in her breed class, then, if she wins that, she will face other category winners in the competitive Hound Group, and, finally -– hopefully, Ceil Dove said she’s got a real chance – competing against all the group winners for the coveted Best In Show.

Indeed, Ch. Foxcliffe Hickory Wind won Best In Show at last week’s Northern Neck Kennel Club of Virginia Dog Show in Fredericksburg, picking up two Group 1 titles along the way.

In her runup to Westminster, in Hickory won three Best In Show titles in 2009 and two in 2010, at one event beating 3,000 dogs to win the overall championship. The 2009 National Specialty winner, Hickory also collected 13 Group 1 titles last year en route to her Westminster qualifying run.

Hickory was Best In Show at last week’s Northern Neck Kennel Club of Virginia Dog Show in Fredericksburg, and again at last weekend’s show in Howard County, Maryland. This ups her total to seven Group 1 wins and two Best In Shows for 2010. She goes to Doswell this weekend for another show prior to her trip to New York.

“She’s really cleaning up,” Ceil Dove said enthusiastically, adding that Hickory’s team is excited about Westminster.

The Westminster Kennel Club was established in 1876 by a group of New York hunters who raised and worked Pointers for hunting and field trials. The club held a show that year in Philadelphia, but the New York show began the next year in the Hippodrome of Gilmore’s Garden, drawing more than 1,200 entries. The number broke 2,000 in 1908 and has increased every year since.

First televised in 1948, this year’s Westminster show is on the USA and CNBC networks. Feb. 15 is the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups. Feb. 16 are the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups, with the Best In Show finale from 8-11 p.m. on USA.

The Scottish Deerhound is part of the Hound Group, split from the Sporting Group in 1930. Other breeds in the group include Afghan, Basset, Bloodhound, Beagle, American Foxhound, English Foxhound, Greyhound, Harrier, Irish Wolfhound, Norwegian Elkhound, Otterhound, Russian Wolfhound, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound, Whippet and Dachshund.

The Greyhound breed owns the most Group wins from the show, 13. The most recent Hound to win Best In Show was Ch. K-Run’s Park Me, a Beagle, in 2008. Park Me was the first Beagle to ever win the title at Westminster, and the first hound in 25 years.

No Scottish Deerhound has won Westminster’s Best In Show. An ancient breed, the Scottish Deerhound is the second largest sighthound, behind the enormous Irish Wolfhound.

Tall and proud, with a silver tipped black coat given to long, soft waves, the Deerhound averages 28-32 inches tall at the shoulder, and weighs in at 85-110 pounds. They have a regal appearance, long tail and calm disposition. Like other sight hounds, they are above all else a working breed, following their quarry using excellent vision and quick, deft movement, coursing game small and large.

Though Dove said that Deerhounds are more interested in the chase than the kill, they are big enough to bring down a full-sized deer, and were bred to do so in the Scottish highlands in the 1500s.

Deerhounds are an American Kennel Club recognized breed, and they take part in bench shows such as Westminster, London’s Crufts and others, as well as performance trials.

Sighthound trials and lure coursing events test the dogs’ drive, stamina, speed, endurance, agility and what is known as “follow,” or the ability of the dog to stay on track as the lure zips around the course.

Other sighthounds include Salukis, Afghan Hounds, Whippets, Greyhounds, Basenjis, Borzois, Irish Wolfhounds and more.

Though each breed has distinctive qualities, such as the long coat of the Afghan or the small stature of the Whippet, there are many similar physical traits of all of he sighthound breeds – characteristic deep chest, narrow waist, long legs, low-set tail and a relatively “thin” face.

A greyhound can reach 40 miles per hour when running at top speed.

Hickory’s sire is Thistleglen Newell, her dam Ch. Foxcliffe Summoning Charms, also bred by the Doves. Hickory’s littermate Ch. Foxcliffe The Boatman won the Scottish Deerhound Club of America Eastern Regional held at the Middleburg Kennel Club in October.

Follow Foxcliffe Hickory on the live webcast of Westminster on

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