Bayou the Giant Schnauzer Wins Best in Show at the 2021 AKC National Championship

·4 min read
AKC Best in Show winner, Bayou, a black Giant Schnauzer, running the ring with his handler
AKC Best in Show winner, Bayou, a black Giant Schnauzer, running the ring with his handler

Winter Churchill Photography

In a victory befitting his exquisite eyebrows, Bayou, a 3-year-old giant schnauzer, earned Best in Show at the American Kennel Club's 21st National Championship last month—not that his owners were expecting it.

Holly Reed, one of Bayou's owners at Lagniappe Giant Schnauzers in Port Allen, La., initially wondered if she'd misheard judge Dana P. Cline awarding her pup Best in Show (and the accompanying $50,000 prize).

"It was a true shock," Reed tells Daily Paws.

Considered North America's largest dog event, the 2021 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin was held in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 18–19 and aired on ABC this past Sunday. Cline selected Bayou as "America's National Champion" out of more than 5,000 entrants from 50 states and 13 countries after a weekend of intense canine competition. Last year's Best in Show winner was Bourbon, a whippet.

A member of the working group, Bayou's official registered name is GCHG CH Lagniappe's From The Mountains To The Bayou. He's co-owned by Holly and Chris Reed and Laurie Mason and Mike Mason of Port Allen. He was bred by the Reeds, Maryann Bisceglia, and Mike Reese.

The No. 1-ranked giant schnauzer been a busy boy the past two years, making appearances at the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where he received an award of merit, and again in 2021, when he won best in breed. His frequent placements in local and regional events include Best in Show and speciality wins, leading up to this year's AKC National Championship.

RELATED: National Dog Show 2021 Winner: It's Claire the Scottish Deerhound—Again!

How Did Bayou the Giant Schnauzer Win the AKC National Championship?

During the year, show dog contenders like Bayou compete in a series of purebred conformation events. According to the AKC, those shows can be small shows featuring one breed or large all-breed shows that feature thousands of dogs like the AKC National Championship.

Here's how confirmation shows work—and how Bayou won:

  • A dog starts with the best in breed competition, in which the judge evaluates the dogs and selects the winner who—in their opinion—best adheres to that breed's standards. So Bayou first competed against other giant schnauzers, and he was judged as the best representation of the breed's standards. (It's not about being the most handsome, although he certainly looks dashing.)

  • Then, Bayou and the other best-in-breed dogs advanced to the group stage, in which the dogs are split into seven different groups. Again, the dogs are judged against their breed's standards, and the judge picks the winner. Bayou won the working group, a collection of mostly large breeds who've historically performed jobs like towing, guarding, and rescuing.

  • The best of the best: more than 5,000 entrants down to the seven group winners in the Best in Show ring. For a third time, the dogs are judged on how they fit each of their standards. As the AKC puts it: "[They're] not necessarily being judged against each other, but individually as dogs that can carry on the best of their breed's characteristics to the next generation."

In the Best in Show ring with Bayou for the 21st annual event were Reserve Best in Show winner Beacon, a German wirehaired pointer (sporting group); Clancy, a grand basset griffon vendeen (hound group); Boom, a smooth fox terrier (terrier group); Fortune Cookie, a Pekingese (toy group); JJ, an Australian shepherd (herding group); and Thor, a bulldog (non-sporting group) who won Best in Show at the 2019 National Dog Show.

Reed says she and the rest of Team Bayou were thrilled he even made it out of the breed stage, so finishing third or fourth in the Best in Show ring alongside such stiff competition would be "icing on the cake."

So how did Bayou take home the top prize? Reed says he and his handler, Alfonso Escobedo, were both living in the moment, not weighed down by any pressure or expectations to win. Maybe that had something to do with it.

"Both of them were pretty relaxed," Reed says.

You can watch stately, snack-fueled Bayou and Escobedo win their big prize in the Best in Show segment from AKC.tv.

Up Next for Bayou: Westminster (and a Birthday)

We won't have to wait long to see handsome Bayou again. Reed confirmed that he's entered in the 146th annual Westminster Kennel Club Show, slated for later this year.

But before all that, this large lad will turn 4 on Jan. 19. Here's hoping his owners and handler gift him a car ride to McDonald's for ice cream—one of his favorite things outside the show ring.

Additional reporting from Daily Paws' Austin Cannon