Each year, 50 four-legged contestants, chosen by lottery, waddle and strut in Drake jerseys, tutus and wigs, and superhero garb. (A pooch once paraded with a towering sandwich on his back—a tribute to Jethro’s Adam Emmenecker Challenge—that was a feat of engineering.) Accompanied by their hopeful owners, the bullies turn on the charm and work the runway.
Contest judges—who are faculty, alumni, and friends of Drake—spend a lot of time observing (and petting) the furry contenders. What do they look for? A few provide a glimpse.
American Kennel Club standards? Not so much. “What the judging is not is basing the decision on Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show looks. It is making sure the winner looks like a bulldog, but beyond that, show standards are out the door.” —Tom Colvin, executive director, Animal Rescue League of Iowa; 2011 judge
Look beyond the cute wrinkles. “Big shoulders, a good-looking face, and the dimensions of the dog coupled with personality make a dog really beautiful. You want a dog with a certain kind of poise.” —Sandy Hatfield Clubb, director of athletics, Drake University; annual judge
Beautiful Bulldogs know how to work it. “The dogs that exhibit the most swagger on the runway are sure to please the judges.” —Mary Lou Coady, media relations specialist, Prairie Meadows; 2012 judge
A bulldog’s peeps matter. “The engagement of the bulldog’s family certainly sways the vote. Creativity and capturing the bulldog’s personality are a must.” —Tom Colvin
Think Drake. “Bulldogs are the perfect mascot for Drake—the picture of toughness and tenacity, but so kind and gentle. You want a dog that embodies that.” —Sandy Hatfield Clubb