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Super fluffy 8-year-old Pekingese Wild Thang wins 2024 World's Ugliest Dog contest

An 8-year-old Pekingese is the winner of this year's World's Ugliest Dog Contest.

This is the first victory for Wild Thang, a 5-time competitor in the annual event held at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in the northern California city of Petaluma. The Pekingese, whose owner Ann Lewis received $5,000 in prize money, placed second three times before coming out on top this year.

With his long and extremely fluffy coat and stick-out tongue, Wild Thang, who grew up in Los Angeles but now resides in North Bend, Ore., was one of eight canines vying for the prestigious title on Friday evening. (According to a spokesperson for the contest, there were 10 contestants, but two dropped out. Wild Thang was a late entry to the lineup, which is why he is not featured on the main web page for this year's competition.)

"Wild Thang was a fan favorite," said California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, one of the judges, in an Associated Press video at the event. "The fact that he had been competing for five times and only came in second [until now], kind of like the bridesmaid and never the bride, really tugged at our heartstrings. He deserved to win."

Ma added some fun facts about Wild Thang.

"He's never had a haircut," she said. "He likes to sleep on ice packs, believe it or not. And he is just a sweet dog."

Most of the dogs in the contest, which has been going on since the 1970s, are rescues. According to his biography on the fair's press site, Wild Thang contracted distemper from a rescue foster when he was young. "He survived, but not without permanent damage," his bio states. "His teeth did not grow in, causing his tongue to stay out and his right front leg paddles 24/7."

"This world-renowned event celebrates the imperfections that make all dogs special and unique," states the World's Ugliest Dog Contest website. "The annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest is not about making fun of “ugly” dogs, but having fun with some wonderful characters and showing the world that these dogs are really beautiful!"

An elderly pug in a wheelchair named Rome came in second, winning $3,000; Daisy Mae, a mixed-breed dog with a white coat, took the $2,000 third place prize.

Last year, the contest was won by Scooter, an almost-bald, 7-year-old Chinese Crested dog, with reversed hind legs.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.