For 364 days a year, contestants in a very special beauty pageant are the subject of snickers and insults. But on Friday, the dozens of pups vying for the title of the World's Ugliest Dog get to feel like the prettiest pooch at the ball.
The contest, held every summer for the past 25 years, takes place during the Dog Lover's Festival in Petaluma, Calif., on June 21. The winner of the contest earns prestige, of course, as well as $1,500, a trophy, a professional photo session and a catered dinner for both winner and owner at a luxury hotel, according to CBS SF Bay Area.
Between 25 and 30 dogs are expected to compete, according to CBS. Dogs entered so far include combinations of Chihuahua, Chinese crested, boxer, terrier, poodle and Peruvian.
“It started as a homegrown kind of contest -- very small and quirky,” contest organizer Vicki DeArmon told TODAY.com. “But the whole thing has accelerated beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings.”
While somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the contest shows just how much Americans love an underdog, said DeArmon.
“When you go into a shelter and see a dog that may not normally be adopted, your heart calls to that dog," she told TODAY.com. "The contest is a humorous relief that makes the world a little lighter."
Last year's winner was a Chinese crested named Mugly, who blew the judges away with his unholy combination of permanently bedraggled whiskers, beady eyes and dark, crinkled skin. The 8-year-old rescue dog hails from Britain, where he had previously been named England's ugliest dog.
In fact, Chinese cresteds have taken home the majority of the Ugliest Dog titles in the past decade, according to National Geographic. One reason for this may be the breed's advantageous trait of hairlessness.
"If you see a lot of hairless people, for instance, all of a sudden you're going to start noticing moles and weird skin," Adam Boyko, an authority on canine genetics at Cornell University, told National Geographic. "It just makes everything else that's weird stand out more."
Of course, its not all fame and photo shoots. Chinese cresteds also are more prone to skin irritations, allergies and sunburn, according to the American Kennell Club.
In unofficial online voting, this year's fan favorite appears to be Ellie Mae, an 8-year-old Chinese crested. In second place is Squiggy, a Chinese crested-Japanese Chin mix.