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Small but mighty Nimble becomes first mixed-breed dog to win Westminster agility title

Cynthia Hornor poses with Nimble, the first mixed-breed dog ever to win the Westminster Kennel Club dog show's agility competition, in New York on Monday.
Jennifer Peltz/AP
Cynthia Hornor poses with Nimble, the first mixed-breed dog ever to win the Westminster Kennel Club dog show's agility competition, in New York on Monday.

She was nimble, she was oh-so-very quick – with the perfect moniker to match.

A 6-year-old canine from of Ellicott City, Md., named Nimble beat out 350 competitors to become the first mixed-breed dog to win the Westminster Kennel Club's Masters Agility Championship in New York.

"I was surprised," Nimble's handler Cynthia Hornor told NPR. "But she proved that she's the little engine that could."

Nimble, who finished the race in a blistering 28.76 seconds, is a first in more ways than one: She also became the first dog from the 12-inch height division to take home the top prize since the agility competition — itself the first WKC event to allow mixed breeds to compete — was introduced in 2014.

Dogs compete in the 8-inch, 12-inch, 16-inch, and 20-inch categories. The top 10 dogs from each height category go on to compete in the championships.

While she made two firsts, Nimble also had at least two big aces in her paws.

Despite coming in an underdog — as part of the non-purebred category the WKC refers to as "All American Dogs" — Nimble is a combination of two pedigrees made up of winners: a border collie-papillon mix. Border collies have won eight of the last 11 agility titles, while the top three finishers in this year's competition were all papillons.

Nimble's second secret weapon: her owner and handler Hornor, who won the Masters Agility title in 2023 with her other dog Truant, a 20-inch border collie.

"This is going to be a fun run," a Fox Sports announcer predicted on Saturday as Nimble eagerly waited for the clock to start her final run.

When it did, the pointy-eared black and white pup rocketed her way through a series of hoops, seesaws, ladders and more with hardly any cueing needed from Horner.

"I said it was going to be fun, but I didn't know it was going to be an e-ticket!" the announcer said halfway through Nimble's race, with eager crowds cheering in the background.

Hornor says she hopes Nimble's big win will be enough to put to bed any false ideas that mixed breeds can't be as fast as purebred dogs.

"Agility is the equalizer," Hornor said. "Mixed-breed dogs can be just as fast as purebred dogs."

Nimble's reward for proving it?

"She got steak, and she got to play," said Hornor. "She just really loves playing, so her reward is being able to go run and play."

And if there's one lesson Hornor wants other dog owners to take away from Nimble's big win, it's that agility is a great way for owners to bond with their dogs.

"It's the thing I enjoy the most about this sport," said Hornor, who has been an agility trainer for more than 20 years. "When I see my students, I love seeing their bond grow with their dogs because of agility."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Rebecca Rosman
[Copyright 2024 NPR]