TARRYTOWN, NY — On the grounds of the Lyndhurst Estate, the brown hound scampered with even strides, his strong tail upright, his long ears and jowls bouncing with each step.
Trumpet the bloodhound was built for this.
Trumpet, bred and born in St. Joseph, was named the top hound of this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the premier dog showcase in the United States.
On Wednesday, he competed against winners of the other six categories, who rose from a pack of nearly 3,500 entrants. And won the whole thing.
The bloodhound, under his show name “Toot My Own Horn,” is the 2022 winner for Best in Show and seventh hound in the show’s 146-year history to take home the top prize.
The 4½-year-old phenom is continuing a winning legacy.
“He’s coming off of three Best in Shows in a row — which is unheard of for us,” his breeder, Bryan Flessner of St. Joseph, said before he won his fourth. “Everybody loves a bloodhound; it’s hard not to.”
Trumpet is the second Flessner family bloodhound to reach the Westminster Best in Show competition, and the first to win. The first to reach the final was Nathan, his father, under the show name “Flessner’s International Success.”
Flessner and wife Chris have bred bloodhounds for more than 30 years. Longtime trainer and family friend Heather Buehner brings their dogs to competitions across the country.
Chris is the breeding and pedigree expert, taking care of the litters through their infancy. Bryan takes care of the dogs in the kennel, getting them fit for shows. Buehner handles the training and the shows themselves.
Trumpet is continuing his first big show “push” — he was called the No. 1 hound last year after just 12 shows, Bryan Flessner said, but this year he’s been competing almost every weekend.
At Westminster, Trumpet wasn’t jumping through hoops or running track races. It’s a “conformation show,” where his build was rewarded for epitomizing the traits of the bloodhound breed.
“He’s structurally very sound,” Bryan Flessner said. “He’s a very good representation of the breed compared to the standard.”
Though his father, Nathan, saw plenty of competitive success, showing didn’t come to him naturally, Flessner said.
“For Nathan, if it was a choice to go trailing, roughhouse around or jack around in the yard with his buddies, he was all about that,” he said. “It’s too early to tell for Trumpet.”
But so far, the bloodhound has “exceeded expectations.” As commentators noted, Trumpet was a fan favorite for the attending crowd.
Of the seven categories—hounds, toys, non-sporting, herding, sporting, working and terriers—hounds have won Best in Show six times in the competition’s history. Terriers have taken home the top prize the most often, with 47, while sporting dogs are second with 18 wins.
Having two St. Joseph-bred hounds reach the Westminster final is all the motivation the Flessners need.
“It’s like an acknowledgment of the effort, when you put the work into it like our kennel has,” Flessner said. “It makes it a little easier to wake up at 5 o’clock every morning and hit the kennels.
“This is what we do — we don’t have a big, fancy fishing boat, we don’t take weekends in Aruba — we go to dog shows.”