Dog co-owned by Tim McGraw wins new breed at Westminster show

NEW YORK — A bracco Italiano named Lepshi won her breed’s debut at America’s most prestigious dog show. And dog lovers may not be the only audience who won’t forget something like this.

Lepshi (pronounced LEEP’-she) is co-owned by country music and “1883” star Tim McGraw. But that distinction played just in the background of a chorus of cheers as Lepshi and eight other examples of his fine Italian hunting breed took turns in the ring Tuesday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

“He’s a wonderful ambassador for the breed,” handler Ryan Wolfe said after the 6-year-old’s victory. Lepshi has mastered the ground-covering trot, a trademark of the breed, Wolfe said, and “he loves everyone.”







Westminster Dog Show

A judge examines dogs competing in the Bracco Italiano breed during the breed’s debut at the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. A dog named Lepshi, third from left, co-owned by country music star Tim McGraw, won best of breed. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz)


Jennifer Peltz


McGraw, known for hits such as “Something Like That,” and his wife, country luminary and “1883” co-star, Faith Hill, ate a number of bracchi at home and featured them in posts about social networks. In a 2020 video, a bracco screams while one of the couple’s daughters sings high notes.

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“Stromboli is happy that Maggie is home from college!!!!” McGraw wrote at the time. A message was sent to one of his representatives on Tuesday about Lepshi’s groundbreaking victory at Westminster.

Wolfe, who cares for McGraw’s dog and co-owners Kristi Libertore, Tony Libertore and Jenell Tonini-Zanotto, said it was “an honor to be first.”

Bracco (pronounced BRAH’-koh) has an ancient heritage in Europe. He became eligible to compete at Westminster this year after being recognized by the American Kennel Club, which is the nation’s oldest dog registry and acts as a league for many American dog shows. Recognition is voluntary and involves the registration of an agreed standard for dogs and various other criteria.

AKC recognition can increase everyday recognition, leading some bracco owners to caution that prospective owners need to understand what kind, soulful dogs need.

“We want these dogs to hunt,” said Siva Aiken, whose bracco Tillie-rye Hogwallop — yes, she uses that full name — was named the breed’s top competitor on Tuesday. (When a woman wins, a man receives such a reward.)

The Bracchi can be relaxed at home, but only if they get enough activity, Aiken said. The Tillie-rye Hogwallop, for example, hunts quail, pheasants and other birds. She and the other Aikin bracchi also walk three to 6 miles a day in a nature preserve near Aiken’s home in Aiken, South Carolina.

“It’s not a breed for everyone,” she said. “This breed needs work.”

Jennifer Peltz, an Associated Press reporter based in New York, has covered the Westminster dog show since 2013.


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