Meet the 2024 Winner of the ‘World’s Ugliest Dog’ Contest

2 weeks ago 10

For Pekingese Wild Thang, and his owner Ann Lewis, winning the title of “World’s Ugliest Dog” is not an insult but an honor.

The pup hailing from Coos Bay, Oregon, is the 2024 winner of the annual World’s Ugliest Dog competition, which took place on Friday, June 21, at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California.

According to the contest’s website, the event—which has been running since 1988—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.”

The 8-year old dog, whose tongue perpetually hangs out of his mouth, went home with a $5,000 check and a trip to New York City, which is set to be featured on NBC's Today show on Monday, June 24. A year ago, Wild Thang was featured briefly on Today, as runner up to the 2023 contest winner,  17-year-old chihuahua mix Mr. Happy Face, whose owner showed up to the animal shelter and asked for the “most unadoptable dog.”

Now, Wild Thang has finally entered the spotlight.

World's Ugliest Dog Awards Held At The Sonoma-Marin Fair In CaliforniaAnn Lewis holds her dog Wild Thang after the pooch won the World's Ugliest Dog contest at the Marin-Sonoma County Fair.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The win was a long time coming for the pup, who has competed in the competition five times, and has been runner-up the last three years. According to one of the judges, Fiona Ma, it was this perseverance that helped push Wild Thang over the edge and across the stage to first place.

“The fact that he was the bridesmaid and never the bride, I think really tugged at our heartstrings,” Ma, California’s 34th State Treasurer, said in an interview with the Associated Press after the event. “He deserved to win.”

She went on to highlight one of the major purposes of the show, which is to advocate for rescuing and adopting pets, rather than buying them. Most of the contestants every year are shelter dogs, or grew up on the streets.

The 2024 runner-up title went to first time entree, 14-year old pug Rome, who walks with an attached wheelchair on his hind legs. Rome spends his time visiting hospice patients and educating children about the importance of adopting senior rescue pets. He was also a member of the 2023 Wheeling Pug Relay team, which raises money to purchase wheelchairs for differently-abled dogs. Owner Michelle Grady was incredibly excited with their placement.

World's Ugliest Dog Awards Held At The Sonoma-Marin Fair In CaliforniaMichelle Grady holds her dog Rome, who came in second place during the 2024 World's Ugliest Dog contest.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

“To win second place out of everyone here is a real honor,” she said, in an interview with The Star News. “I love this whole contest, and that it celebrates dogs that are perfectly imperfect.”

Though Wild Thang won the official prize—based on a judges panel that included Ma, NBC News Correspondent Gadi Schwartz, and others—runner-up Rome took home the “People’s Choice” award, which viewers could vote for prior to the contest on Friday via the contest’s website.

Other contestants included 14-year-old Daisy Mae, who was rescued from the streets at the tender age of 2, chihuahua mix Cadence II, who weighs a mighty five pounds and has almost no teeth left, and Freddy Mercury, a 14-year old Brussels-Griffon/Pug mix who was adopted from the streets and is now the mascot for Petaluma’s local ice cream truck.

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