Three English bulldogs at the 61st annual show of the Westminster Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1937
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February 16, 2015 11:00 AM EST

This year’s Westminster Dog Show, which takes place on Feb. 16 and 17, will be the 139th such show in the Kennel Club’s history, making it one of the oldest competitions in the United States. (The Kentucky Derby is older.) And, though recent media coverage of Westminster has tended to focus more on numbers and trends — the way a Westminster winner can set off a puppy-buying spree within a breed, for example — it used to be that the annual event was an occasion for a writer to show off a way with woofs.

Here are five of the most drooling drops of wordcraft about Westminster competitors from the history of TIME magazine:

A 1926 description of Signal Circuit, a wire-haired fox terrier: “His long squared muzzle and flat ears, splashed with tan, his tapering middle-piece, his front legs straight as the legs of a stool, his back-legs taut as triggers, showed him at once to be a prince. When the judges bent above him, probing with wise fingers the fabric on his bones, he stood very still; his garnet eyes were palled with a smoky sorrow.”

A 1928 description of Bogota Firebug, a pomeranian: “Like a mosquito who has been crawling in the fluffy dust under a boarding house bed, he stood, looking up at the crowd with startled, pert malignance.”

A 1937 description of Flornell Spicypiece of Halleston, a wire-haired terrier: “[She] twinkled around the ring, dark eyes snapping, white coat curried and brushed to a glistening alabaster…”

A 1953 description of Rancho Dobe’s Storm, a Doberman pinscher: “Storm was matched against a Skye terrier which looked like a dust mop, a prissy poodle, a sad-eyed bloodhound, a self-conscious Irish setter and a pudgy pug. It was hardly a contest. Storm, sleek and cocky, paraded around with the aplomb of a high-fashion model.”

A 1957 description of Shirkhan of Grandeur, an Afghan hound: “…the long-haired, silver-blue Afghan stayed cool and aloof, a champion without pause.”

Whichever dog takes home the blue ribbon this year, he or she will surely be a prose-worthy pooch.

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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