Her tongue hangs loose from her mouth, flopping so low it threatens to touch the ground.
Her face is wrinkled and her teeth protrude in an underbite.
Stout and barrel-chested, she has a figure that few would call girlish.
In other words, Zsa Zsa, a 9-year-old English bulldog, had just what it took to impress the judges Saturday night at the World’s Ugliest Dog contest in Petaluma, Calif., where she bested 13 other dogs to seize the title.
The event, like its unsightly contestants, might be misunderstood at first glance. The World’s Ugliest Dog contest is actually a celebration of the dogs, many of which were rescued from shelters or puppy mills, and is intended to promote pet adoption.
“It’s a full red carpet,” said Christy Gentry, a publicist for the Sonoma-Marin Fair, where the contest was held.
This year’s competitors included a formerly obese dog with sagging skin; a dog with a crooked face and different colored eyes that had already won six other ugly dog contests; and a hairless, blind creature who seemed to wonder why it had been entered in the contest in the first place. “I know I’m too pretty to win,” a biography for the dog read.
One by one, the contestants came onstage Saturday night, with their mangled hair and missing teeth.
But who was the ugliest of them all?
In a field of homely hopefuls, Zsa Zsa stood out.
After spending five years in a puppy mill in Missouri, she was put up for auction and bought by a rescue group. She was then adopted by Megan Brainard of Anoka.
Brainard said she named the bulldog after Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, opting for a glamorous name after all the dog had been through. “She is just so ugly, she’s beautiful,” Brainard said.
Brainard and her family drove 30 hours from Minnesota to California to enter Zsa Zsa in the competition, she said.
Despite the contest’s name, Zsa Zsa tried to look presentable for the occasion: She got a pink manicure and wore a sparkly pink collar. Still, she could not hide her droopy jowls and crooked teeth from the judges.
But Brainard said she believed it was also Zsa Zsa’s personality that won over the judges. “She was eating part of a Slim Jim on the table and just sneezed all over them and was drooling on them,” she said.
Last year, a 125-pound Neapolitan mastiff with red eyes, uncontrollable drool and baggy skin took the title. The year before that, first place went to a blind, 17-year-old Chinese crested Chihuahua.
Zsa Zsa’s victory comes with a $1,500 prize and a hot pink trophy that is several times her height.