Story by Sarah LeBlanc
Photo Courtesy Michael Cigelman
On April 21, Drake University will answer this question by crowning the 2014 winner of its 35th Beautiful Bulldog contest held in the Knapp Center.
The pageant will be the kick-off to Relays Week at Drake University and will take place from noon to 1 p.m.
Judging will occur from 10:45 a.m. to noon and judges will include Student Body President David Karaz, Drake University Provost Dr. Deneese Jones, Director of Athletics Sandy Hatfield Clubb, and Scott Reister from KCCI in Des Moines.
Last year Huckleberry Hein, four-year-old bulldog of Stephanie Hein, clenched the title from the other 50 competitors.
Huckleberry was first entered in the competition in 2009 but did not place.
With the public lottery system introduced in 2010, in which every contestant is chosen at random, Huckleberry tried for the next two years to be entered into the contest but was not chosen until 2013.
Michael Cigelman, associate director of athletics at Drake and director of the Beautiful Bulldog Contest, recommends taking extra steps to succeed in the contest.
“We encourage [the bulldogs] to dress up in costumes or arrive with props,” Cigelman said.
Huckleberry wore an altered suit coat.
“It took me about three months to prepare; to make his costume and go get the props,” Hein said. “If you want to win you have to put some effort into it.”
As the Most Beautiful Bulldog, Huckleberry was asked to make special appearances at events such as the Iowa State Fair, Drake basketball games, football games, and the Drake Relays.
“Throughout the year we ask the most beautiful bulldog to make many public appearances so it’s pretty important that the dog is really great around people,” Cigelman said.
Cigelman and his wife Susan are directing the Beautiful Bulldog Contest for their first year and are already making some changes.
“One of the awards that we are giving for the first time this year is the [Porterhouse] People’s Choice Award,” Cigelman said. “All the spectators that come will be able to vote for the Porterhouse People’s Choice Award.”
This award will be in honor of the late mascot Porterhouse, who won the title of Most Beautiful Bulldog in 2009.
Huckleberry will be present at the Knapp center on the day of the competition to hand over the title to the next Most Beautiful Bulldog.
“The winning dog gets a cake from Three Dog Bakery, a bouquet of flowers, as well as they get to wear the cape and a crown,” Cigelman said.
While the Most Beautiful Bulldog receives the most honor, including the title of the Drake Relays Mascot, every bulldog in the contest is awarded with their own prize courtesy of local pet stores around Des Moines.
“[The pet stores] are putting together little treat bags and other things and dog toys…to give a gift to all fifty one participants, including Huckleberry,” Cigelman said.
The winners of the Beautiful Bulldog Contest are selected by criteria devised by the judges.
“The dogs are selected…by how they look; the way you feel when you are around them,” Cigelman said.
Categories for judging include Best Dressed, Congeniality, and Farthest from the Doghouse.
While Hein and Huckleberry enjoyed competing in the contest and representing the university, the pair is ready to be out of the spotlight.
“We’re looking forward to handing over the crown,” Hein said. “We’re ready to be ourselves again.”
To participate in the competition, the dog must be a bulldog and be up to date on its immunization shots.
Owners would register their bulldog online in mid January.