Get 10% off gift baskets for all occasions. Use promo code: ZK-8979


Back to Famous

Westminster Winner - Rufus

'Rufus' is the most successful Bull Terrier  in the history of the breed.



Rufus, aka Ch. Rocky Tops Sundance Kid, is a colored bull terrier. Owned by Barbara and Tom Bishop of Keyport, N.J., Rufus was born April 8, 2000. These are some of his accomplishments:

- No. 1 colored bull terrier in breed for past five years.
- The Silverwood Trophy winner, 2001.
- Bull Terrier Club of America National Specialty winner, 2002 and 2004.
- Bull Terrier Fanciers Association of Canada, Bronze Trophy and National Specialty, 2003.
- 31-time winner of All Breed Best in Show.
- Bronze Trophy
- BTFA Nat. Specialty Canada
- BTCA National Specialty Winner (2x)
- Multiple Winner of the Pedigree & Eukanuba Championships
- Am.  Champion, R.O.M.

Rocky Top's Sundance Kid
(Breeders: W.F. & Rebecca Poole)
(Owners: Bishop/Shepherd/Pooles)

RUFUS Colored bull terrier

Observation: "He wants to drive says, but I have to draw the line," says co-owner Barbara Bishop.
Age: 4.
Home: Holmdel, N.J.

Rufus rules the roost.
"It's his way or no way," says Barbara Bishop, who co-owns the dog. "Life is all about his pleasure."
And Bishop happily indulges him with roast chicken or sushi dinners. She even bought Rufus a doggie treadmill so he could keep in shape. "He wanted it when he saw it at a dog show," Bishop says. "He got on and kept running. But once it was delivered to the house, he wouldn't get on it to save his life."
Bishop acknowledges having a special feeling about Rufus, considered the epitome of what the first bull terrier breeders were trying to produce a century ago.
Only once has a bull terrier won Best in Show at Westminster, in 1918, which, prior to last October, was also the last time the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
"So the pressure is on," Bishop says.

More Information on the Making of a champion:

His owners, Barbara and Tom Bishop, say they owe Rufus' success to Kathy Kirk.
"She made him come alive. She made him become the show dog he is," Barbara Bishop said from her Keyport, N.J., home. "She's like a dog whisperer."

Lifetime calling: Kirk has worked with dogs for most of her 58 years. A city of York native, Kirk said she always had a soft spot for dogs and as a girl often brought strays to the East Philadelphia Street apartment where she lived with her aunt, Jean Gibbs. But Kirk said she couldn't keep the dogs because city living was too cramped.

At 15, she trained her first dog, a white German shepherd that was disqualified as a show dog because of its unusual color. Nonetheless, Kirk's skill in 1964 garnered the shepherd, Frau Kim Von Weisshund, the top obedience spot nationally.

About that time, Kirk's mother, the late Betty Gibbs, had a chance encounter with a colleague who knew a little something about show dogs.

Ben Nolan Dale, a 68-year-old retired medical researcher and American Kennel Club judge, talked to Betty Gibbs and advised her about breeding and showing. Gibbs bought a puppy for the girls, and it all started from there, Dale said.

"It takes stick-to-itiveness to know that's what you want to do," Dale said from his Gettysburg home. "It's a tough life; I wouldn't do it, but the cream always rises."

Kirk graduated from high school and completed a year at the University of Maryland, where she studied microbiology. Kirk talked from her Oxford, Conn., home during a brief break between shows, appointments and dog walks.

"It was in my blood, competition," Kirk said about pursuing a career as a handler. "I decided to try a year apprenticeship with a handler."

First, an apprentice: At 19, she moved to Southbury, Conn., where she worked around-the-clock for then-famed handlers Bob and Jane Forsyth. She bathed, fed, groomed, walked the dogs and cleaned kennels that year. She didn't set foot in the show dog arena but did all the prep work behind the scenes.

Despite the low pay and demanding work, Kirk was hooked. She re-upped and spent several more years as an apprentice.

"I try to get into their minds, to see what makes them run," Kirk said. "It's just a love of training. I didn't want a pet that would sit at my feet."

Dogs she's worked with -- they number at least 75 breeds -- are bred to perform as birddogs are born to hunt.

"They're always showing off, standing there posing and looking so proud," Kirk said. "You take this little, raw creature at 8 to 12 weeks old and encourage that."

After the apprenticeship, Kirk ventured out on her own. She exchanged a personal life for a career in which days begin at 8 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. There are four shows a week in just about every state in the nation.

"Your heart has to be in it," she said. "We have no personal or local friends, and it's very difficult to have time off."

Owners spend, conservatively, an estimated $200,000 for a yearlong campaign that might result in the ultimate win for a dog like Rufus is worth it. The Bishops said they emptied their bank account to back Rufus when he was barely more than a pup.

Except for cash prizes that pale in comparison to campaign costs, the only real return on the show dog investment is the satisfaction of having a champion.

She noticed Rufus: That's where Kirk comes in. The Bishops had been at a show when they met Kirk. She'd noticed Rufus and asked them if they'd be interested in her services. They'd heard of her, seen her around the tight-knit show dog community.

"I was thrilled," Barbara Bishop said about Kirk's request to handle Rufus.

"Rufus behaves so differently with her on the end of the leash than he does with anyone else," Bishop said. She is a 55-year-old retired paramedic, and her 50-year-old husband heads maintenance at a chemical plant; so it wasn't long before they'd run short of money to finance Rufus' career.

Without Kirk's help and a handful of other dog lovers who have financially backed Rufus, the Bishops might not ever have realized their dream, or at least come this close to it.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Barbara Bishop said. "It's great to think he could win Westminster."

In his short and busy life, Rufus has become the No. 1 all time of his breed and, to date, has garnered 31 Best in Show awards, Kirk said. After Westminster, he'll likely retire. And Kirk might soon petition for her own retirement, of sorts.

Judge next: She'll trade the life of a handler for one of a judge, a move that will require her to again start at the bottom.

That won't come for another year or two, though. Then she'll apply to the AKC. It will tell her whether she's allowed to judge, and how many recognized breeds she might be qualified to judge.

As years pass, maybe she'll oversee one of the seven groups -- sporting, non-sporting, working, herding, hounds, toys and terriers -- the club recognizes.

"If I start today, I'm 58," Kirk said, and explained the process and tenure of show dog judges. "Maybe by the time I'm 70, I'll have a good number of breeds to judge."

'She's like a dog whisperer' York native handles top bull terrier in the nation by KATHY STEVENS The York Dispatch.

For more: and Info Dog's


Go To Top