Get Ready for Winter Classic!
February 7, 2024
The 37th annual UKC Winter Classic is here at last, coming to you once again from the Batesville Civic Center, in Batesville, Mississippi, February 7-10, 2024.
The first planning for what became the Winter Classic started, ironically, in the summer of 1987, as UKC wanted to provide a winter event in the southern climes, to give northern hunters a chance to escape the oppressive cold and southern hunters a chance to have a major event a little closer to home. More than three decades later, this "classic coon hunt in the Old South" is now a staple on the UKC calendar, and one-third of UKC's Triple Crown (along with Autumn Oaks and the Coonhound World Championship).
The event has called Batesville home since 2013, and is a yearly destination for many people to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones, bonding over a shared love of hounds.
As many participants know, the Winter Classic is a slight departure from some of the other UKC major hunts, such as Autumn Oaks, in that Winter Classic features two separate Nite Hunts over two nights. Dogs are divided into two divisions: Registered and Champions (which features Nite Champion and Grand Nite Champion dogs). Hunters can enter the same dog both nights, enter different dogs on each night, or choose to enter only one night. An overall winner is crowned by determining the highest combined score of double cast winners from the two nights.
The 2024 advanced entry list features 685 entries across the two nights: 331 two-night entries and 23 one-night entries. The Champion division is made up of 202 Grands and 209 Nite Champions, while the Registered division features 274 hounds.
Looking back through the history of the event, only six dogs total have won without a Nite Champion or Grand Nite title--at least at the time they won this event. But two of those wins came in the last three years: 2022's Setum Up Rip, an X-Bred male, and 2021's 'PR' Watson's Blue Creek Blaze, an English male. 30 of the 36 winners to date have either reached their Grand Nite title (23) or their Nite Champion title (7) at the time they won the event.
The breed breakdown only shows 42% of entries across the two nights are Treeing Walker Coonhounds, which is a marked departure from some of our other major events, where Walkers can sometimes make up close to 60% of the field. It might also explain why Winter Classic holds another distinction over the rest of the major UKC events: You have to go back to 2019 and GRNITECH 'PR' Trackcollector Man to find the last time a Treeing Walker Coonhound won the overall first place. That's right, the last four years, a breed other than a Walker has won the overall Nite Hunt championship at Winter Classic. Walkers have only won four Overall Nite Hunt Championships in the last ten years at this event.
Compare that to the Coonhound World Championship? Walkers have won nine of the last ten, and are on a current streak of six in a row. At Autumn Oaks? Nine of the last ten, and on a current streak of seven in a row.
2023 was a Black & Tan female; 2022 an X-Bred male; 2021 an English male; and 2020 an English female.
We'll be watching along with everyone else to see if this trend continues this weekend.
For as much as the Nite Hunt has seen a dearth of Walkers in the top spot for the last few years, the Bench Show has been where the Treeing Walker Coonhound has thrived. At Autumn Oaks, Walkers have won just two of the last ten National Grand Show Championships. At the Coonhound World Championships, Walkers have again won just two of the last ten World Show Championships (plus two Opposite Sex championships). But at Winter Classic? Five of the last ten, including a streak of three in a row heading into this year.
This year we'll have judges Scarlett Overton (Registered, Pairs) and Amber Carroll (Champions and Grand Champions) keeping an eye on the proceedings, and we'll see if another Treeing Walker heads home with the crown or if another breed can end their run of dominance.
Be sure to follow UKC Coonhounds on Facebook, and keep an eye on our Results pages here, as we'll have results posted throughout the weekend--including from the Warm-Up Slams kicking things off Wednesday and Thursday night, and the Pro Slam!
Guided by the belief that dogs make a difference by being the best partner a human can have in the field, on the job, or in a competition event, UKC is a community for people and dogs to pursue excellence together. Founded in 1898, UKC has been dedicated to enhancing the lives of Dogs That Do More, and their owners, by providing essential resources to help owners and breeders make informed decisions. The dog-human bond is celebrated through family-friendly programs highlighting the instincts and heritage of purebred and mixed-breed dogs alike at over 18,000 licensed events annually.