Ugly Dogs Need Love Too

Left:  This was Bubbers’ first time in the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. He is a Xoloitzcuintle breed, or Mexican hairless dog, from Arivaca, Arizona, where he lives on a farm with a bunch of goats. Right:  Zoomer almost didn’t make it. After a vicious dog attack left her with severe neck and facial wounds, her owners put her in a shelter.  On the very day she was to be put down, members of Saving Animals from Euthanasia saved her.

Copyright Ramin Rahimian

Just because you’re homely doesn’t mean you can’t be a champion.

That’s the message at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, held annually at Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, California. This July, more than 500 people came to cheer on the 27 frightful pooches participating in the event. Ramin Rahimian was there too, intent on celebrating the competitors by photographing them. 

“I think people want to see how far their love for dogs can be stretched. People love dogs so much in this country, and I think they want to celebrate and appreciate all types of dogs. The contest is the antithesis of the Westminster Dog Show, but the love for the dogs is just as strong,” Rahimian said via email.

Left:  Sweepee Rambo’s biggest fan is her dad who is always telling people Sweepee is the prettiest little blue eyed Chinese-crested Chihuahua he has ever known. Right:  Scamp is a volunteer pet-therapy dog living in Santa Rosa, California.

Copyright Ramin Rahimian

Left:  This is the wise and regal Icky from Butte County, California. He was rescued from a hoarder’s house. He’s gone a long way and has since been in movies, on magazine covers, and, most recently, he went to Hollywood to shoot an international Ray Ban ad. Right:  Isaboo—his friends call him Himisaboo—was born with this awesome mohawk.

Copyright Ramin Rahimian

Rahimian set up a black-paper backdrop and had the dogs stand on a small table while he photographed them. He wanted the animals a few feet off the ground so he could shoot from a low perspective, giving them a heroic, statuesque look.

“These dogs are the outliers among other dogs but can still be seen as beautiful in their own ways. Their unique characters and personalities, I hope, are conveyed a little in the portraits so people can see past the ugly. I find them so lovable because they are so sweet. Just like babies—a baby can be ugly, but it will certainly also be lovable,” he said.

Left:  Quasi Modo, a pit bull–Dutch shepherd mix, took first place at this year’s contest. Right:  Rascal Deux’s father, Rascal, won World’s Ugliest Dog in 2002. His great grandfather, Chi Chi, is in Guinness World Records for winning seven world titles, and both of his grandmothers, Lady Pink and Mai Tai, won three world titles each. 


Copyright Ramin Rahimian

At this year’s contest, a short-spined pit bull–Dutch shepherd mix named Quasi Modo earned the top honor. His owner took home $1,500, and Quasi Modo was treated to a makeover on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Though the dogs may have faces and physiques that most people are not used to seeing, Rahimian said many of the animals “were not really all that ugly objectively.” From that perspective, the contest is really more about showcasing canine diversity than shocking people.

“I mean, there were for sure some aggressively ugly creatures, but most I would say were just a little different—not your typical golden retriever, but not ugly.”

Left:  Josie from Tucson, Arizona. Right:  Molly, a 12-year-old hairless Chihuahua from Windsor, California.

Copyright Ramin Rahimian