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Some of the winners of the World's Ugliest Dog contest really aren't ugly, they're just different. But Sam, a Chinese crested, with his cloudy eyes, wrinkled warty hairless skin dotted with blackheads, raggedy shrivelled ears, waddled throat, skeletal clawed feet, every-which-way teeth, and overall gnarliness, truly deserved to be the hands-down winner for three consecutive years (2003-2005).

The majority of the Ugly Dog winners have been either Chinese cresteds, or cresteds mixed with chihuahua. When Susie brought him home from a shelter in 2000, he was quite a traumatized dog, and her boyfriend was so disgusted by Sam that he left Susie just to get away from the monstrosity (she soon ahd a new boyfriend, who fell for her after seeing her in the news loving and hugging Sam).

Chihuahuas and Cresteds are often intertwined in the public mind out of the belief that the "Mexican hairless" is a type of chihuahua, and the Chinese crested a type of Mexican hairless.

In reality they're recognized as three distinct breeds though similar body types. But the confusion in the public mind isn't completely without merit.

The designation "Chinese" is a complete misnomer, as the breed has no Asian connection. Though it's exact origin is clouded in mystery, generally speaking the Chinese crested is derived from cross-breeding chihuahuas and Mexican hairlesses. The toy-sized cresteds are undoubtedly part chihuahua, as are the toy Mexican hairlesses.

Some believe there was an otherwise unknown African hairless dog that went into the crested's development, though this is doubtful. In any case, it is not entirely without merit to suggest it is a type of chihuahua, and as such, it is susceptible to some of the same deformities and health problems -- such as appeal to the World's Ugliest Dog advocates.

As with the Mexican Hairless, not all Chinese Cresteds are nearly hairless, and furred cresteds are called "powderpuffs."

The powderpuff tends to look like a cross between a chihuahua and an Italian greyhound. The occasional Crested lacks even the mohawk and the fluffy bits at feet and tip of tail, so are very hard to distinguish from the Mexican hairless.

Most Cresteds do grow fur on the muzzle and if this is permitted to grow out, they have the face of a terrier. But it has become traditional to save the muzzle fur, called the "beard," so as to enhance the effect of fur on ear-edges, and the mohawk.

Believe it or not, it is possible for the Chinese crested to be attractive, though ideal examples are not often seen, and I'll have to include a picture or two of a beauty in the next few pages of "uglies" to prove that.

One of the breed's many big problems that spoils any promise of good looks is susceptibility to acne, sunburn, dry skin, flaking skin, discolored skin, wartiness (mole-like skin "tags"), and even skin cancer. They have to be treated daily with a sun-screen and skin moisturizer. If this is done religiously from puppihood on, then the skin can be very like soft human skin.

So there's this horrible tendency to skin imperfections, frequency of birth defects of the jaw and arrangement of teeth, plus progressive retinal atrophy that results for many cresteds in eventual blindness, and a genetic disease called "Multiple System Degeneration" that can cause progressive motion disorder. In all, they are not the most recommendable breed -- though these are the very things that make it a natural for the Ugly Dog Contest.

It might go as a footnote that most of the health issues with the crested are absent in the powderpuff, as the genetic weakness is in the genes for baldness.

Given the huge number of ailments that can accumulate in a single crested -- Sam even had a big hernia bulge and lymphoma showing on his chest -- Sam lived a pretty decent lifespan of fourteen years, five of which he spent with Susie Lockheed (his early life was horrible and when Susie first got him, he was terrified of everyone and everything).

Susie had said of him, "Sammy is sweet! People who don't know him are pretty horrified. They're very horrified that I'm always kissing him. I'm very affectionate with Sammy because I think he's very beautiful."

Back when Lockheed first rescued Sam from a shelter, she was herself shortly after diagnosed with cancer. "I had to be in radioactive isolation, where you're away from people for almost a week. But they let me take one dog. And I chose Sam. And he just made that time so much fun. He's so crazy. I've just never been this close to a dog before. I've never had a dog this in love witih me."

He died in 2005 not long after his third Ugly win. Susie missed him so much, she took to sleeping with his favorite stuffed toy.

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