07/10/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
For three years in a row, Li'l Sam, a Chinese Crested Hairless from Santa Barbara, took top honors at the annual World's Ugliest Dog contest at Petaluma's Sonoma-Marin Fair. But last November came sad news that the champ had died. His Web site got 6 million hits, says his owner Susie Lockheed, and word spread in kennels across the nation: What pooch would inherit his crown? On June 26, dozens of hopefuls gathered from as far as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida. There was Jake, 14, the one-eyed Chihuahua, and Annie, a Peruvian Inca Orchid who came because her caretaker, Sandy Paxton, thought she was entitled: "Just because you're a little odd-looking doesn't mean you shouldn't make new friends." Munchkin entered the contest as the favorite—in a pink skirt and tiara. "She feels pretty when she gets her dresses on," says owner Yvonne Morones. But a newcomer took top dog when judges handed a $1,000 check to Archie, a Hairless from Phoenix. "My mind went completely blank," says owner Heather Peoples, 33, a Pet-Smart exec. She apparently didn't realize what her hound had going for him. "For me, it was the distended belly and the tongue hanging out of a mouth with no teeth," said the chief judge, Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Kerns. "In the end, Archie just had the overall package."