Ugly is in the eye of the beholder — especially for the judges of 29 dogs vying to win the annual Sonoma-Marin Fair's Ugly Dog Contest.

Peanut took the top prize of US$1,500 ($1,700) with nearly 1,800 online votes. He was in an animal shelter for nine months before he found a home.

"While his face has scared away many, it has melted my heart," his owner said online.

"Don't let his teeth scare you! He isn't growling. He is smiling, because of his hardships as a puppy ."

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Quasi Modo, who was also rescued from a shelter, had multiple birth defects to his spine, his owner said. His back is too short for the rest of his body, but he still runs, jumps and plays and enjoys life.

Owners travelled from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida to compete. One criteria the judges considered is the pooch's personality.