Puppy Bowl IX set to fetch Super Bowl halftime audiences

Animal Planet's tradition of puppies romping on their own version of the gridiron will return this year on Feb. 3 during the Super Bowl, this time with hedgehog cheerleaders.

 LOS ANGELES -- Are you ready for some necessary ruff-ness? Good, because Puppy Bowl IX is officially a go.

Animal Planet has confirmed that its cherished annual tradition, Puppy Bowl, is back on for another round of gridiron thrills and canine cuteness.

This year's Puppy Bowl will take place February 3 -- for those who don't follow non-puppy sports, that's Super Bowl Sunday -- from 3 to 5 p.m., at the newly christened Geico Stadium, with 63 pooches vying for glory on the field.

The latest incarnation of the animal kingdom's most-anticipated sporting event is receiving a few tweaks this year. In a first for the nine-year-old Puppy Bowl, the battling canines will be encouraged from the sidelines by a squadron of hedgehog cheerleaders. In another first, new Puppy Cam technology will put viewers on the field with "in-your-face" shots of snouts, tails and paws, while an off-field camera will capture substitutes warming up for the game in a special puppy hot tub. (Three words: underwater puppy shots.)

As always, the game will feature the Kitty Half-Time Show, where kittens will provide a break from the action on the field with an array of acrobatics and gymnastics, culminating in a confetti shower. (Because, really, do you expect any surprises from Beyonce's half-time show this year?)

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