To those of us who have been to Crufts, it has become 'the' show of the year and we always look forward to it with great excitement. Of course, it can also be seen on TV or even live streamed online these days, which gives you an idea of how enormous and interesting it is. I guess we are so familiar with it that we assume everyone has at least an idea of what it is like. If you have been to other top dog shows at home or abroad you may just have an inkling. But it's not like actually being there, seeing it for yourself, taking in the noise, the smell (if you pass a food outlet or God forbid, a puffing dog or two) and experiencing the atmosphere for yourself.
Crufts is the largest dog show in the world and after outgrowing several other venues is now held annually at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. The NEC as it is fondly known, is an immense facility covering two floors and five enormous halls to accommodate show rings, information areas, and multiple trade and charity stands, as well as exhibition areas, a vast arena, food outlets and so much more.
Originally restricted to British dogs which over time gew in number, in recent years UK quarantine rules have been changed to allow suitably qualified and vaccinated overseas dogs to enter, making it even larger. A total of 3,623 dogs from overseas will compete at Crufts over the four day period this year, compared to 3,469 in 2017 which an increase of over four per cent. These dogs will come from 48 overseas countries.
Among the overseas dogs will be those from France (462) Italy (411), the Netherlands (334), Germany (319) and Russia (297), but for the first time, this year Crufts will also welcome entrants from countries such as Bahrain, Kazakstan and Peru. With Britain adding 17409 entries to those from abroad, we have a total of 21,032 dogs in all. It may be hard to imagine, and in all honesty, you need to visit to really understand the size and multi-faceted attractionof this great show.
Source: Crufts www.crufts.org.uk
Crufts has evolved over the years, as many owners consider it the pinnacle of a dog's show career to compete and hopefully win at least a rosette at the show, maybe even to become Best in Show? Nowadays, with overseas dogs also entering, it has become larger still, and provides an opportunity for personal interaction with other dogs and owners from across the world. So how did we get to where we are today?
This year, Crufts will be 127 years old. The brain child of Charles Cruft, it was founded at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington. He was brilliant at using public relations, sponsorship and advertising to secure its future. Charles Cruft had previously become involved in the dog fancy and managed shows for some of the breed clubs, but before long decided he could start and manage his own show rather than other peoples'.
The Duchess of Newcastle, a woman in a very male-orientated dog scene suggested to Cruft that a terrier show would be good and he decided that it should be held in London. As a result, six Terrier shows were run by Charles Cruft at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster between 1886 and 1890, and that is where it all started!
For the seventh show, other breeds were permitted to enter, and in 1891 the first show to actually be called 'Crufts' was held in London, at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, to accommodate the larger entry. At that time, there were just 2,437 entries but when Charles Cruft died in 1938, entry numbers had reached 10,000. Over the years he had personally managed 45 shows. According to sources, it is hard to say whether or not Charles Cruft liked dogs, or simply viewed his show as a commercial venture. Whichever it was, he left a real legacy that has not only survived after his death but evolved to become the show it is today. Over time, and in order to accommodate an ever increasing entry, the show moved to Olympia, London for many years, followed by Earls Court, and finally in 1991 it moved to its current home at the NEC Birmingham.
Is Crufts just for pedigree dogs? While they form the majority, the finals of the crossbreed competition, Scrufts is also held here. Other dogs may be competing in agility competitions, or giving demonstrations in the big arena. And as you wander around this great show, you will also find some privileged non-competing hounds, like service and assistance dogs and other extraordinary canines with specific responsibilities. Still more represent charities and commercial organisations, and a few very privileged pooches like us are there to report on the show, and try to make it come to life for our friends who cannot personally attend.
We have tried to set the scene for this amazing show. The history is fascinating, its evolution quite astounding, and the experience of actually being there is mind-blowing. Watch out for our further articles before, during and after Crufts, the largest dog show on earth (and in our opinion the greatest)
Emma and Dolly Teckel
The Daxington Post HQ