The Best of the British – The Crufts Dog Show
While the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the American Kennel Club are prominent organizations in American dog show culture, they are not the only dog show associations in the world. In fact, while the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the oldest canine sporting events in the world, it is not the largest. The Crufts Dog Show holds the record for the largest annual dog show in the world, as declared by the Guinness Book of Records. Lasting four days, it is held in Birmingham, England, and is organized and hosted by the Kennel Club.
From England to the World
Charles Cruft, a dog biscuit manufacturer, founded the Crufts Dog Show in 1891. After traveling to numerous international dog shows to promote his products and establishing various contacts, he realized the need for higher dog show standards. The first show, held in Islington, invited all breeds to compete: the resulting entries numbered over 2,000. The contemporary Crufts shows boast over 10,000 dogs per competition; after Cruft’s death in 1938, his wife sold the show to the Kennel Club.
The Kennel Club has worked hard to maintain the prestige and vision of Charles Cruft, and the result is one of the most recognized dog shows in the world. Perhaps the most drastic change in the Crufts Dog Show was its move to Birmingham in 1991; prior to the relocation, the show had never been held outside of London. However, the show repeatedly outgrew the capacities of its previous venues, and only the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham has adequate space for the growing number of participants.
The Crufts Dog Show is not an open competition; like the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, participants must be registered pedigree dogs, and must have qualified by winning lesser championships in the year prior to their registration with Crufts. Competition in the Crufts Dog Show is organized as a hierarchy; dogs compete first in their own breeds and age groups, then move on to the group competition, and eventually vie for the Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show titles. The Crufts Dog Show recognizes seven groups, from toys to utility, terriers to hounds, and classifies dogs as puppies, veterans, juniors and yearlings.
Aside from the prestigious conformation events, the Crufts Dog Show also holds agility trials and obstacle courses. Once again, dogs must have qualified for these events in the previous years. The obedience competition is popular as well, and the event culminates in the Obedience World Cup. Dogs are tested on distance control, retrieval, scent discrimination and off-lead heelwork. Relay-style races and canine freestyle competitions are also offered at the Crufts Dog Show, adding a little fun for dogs, owners and fans alike.