Crufts dog show began in 1891 as a dog biscuit salesman’s sideline. Charles Cruft (1852-1938) applied his marketing skills to attract more than two thousand entries in that first year. He would no doubt be amazed to see ten times that number today, along with five hundred trade stalls around the arena.
Crufts was first staged in London but by 1991 had outgrown all available venues, hence the move to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. It takes place every March and runs for four days. Breeds are grouped into gundog, pastoral, working, terrier, hound, utility and toy categories. There are competitions for obedience, agility, flyball racing and heelwork- or freestyle-to-music. All dogs must have pre-qualified via success in other Kennel Club events.
The BBC televised Crufts from 1950 onwards, but after airing a documentary exposing the effects of selective breeding (including inbreeding) on show dogs’ health, this came to an abrupt end in 2009. Animal welfare organisations also criticised the disproportionate emphasis on dogs’ looks. The Kennel Club subsequently updated all of its judging standards and dogs who are clearly in any difficulty are excluded from the ring.
(Image of Crufts arena: Alex Gooi at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC 2.0)