This week, over 25,000 dogs (and their owners) are on their way to Crufts in Birmingham, English for what the Guinness Book of World Records calls the largest show of its kind. Organized by the U.K.’s official Kennel Club, Crufts entices participants from around the world to join in on four full days of canine-focused festivities. Named for its founder Charles Cruft, the general manager of Spratt’s (a leading dog biscuit manufacturer) who organized the first Crufts dog show in 1891 and ran 45 more shows until his death in 1938. Through his work at Spratt’s, Cruft became a strong proponent for feeding a high-quality diet to dogs, especially purebreds, and became an avid supporter of canine societies as a result. Cruft’s legacy of promoting healthy breeding and nutritional habits for dogs is seen in the judging standards practiced today.
Similar to Westminster, its U.S. counterpart, the pinnacle of Crufts is undoubtedly the championship dog show and the coveted Best in Show award. Taking place on the last day of Crufts, this momentous event features the Best of Breed and Best of Group winners from each of the seven divisions: toy, gundog, working, utility, hound, pastoral, and terrier. The judge carefully ranks each dog on their movement, temperament, character, coat, health, overall condition, and how well they conform to the Kennel Club Breed Standard. Amidst much fanfare and anticipation, one dog is crowned as the ultimate winner among them all—the Best in Show. A beautiful Lhasa Apso named Elizabeth was last year’s champion, chosen from among a Borzoi, Irish Water Spaniel, Newfoundland, Norwich Terrier, Pomeranian, and Old English Sheepdog, illustrating the diversity of breeds showcased in this event. Past winners have ranged from a Hungarian Vivsla and Sealyham terrier to a Whippet and an Australian Shepherd.
Despite the similarities between Crufts and Westminster, there are several differences between these world famous dog shows. Westminster is known for its elegance and decorum while Crufts is decidedly more laid back and informal. Westminster, called the Superbowl of Dog Shows, turns all its attention on its Best of Show competition while Crufts has several competitions that conclude on its final night. Since these competitions are based on the standards of different kennel clubs, breed standards, terminology, and categories can differ. For instance, Gundogs are called Sporting dogs at Westminster and certain dogs like the toy poodle and the American Eskimo fall into completely different categories within the two shows. Lastly, there are certain dogs that can compete in Crufts that are not allowed to compete in Westminster (and vice versa) with one of the major distinctions being the practice of cropping dog’s ears. In the U.S., the American Kennel Club’s position is that ear cropping and tail docking are “acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health.” In Great Britain, however, these practices are considered illegal and dogs with those characteristics are not allowed to compete.
Crufts’ mission is to “celebrate every aspect of the role that dogs play in our lives” and this emphasis shines through in every detail of this unforgettable event. From hundreds of trade show stands, prestigious competitions for Best of Breed, Best of Group and Best in Show awards, as well as demonstrations of superb agility, obedience, flyball, and heelwork, Crufts attendees will find that there truly is something for everyone in this extraordinary tribute to man’s best friend.
Photo Credit: Copyright onEdition 2012. Photo of Margaret Anderson from Coventry with her Lhasa Apso named Elizabeth, 2012 Best in Show.