Crufts - The Kennel Club's elite dog show
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Crufts - The Kennel Club's elite dog show

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Crufts is perhaps the best known dog show in the world, and certainly within the UK. Hosted by the UK Kennel Club every March at Birmingham's NEC arena, Crufts is the largest annual dog show in the world, and runs for four days.The prestigious 'Best in Show' award at Crufts is hotly contested by competitors, with the winning dog achieving international fame and much publicity. Crufts is equally popular with competitors and spectators alike, with some 160,000 visitors passing through the NEC's doors over the course of the competition. Whether you're considering booking tickets for next year's Crufts show, want to know what it takes to compete, or are just interested in finding out more about this elite and internationally renowned dog show, we've got you covered. Read on to find out more!

The history of Crufts

The Crufts dog show was founded in 1886 by Charles Cruft, a dog biscuit manufacturer who travelled widely to dog shows both within the UK and internationally before deciding to host his own competition. Initially billed as 'The First Great Terrier Show,' the first Crufts competition listed 57 different classes and 600 entries in total. This show, which later became known as Crufts, went from strength to strength up until the death of Charles Cruft in 1938, after which his widow ran the competition for a further four years. The rights to host the show was eventually sold to The Kennel Club in 1942, and has been hosted and managed by The Kennel Club ever since.Today, around 28,000 dogs compete at Crufts every year, and the competition is televised and broadcast across the world.

Breed competitions

The basis and cornerstones of the Crufts dog show are the breed competition classes. The Kennel Club recognises seven different dog type groupings, and purebred dogs at Crufts compete in heats, first against dogs of their own specific sex and age in breed subsections, then against other dogs within their group, and finally against the winning dogs across the board for the prestigious title of Best in Show. The seven Kennel Club breed groupings consist of:

  • Hound Group
  • Terrier Group
  • Working Group
  • Pastoral Group
  • Gundog Group
  • Utility Group
  • Toy Group

Only pedigree dogs of recognised breeds may compete in breed group competitions at Crufts, with the eventual hope of going on to compete for the Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show awards respectively.

Other competitions

Crufts also runs a range of competitions for cross breed and non pedigree dogs, including dog agility, canine flyball, heelwork to music and obedience. All of these classes are open to both pedigree and non pedigree dogs, with all of these events being highly watchable to both knowledgeable dog owners and the general public alike, and attracting large crowds.

How to enter Crufts

Crufts is not an 'open' dog show, meaning that admission to compete is by invitation only- you can't just turn up with your dog and give it a whirl!In order to be permitted or invited to compete at Crufts itself, any potential canine candidate will first need to compete and gain a top three placing in their class at any one of a number of Kennel Club licensed championship shows where challenge certificates for admission to Crufts are awarded to the winning dogs. A dog may also become qualified for life by being awarded a Kennel Club stud book number. This is achieved by the dog either winning a stud book qualifying award or junior warrant at a championship breed show.

Criticism and controversy of Crufts

In August 2008, the BBC aired an investigative documentary into The Kennel Club's breed standards entitled 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed,' which looked into the health and welfare issues surrounding the breeding practices encouraged by The Kennel Club in the pursuit of producing the perfect show dog. The Kennel Club, which runs the Crufts competition and is considered to be the authority and governing body for pedigree dog breeds in the UK, was criticized for encouraging and allowing breeding practices and judging standards which compromised the health and wellness of a wide range of pedigree dogs. By virtue of encouraging potentially unhealthy or unrealistic breed standards, The Kennel Club was widely considered to have contributed to the development of some breeds of pedigree dogs exhibiting a wide range of hereditary and genetic health defects and potentially painful and harmful conditions.As a result of much negative public opinion and outcry over the issues raised within the programme, the BBC declined to cover the Crufts dog show from 2009 onwards, after a forty two year history of broadcasting the show.Many of Crufts' high profile sponsors, including Pedigree Pet Foods, Hills Pet Nutrition, the RSPCA and The Dogs Trust also withdrew their support from Crufts specifically and The Kennel Club in general at that time.While The Kennel Club initially defended their stance and denied the promotion of potentially harmful breeding practices, they eventually reacted to public opinion and reviewed their breed standards and judging practices, as well as introducing codes of conduct for breeders to improve the overall health and long term viability of competing breeds. The Kennel Club's new guidelines forbids the breeding of dogs to a breed standard which might "be interpreted as encouraging features that might prevent a dog from breathing, walking and seeing freely" and which could therefore have a negative effect on the overall health and viability of any given dog or breed on the whole.The long term impact of The Kennel Club's new breed standards and their effect on both the long term health and wellness of pedigree dogs and public opinion on The Kennel Club's practices still remains to be seen.

How to attend Crufts as a spectator

If you're interested in attending the next Crufts dog show in March 2013, tickets can be bought in advance directly from the Crufts ticket office. You can also buy tickets on the day itself, although the queues are often long and prices are higher at the door.Only competing dogs are permitted admission into the Crufts arena, so while the Crufts dog show is a great day out for any dog lover, you'll have to leave your own pooch at home- unless of course, you have qualified to compete!

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