Charles Cruft was the general manager at a dog biscuit company, and his work took him to dog shows all around Britain and beyond. Unhappy with many that he visited, he decided to have his own show and in 1886 the ‘first great Terrier Show’ began.
It had 600 dogs entering, across 57 classes, and proved popular enough to become a yearly event.
By 1891, it had become the ‘Crufts Greatest Dog Show’ and was held at the Royal Agricultural Hall, in London’s Islington district. All breeds were invited to compete, and there were 2,000 dogs and almost 2,500 entries.
By the end of the century, it was over 3,000 – and various royals from around Europe and Russia had started to attend.
Charles died in 1938, and so his widow decided to run it. She found it too much of a challenge, and sold the concept to The Kennel Club.
The new show was held in London’s Olympia and got more and more visitors and entrants.
By 1982, the show became three days long, then four days in 1987 – by 1991 it was recognised as the world’s largest dog show by the Guiness Book of World Records.
It is now held at Birmingham’s huge National Exhibition Centre, where you’ll see around 28,000 dogs taking part, and an estimated 160,000 two-legged visitors attending.
It’s an immensely competitive environment, and visitors can’t just turn up and enter their dogs; they have to be qualified throughout the previous year by winning a top-three place at a Kennel Club licensed Championship show.
The dogs compete against others of the same breed, split by gender, age and previous class wins – they can then all go head-to-head to win Best of Breed.
Once chosen, these dogs compete for Best in Group, and then the seven Group winners compete for the highly coveted Best In Show award.
The prize isn’t particularly impressive – a replica of the solid silver Keddall Memorial Trophy, and a small cash prize of £100 – but the status is immense.
As well as Best in Show, there are various other competitions.
Including agility where their owners guide the dogs around a special obstacle course against the clock.
There’s also the Obedience World Cup, where prizes are given to the dogs that follow their owners precisely across a range of activities including walking to heel, and scent discrimination.
One of the best for spectators is The Flyball – a relay-style dog race where teams of four dogs compete against one another in a knock-out competition.
Crufts is an amazing international festival of dogs, with some of the most beautiful in the world on show – as well as some of the cleverest, best trained and/or obedient.
It’s also a great place to buy merchandise, and meet some of the most dedicated dog lovers around.
You can discuss each and every breed with knowledgeable owners, or attend of the many seminars.
For lovers of man’s best four-legged friend, it’s an unmissable annual event.