Every year, the nation's waggy tails get together for the biggest event in the doggie calendar: Crufts. From agility to flyball, obedience to freestyle, the nation's finest pups gather to show off their talents to eventually discover who will be crowned Best in Show. Whether you're the teeniest Chiahuahua or a towering Great Dane, there's an event for every dog and something to please every dog lover – as has been the case for the past 125 years.
The early days
Crufts first came about when an ambitious, young Charles Cruft decided he didn't wanted to join his family jewellery business when he left school in 1876 and instead took a job with James Spratt who'd set up a venture in Holborn, London, selling – of all things – dog cakes!
After a quick apprenticeship, Charles was soon out selling his wares to large estates and sporting kennels, at first in England and later in Europe. Here, French dog breeders asked Charles to organise the promotion of the canine section of the Paris Exhibition.
Later, back in England, he started managing the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster. And before he knew it, he was onto even bigger and better things. And in 1891 he set up the first Cruft's show at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington.
High and lows
Crufts quickly went from strength to strength and in 1928 the Best in Show Awards began with a Greyhound called Primley Sceptre coveting the first ever trophy. Four years later, the show had its first ever female owner as Lorna Countess Howe stepped into the ring with Labrador Retriever, Bramshaw Bob. Shortly after that, in 1936, the show passed the 10,000 entries mark for the first time.
Meanwhile, both the First and Second World War forced the show to shut between 1918-1920 and 1940-1947.
And in 1938, Charles Cruft, having celebrated over 50 years of his now world-famous show, passed away. His widow, Emma Cruft, took over the running of the show.
In 1948, the Kennel Club took over the running of Crufts for the first time, which was held at Olympia. It was a huge success with 84 breeds entered – that's almost double the number entered in the first Crufts in 1891. Nowadays, Crufts attracts around 200 different breeds each year.
And it was all change in 1950 when Crufts was televised for the first time.
Over the next decade, Crufts becomes an Obedience Championship Show, allowing sheepdogs to enter, it extends to a three then four day event and moves premises to Earls' Court to accommodate the growing numbers of dogs and spectators.
Now for something a bit different
In 1992, Mary Ray wowed the whole Crufts arena with her never-before-seen dog dancing. Full of tricks and fancy heelwork, her performance became a huge hit and she's still a regular and much-anticipated performer at Crufts today.
Later in 2004, the popular Friends for Life competition first popped up, then called Hero Dogs. The annual competition ensures that man's best friend gets the recognition he deserves for bravery, support and companionship. Here, Southern Golden Retriever Display Team appeared at Crufts for the first time and this has been part of the event every year since.
And Crufts bounded into the digital world in 2009 when Crufts was streamed online for the first time, becoming the most-watched channel on YouTube in the UK. More 4 also became the broadcast partner for Crufts in 2010.
Finally, in 2013, Crufts opens up the arena to mutts and mongrels as it introduces Scrufts for the first time.
- Crufts 2016 is at the NEC Birmingham from March 10-13. You can get your tickets here
- To find out more about Crufts visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk
- Images ©Kennel Club Photo Library
- We'll be at Crufts to present our annual PAT Dog of the Year Award so keep your eyes peeled for the annoucement of the winner in an upcoming issue of Yours