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Crufts Unleashed: 10 fetching facts

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Crufts is almost upon us with the world’s largest canine event opening on Thursday. The event, launched by Charles Cruft in 1891, has captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts globally, and an estimated 24,000 dogs will be entered into the various events over the course of the 4 day show. It is likely you know what Crufts is but how much do you actually know about the show? Here are 10 interesting facts that will increase your knowledge of this celebration of all-things-canine.

(1) Who was Charles Cruft?

Born in 1852, Charles Cruft’s journey began not in the show ring, but at Spratt’s, a dog biscuit company, where he rose from an office boy to general manager. However, his promotional flair led him to go on to organise dog shows across Europe, finally launching his own ‘Cruft’s Greatest Dog Show’ in 1891 in London. This was not just a business venture for Charles; it was a passion project that celebrated his love for dogs in a grand and joyous way. Cruft was reported to have owned various breeds including German Shepherds, Borzois, Schipperkes, Fox Terriers, and Pointers and a St. Bernard. 

(2) A royal seal of approval

Queen Victoria, known for her love of dogs, was among the first contestants at the original Crufts. She entered with six of her Pomeranians, and her favourite Pomeranian, Gena, was a joint winner in the first Crufts show.

(3) The original Best in Show

The coveted ‘Best in Show’ competition was introduced in 1928, with a blue-coated Greyhound bitch named Primley Sceptre winning the award. She was owned by Herbert Whitley, an eccentric zoo owner with a fascination for breeding blue-coloured animals and plants. 

(4) From small London halls to Birmingham’s Mega Centre

Crufts began at the Royal Agricultural Hall in London, then moved to Olympia, followed by Earl’s Court. In 1991, it relocated to the NEC in Birmingham, the UK’s largest exhibition centre, where it continues to be held.

(5) On the telly

Crufts was broadcasted by the BBC starting in 1950. However, following the broadcast of “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” a documentary that raised concerns about breeding practices and breed standards, the BBC stopped airing Crufts in 2008. Since then, the show has been broadcast on Channel 4. 

(6) Dog agility

The world’s first dog agility demonstration took place at Cruft’s in 1978 and has provided thrills and spills for dog lovers every year since then. The inaugural winner was a Border Collie named Rocky, and the breed has dominated the competition ever since. A non-Border Collie last won the agility competition at Crufts in 2006, when a Shetland Sheepdog named Jemma won the title. However, it hasn’t stopped other breeds from trying to win with Bulldogs and Bassett Hounds being among the more optimistic glory seekers over the years.

(7) A fatal affair

One particularly peculiar incident occurred during a murder trial in 1974. In this case, a man who initiated an affair with a woman he met at Crufts was subsequently stabbed to death by his wife. The weapon used in the crime was originally intended for their dog’s food.

(8) The Baldings

Clare Balding, who has been presenting Crufts since 2004, stands as one of the familiar and longstanding faces associated with the prestigious dog show. But the Balding Family’s connection to Crufts goes back through the generations when her great-grandfather, Percy, served as the secretary of the show in the early 20th century.

(9) 2015 controversies

In 2015, the show encountered two grim incidents. One revolved around the alleged poisoning of an Irish Setter, initially believed to have taken place at Crufts but later determined to have occurred in Belgium. That same year, a separate issue arose regarding the handling technique of a Scottish Terrier in the show ring, which involved lifting the dog by its tail – a practice rightly not permitted in the UK.

And last but not least…

(10) Pedigree bum

The Gundog competition in 2010 was briefly interrupted by a streaker, Mark Roberts from Liverpool. Known for his streaking antics at various events, Roberts made his appearance wearing only a cat mask, shoes, socks, and a message on his chest. This was not his first public stunt, as he’s known for over 380 such incidents, including a memorable appearance on “This Morning’s” weather map.

Crufts is open 7-10 March 2024 at The NEC Birmingham. More information can be found here.

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