Crufts is the World’s Largest Dog Show, with pooches and their owners travelling to the UK from all around the world.
This year, Crufts will be taking place between Thursday 10 – Sunday 13 March 2022. This follows a break in 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is being held at the Birmingham NEC in Solihull.
What is Crufts?
Crufts is an international dog show organised by The Kennel Club, held in the UK every year. They say it is “ultimately a celebration of all dogs”.
It is the largest show of its kind anywhere in the world. The main event is a conformation show or dog show, which is also referred to as a breed show. A judge, with expertise in that breed, will evaluate how well certain dogs conform to the established specifications for that breed.
There are also competitions in dog agility, heelwork, obedience and flyball. There is also a Friends For Life competition, which celebrates the unsung heroes of the dog world, as well as a sister competition called Scruffts, which celebrated crossbreeds.
The main competition is the Best In Show award, which is handed out as the final event on the final Sunday at 9 pm, and in the NEC there is a large trade show of dog-related goods and services.
Crufts is not an open competition. Dogs must have qualified for a place throughout the previous year, at Kennel Club affiliated shows.
So as wonderful as your Freddie is, don’t go turning up in the hope of winning a rosette just yet.
When did Crufts start?
Crufts started in its current format in 1891. Crufts was named after founder Charles Cruft, who worked as general manager for a dog biscuit manufacturer. He travelled to dog shows around the world, making connections but also realising the need for dog competitions to be held at higher standards.
In 1886, Cruft’s actually held their first dog show billed as the “First Great Terrier Show”. When it was opened up to all breeds in 1891, there were over 2,000 entries.
Crufts was sold to The Kennel Club in 1942, after Charles’ death in 1938. The 1948 show was the first to be held by the Kennel Club, after the Second World War.
Crufts 2021 was initially postponed to take place in July 2021, before being cancelled altogether due to the COVID-19 outbreak. So, the 2022 event is the first in two years.
You can watch the show on Channel 4 in the UK, with extra coverage on More4. It is also available to watch live on YouTube throughout the day.
Competitors from Russia are not allowed to take part in the 2022 Crufts competition, after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Which competitions are at Crufts?
The main competition is Best In Show.
Dogs compete against others of the same breed initially. This is split according to gender, age and the number of previous class wins. After the best of each breed has been chosen, they then compete against the others in their Group, to find the Best in Group. The seven Group winners then compete to find the Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show.
There are seven Groups: Toys, Gundogs, Utility, Hounds, Working, Pastoral, and Terriers
The English Cocker Spaniel is the most successful breed at Crufts, winning Best In Show seven times. The Gundog is the most successful Group, with 23 Best In Show winners.
The 2020 Best In Show winner was wire-haired dachshund Maisie, who celebrated her win during her victory lap by…going to the toilet. Even superstars are caught short sometimes.
There is also an Agility competition. This is a timed event, where dogs must manoeuvre through, over, and around obstacles. Mistakes are penalised, and the dog with the best time score overall wins. It uses a range of agility equipment, from tunnels and seesaws to hurdles.
Obedience requires dogs to follow commands given by their owners. This includes lead heelwork, distance control, retrieval, send away, stays and scent discrimination. The prizes are awarded by the judges, to which they deem to be the most obedient dogs.
Flyball is a relay race. Dogs are in teams of four and go up against other teams in a knock-out style competition. There are four hurdles and then a box to step on, for each dog. The box triggers the release of a ball, which has to be returned to the start of the course. The process is repeated with the next dog until the team has finished. The team with the best time wins.
There are also freestyle and heelwork to music competitions. Each dog will have a choreographed routine, set to music, and judges will decide on the winner.
The Young Kennel Club (YKC) also judges handlers aged between 6 and 25. They compete in the same competition styles as above.
There is also an annual Kennel Club Friends for Life competition. Organised by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, it celebrates the bond between man and dog, and awards dogs who have gone above and beyond to help. Finalists from five categories are picked, with the overall winner being decided by the public. The categories are:
- Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog
- Hero Support Dog
- Rescue Dog Hero
- Child’s Champion
- Best Friends
There are also shows for the audience in between the awards ceremonies, from Police Dogs, Royal Airforce Dogs and Medical Detection Dogs.
Does Crufts always go to plan?
Er…no! Every year, there is always a contender for the funniest Crufts moments video playlist.
Some dogs simply go a little bit AWOL on the day. We all can under pressure, after all. Rescue dogs often steal the show (and our hearts) thanks to not quite grasping agility courses.
Rescue dog Kratu, who is a Romanian rescue, appeared at the Crufts dog show between 2017 and 2020. He was a bit of a rule-breaker, which actually went down a treat with the audience and he became a viral hit.
Kratu is a trained assistance dog, who has also been given agility training. Unfortunately, in 2020 it was announced he was suffering from a pinched sciatic nerve, so he will not participate again. But it is safe to say he enjoyed the attention of his previous shows.
Is Crufts cruel?
There is a lot of talk about breeding damaging the lineage of certain breeds beyond repair. For instance, pugs and other Bull breeds often have difficulty breathing leading to poor quality of life. Therefore, it can seem odd that we have competitions judging dogs on how well they fit into breed classifications.
In August 2008, a BBC programme called Pedigree Dogs Exposed criticised Crufts for allowing breed standards, judging standards and breeding practices that compromise the health of purebred dogs. Sponsors withdrew from the competition and the RSPCA criticised the premise of dog shows.
The BBC dropped coverage of the show, and Channel 4 picked up exclusive broadcast rights in 2010. The Kennel Club reviewed their policies, and all show judges are required to choose only healthy dogs. The practice of exaggeration, which is seen as encouraging features that limit a dog’s ability to breathe, walk or see, is not allowed. This includes short muzzles and loose skin.
Charities such as PETA have also criticised Crufts, and concerns have been made amid a rise in the price and demand of designer dogs. Some believe this could pressure breeders to breed dogs beyond their health limitations and raise the price of purebreds.
However, Crufts is still by far the largest competition of its kind in the world, so it looks as though overall support for the competition will never wane. Supporters would argue that a dog would not compete if they didn’t enjoy it and that the dogs who take part are loved and well cared for.