Because the third day of Crufts features just one Group and there are far fewer breeds to watch, I decided to spend part of the day looking at the trade stands.
Yesterday I guessed that there must be over 500 of them, and I was right: I checked with a Kennel Club representative, who told me there are exactly 520 of them. There’s almost nothing that you can’t get for your dog at Crufts, whether it’s a free food sample or a hydro treadmill for £25,000 (almost $40,000). And people do buy, anything and everything. The crowds in the shopping areas were almost impenetrable, the lines in front of the huge pavilions that the major dog food companies set up were unbelievable, and all this shopping helps make Crufts not only a fascinating dog event, but also a major factor in the local economy.
Seeing how widely dog shows and dog people are criticized around the world these days, it’s worth bearing in mind how much money a big dog show like this one helps generate. According to the official estimates of a local marketing firm, Crufts at last count brought in £11.5 million (about $18 million) over just four days. Final figures for this year aren’t in yet, but usually around 140,000 people visit the show each year, and of course the PR value of that probably exceeds even the most optimistic estimates of financial gains.
I suppose the moral for anyone thinking of organizing a dog show is that it must be able to attract visitors and be held someplace where dogs are really welcome… as they will be when it’s clear how good a dog show can be for the economy. The director of the National Exhibition Centre is quoted as saying it’s a coup for the area to have attracted such a world-renowned event (Crufts moved from London to Birmingham in 1991). He cannot emphasize enough how much the show contributes in different ways, and hopes to welcome it back at NEC for many years to come. That’s not what we are used to here in the U.S., but if shows are staged in such a way that they attract a lot of visitors and therefore make money for the community, things may change.
And there are lots of things for everyone to view at Crufts. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog activity you’re interested in… you can be pretty sure it’s catered for. Here’s a small sample of what you could have watched if you were at the NEC in Birmingham on the third day of Crufts this year: International Agility, International Junior Handling competition, the Kennel Club Breeders’ competition, Obedience Stakes finale and Obedience Championship, the Young Kennel Club ring program and the British equivalent of “Meet the Breeds,” which many of us have encountered at AKC/Eukanuba. (The British version is far more structured and frankly more professional looking than ours, but the main point is the same: that regular visitors can meet and greet representatives for the different breeds and learn more about them.)
That’s in addition to the shopping, and of course the regular judging. I mentioned that only one Group of breeds was judged on this day, but since that was what the British so correctly call Gundogs (and we more vaguely term Sporting dogs), there was enough to keep anyone busy. The Gundog Group includes many of the most popular breeds, and there were 4,907 of them entered in all… or about the same as five average-sized AKC all-breed shows! Labrador Retrievers had the show’s biggest breed entry with 562 dogs entered, closely followed by Golden Retrievers with 531 dogs, and several others had 200 to 400 dogs each. There’s no question, though, that this was the most “British” (and least international) of all the Groups, as evidenced by the fact that the type difference from what we are used to seeing in the U.S. is so deep that in some breeds it’s probably difficult for an American visitor to appreciate the British winners. (The undocked tails may add to the unfamiliar look, but I think it should be fairly easy for most Gundog enthusiast to get used to this. At least a Cocker with a long tail presents a far less “foreign” image than, for example, an undocked and uncropped Doberman Pinscher.)
First, a few words about two competitions that were especially interesting. This year’s International Junior Handling finale was judged in the big ring, prior to Group judging. The judge was Bill McFadden, whose status as one of America’s top professional handlers makes him uniquely well qualified for this assignment. The juniors came from 38 different countries, and that some of the 10 finalists hailed from countries not commonly thought of as being among the world’s leading dog countries shows just how far the sport of showing dogs has come: they came from Iceland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Thailand, the U.K. and the U.S. The eventual winner was Naomi van Mourik of the Netherlands, showing a Basenji, followed by Emma Grayson Echols of the U.S. (who will be featured in an upcoming interview with Kayla Bertagnolli), handling a Silky Terrier, and Victoria Gill of Norway with a Standard Poodle.
A few AKC shows are experimenting with breeder competitions, but we have not come as far as the Brits in this respect. (Even they lag behind the Scandinavians, though. The breeder competitions are one of the big draws at the major shows there, especially in Sweden, and often favorably commented on by visiting American judges.) That 43 teams of either three or four homebred dogs were entered at Crufts this year was considered an excellent figure, and it also looks as if more of the top breeders are supporting this event than in the past. The judge was Michael Coad, well known as both a breeder and handler of several different breeds, and his winners were a trio of Bernese Mountain Dogs from the Meadowpark kennels. I can’t wait to see this competition getting the treatment it deserves at our top American shows.
The Gundog Group was judged by Zena Thorn-Andrews, internationally acclaimed both as a breeder of the Drakesleat Miniature Wire Dachshunds (and Irish Wolfhounds in the past) and as an all-rounder approved to award CCs in all the breeds that have championship status in Great Britain. She’s judged BIS at Crufts and won Reserve BIS there with a homebred Wolfhound as well. Her winner, the eye-catching yellow Labrador Retriever It. Ch. Loch More Romeo, comes from a breeder/owner in Italy who has made deep inroads into the British show scene. (If I remember correctly he even won BIS at the Labrador club’s centennial show in England a couple of years ago!) Second was the Weimaraner Sh. Ch. Gunalt De Ice at Stridview, bred in one of Great Britain’s leading kennels of any breed but not, I believe, closely related to American dogs of the same breed. Third was the German Shorthaired Pointer Sh. Ch. Kavacanne Toff At The Top, and fourth was one of the very few American winners in this Group, the Irish Water Spaniel Sh. Ch. and Am. Ch. Whistlestop’s Elements of Magic CD RN, who was one of the top all-breed winners last year and has champion littermates in the U.S. as well as other countries. Most of the other breed winners were of genuine British breeding as far as I can tell. Just three were imported from the Netherlands, Sweden or Spain.
Tomorrow is the fourth and final day of Crufts, with breeds in the Working and Herding (or Pastoral, as they are called here) being judged… and Best in Show. The whole dog show world is waiting with bated breath to hear who this year’s winner will be. I hope to be able to talk to BIS judge Geoff Corish after his big assignment; he was walking around the show just like any normal dog fancier would and was sitting at the front row, watching the Group judging. Very different from our American habit of sequestering the BIS judge, but who’s to say it’s not a more sensible, mature way of treating the BIS judge?