One thing I did not mention in my report from the first day of Crufts yesterday was the controversial health testing which the Kennel Club imposed on a few of the Best of Breed winners before they were allowed to compete in the Group last year. Six BOB winners were in fact prohibited from participating in their respective Groups at that show. This created a storm of controversy, as you may already have read in my interview with Ronnie Irving, the former Kennel Club chairman who was at the helm when this idea was hatched. The health tests continued at shows throughout last year, and they were imposed on the BOB winners of the same breeds this year as well, so it was natural that many of us were anticipating this year’s show with some trepidation.
I’m happy to report that, so far at least, this seems to have been a non-issue. Nobody I spoke to yesterday even mentioned the tests, which may have had something to do with the fact that only two of the breeds shown yesterday were on the “high profile breed” list, and the BOB winners in both Bloodhounds and Basset Hounds cleared their tests and consequently were allowed to compete further. At today’s show, with a number of Toy and Utility breeds in the limelight, the situation was a little different, but the six breeds in question (Bulldog, Chow Chow, French Bulldog, Shar Pei, Pekingese and Pug) also all tested clear and competed in their respective Groups. Whether this means that these breeds (or at least the BOB winners) are healthier now than last year, or if the testing has been performed in a different fashion, or if it’s all just the luck of the draw, I’ll leave for you to discuss… but it certainly made for a happier general atmosphere at the show.
As yesterday, I covered many miles today trying to watch as much breed judging as possible. This isn’t easy, because not only does the National Exhibition Centre cover acres of space, but the layout is also so cleverly designed, from the shopper’s point of view, that you are forced to navigate through a vast conglomeration of trade stands every time you go from one hall to the next. There are hundreds of them; I counted over 500 listed in today’s catalog, from the AbbFabb Academy of Dog Grooming to Woof & Brew and Zoo Adventure. I can’t imagine that there is anything you could even think of that’s not available. Shopping at Crufts is an experience all to itself, and for many quite obviously the highlight of the show. You wonder just how many thousands, or millions, of pounds sterling are spent at Crufts each year. Certainly it must give the local dog economy a huge shot in the arm. Meanwhile, of course, the thickening crowds make it even more difficult to get from, for example, the Poodle rings in the back of Hall Two all the way to Pomeranians and Italian Greyhounds at the far end of Hall Five. You need strong legs, comfortable shoes and sharp elbows…
I wish I could report on all the successes (and less happily, the occasional defeat) of American exhibitors, but it’s simply impossible to keep track of them all, and anything you happen to watch before Group judging would be just incidental. To give you a small idea of the American interest in the show, however, let me report that a quick glance through the 434-page catalog (that’s Friday’s catalog; the one yesterday and those for the next two days will be at least as big) there were over 30 AKC champions entered just at today’s show. Not all of them are American-owned, of course; some are exported and a few may even be foreign dogs who came to the U.S. to get their American championships. But if that number is equaled the other three days (and there’s no reason it won’t be), it adds up to a rather impressive total. There are even more champions from many other countries, of course: Crufts truly has become a sort of British equivalent of the FCI World Show, in much the same way (but to a higher degree) that, for example, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is on its way to becoming. The dog world is truly more international now than anyone could ever have expected even a decade ago.
Quite a few of the Group finalists were of American breeding, as I found out when it was time to get down into the arena, the separate hall where the Group finals were held. Before I get into that, however, let me devote a few words to a new feature which I’m sure would receive mixed reception among American purebred dog fanciers – at least the more conservative ones. That concerns “Scruffts” – a mixed-breed takeoff on Crufts that’s been held independently for several years, but now, for the first time, was hosting its finale at Crufts. If you’ve been to cat shows in America, you’ll know what it’s about – a sort of equivalent to the “Best Housecat” competitions I’ve watched there, where condition, temperament, all-over charm and appeal are the only factors that matter. The four finalists were the “Most Handsome Dog,” “Prettiest Bitch,” “Golden Oldie,” and “Child’s Best Friend,” judged not by a dog person, but by an actress from the immensely popular British TV show “EastEnders,” Pam St. Clement. Does it give you the hives? I frankly thought it was cute…
What the Kennel Club in England classifies as the Utility Group is often compared to AKC’s Non-Sporting Group, but in fact it consists of a medley of breeds as disparate as Akitas and Toy Poodles, German Spitz and Standard Schnauzers. Once you get used to seeing such seemingly incongruous breeds being judged together, it is easy to appreciate the quality in this Group, which was judged by last year’s BIS judge at Crufts, Frank Kane, who also judged more recently at the AKC/Eukanuba show in Florida and at Westminster. There were BOB winners from the U.S., Russia, Latvia, Denmark and Japan, and a few of the British-bred winners had an imported sire or dam, although in general it seemed to me that there were more “truly British” winners in this Group than in the others so far. (Of course, you never know for sure until you’ve looked at a dog’s pedigree just how “native” its breeding is.)
According to the announcer, there was a total of 2,976 dogs entered in the Utility Group and 2,566 in the Toy Group. In any case, Frank Kane’s choice as Group winner, the Tibetan Terrier Eng. Ch. Kybo Pandarama, is sired by the Int. and Am. Ch. Bacardi of Darkness at Alilah, bred in the Czech Republic by Barbora Blahova and imported to the U.S. by Gary and Susan Carr, and Pat Tempest. Group Second was the Shiba Inu Ch. Vormund Norma Jean, owner-handled by her breeder’s teenage daughter. Third place went to the Standard Poodle from Denmark, Ch. Abica’s Miles Ahead (sired by U.S. export Ch. Dacun Kaylens He’s A Heartbreaker), handled by Mikael Nilsson, whom many will remember won BIS here in 2002 with another white Standard (a distant relative of this year’s winner). Fourth place went to the young Dalmatian Ch. Offordale Chevalier, whose sire I believe comes from Norway. The Akita, the Chow Chow from Denmark, the French Bulldog from Latvia, the German Spitz (Klein) and the Keeshond (sired by U.S. export Ch. Kemonts Skyline’s Game Boy, who won BOB here last year) all made Frank Kane’s short list. The Boston Terrier winner came from Russia, but was bred from two Sunglo imports (Sunglo is an American kennel); and BOB in Canaan Dogs was the U.S. export Am. Ch. Ha’aretz Hayyim For Anacan.
The Toy Group was judged by Liz Cartledge, also a past Crufts BIS judge and well-known to many American exhibitors from visits to the U.S., including Westminster. Although the majority of the BOB winners, of course, were British, others came from Finland, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, the U.S. and Spain. One of the more unusual top winners in the British show rings last year took the top spot: the King Charles Spaniel Ch. Maibee Theo, who has had more success in all-breed competition than the breed usually experiences anywhere. (And, for the record, the British do not classify the separate colors as different varieties.) Runner-up was the Italian Greyhound Ch. Dalinset Sarastro, who I believe has American blood close up in his pedigree, and third was a Japanese-born Yorkshire Terrier, Ch. Royal Precious JP’s F4 Juliana. Fourth place went to the young Pomeranian Ch. Belliver Unexpected Target from Ireland.
One of the show’s biggest American successes so far was scored by Sharon Newcomb, who won BOB and made the cut in the Group with the Papillon Ch. Lafford Fly Me Too Farleysbane – for the second year in a row! Others who made the cut included the Bichon Frise from Ireland, the Chinese Crested and the Pug. BOB in Maltese was the imported Am. Can. Ch. Hi-Lite Come Dance With Me, who looked spectacular coming into the ring, but then decided he had had enough of dog shows – and, quite frankly, after a long day at Crufts, who could blame him?
That’s it from the second day at Crufts.