Day Two at Crufts 2012 belongs to the Gundogs. The British love for country life is reflected in the popularity of the various setter, retriever, spaniel and pointing breeds, and the sheer numbers involved ensure the sporting crowd has the day to themselves. For those with a less-than-specific interest in the dog show, this makes it easier to catch everything else you might want to see; judging over a hundred dogs can take the better part of an entire day, which means one can take a stroll through the labyrinthine shopping aisles, and still get back to their breed of choice before that final rosette is handed out.

And what enticements there are! Material bribes lurk everywhere, with roughly 100 trade stands in each of the five exhibition halls making it easy to find that perfect gift, or long-sought trinket. “Have to have” and “can’t live without” are the catch-words of the day; whether it be a custom-tailored suit or hand-crafted leather lead, you’re certain to find at least one vendor who will assure that what you “want” and “need” are the same thing.

Accessories and necessities for both two- and four-legged animals are, after all, a large part of the reason many visitors keep coming back to Crufts. Should you tire of retail therapy, there are dozens of active displays to take in, ranging from bomb detection to bite prevention. Shelters and welfare groups such as the Battersea Dog’s Home work tirelessly on behalf of all pets, while the vast array of breeds at “Discover Dogs” provide hands-on education for those looking to add a purebred canine to their household, but not sure which one fits the bill.

Gundog Group 1 - Crufts 2012 Day Two: Foreign-bred Dogs Top the Gundog Final

First in the Gundog Group, American-bred Irish Water Spaniel Eng. Am.Ch. Whistlestop's Elements of Magic, with judge John Thirlwell. Photo Karl Donvil.

Several breeds bring so many entrants that judging must be split into dog and bitch categories; imagine 516 Golden Retrievers, 488 Labradors, 357 English Cockers, 329 Flat-Coats and 258 Pointers, and you begin to get a sense of how deep the breeding well is. As a Canadian, I might go months without seeing more Nova Scotia Duck Tollers than I could count on one hand—but here were 130 of the jaunty little red dogs all in one place. The same could be said for the Wire-haired Viszla, which brought 70 specimens to the table; a long-recognised breed in my country, yet it’s doubtful the CKC has ever seen a fraction of that number. Ironically, a handful of breeds in this Group, such as the German Long-haired Pointer, are of such low entry stature in England that challenge certificates are not yet awarded.

Gundog Group 2 - Crufts 2012 Day Two: Foreign-bred Dogs Top the Gundog Final

Second in the Group went to Labrador Retriever Eng. Am. Can.Ch. Salty Dog of Tampa Bay.

Thirty-one breeds came together this evening under judge John Thirlwell to vie for the position of top Gundog. Thirlwell is no stranger to the green carpet here, having piloted the import smooth-coated Vizsla, Sh. Ch. Aust.Ch. Hungargunn Bear It’n Mind to Best in Show in 2010.

Many of the Gundog breeds and varieties brought forward are familiar to North American show-goers, but several—the Kooikerhondje, Spanish Water Dog, Large Munsterlander, and Bracco Italiano, for instance—see little action on our shores outside rare breed events. It’s true they may deserve the sobriquet of “unusual,” which makes it such a treat to see so many in one place.

Gundog Group 3 - Crufts 2012 Day Two: Foreign-bred Dogs Top the Gundog Final

English Springer Spaniel Eng.Ch. Nord. UCh. Barecho Hold Your Horses at Peasblossom was third in the Group. Photo Karl Donvil.

Sadly, controversy continued to escalate today over the Kennel Club’s decision to single out what they refer to as “high profile breeds.” The Croatian-owned Clumber Spaniel, Am. Dk. Lux.Ch. Chervood Snowsun, was denied participation at the Group level, despite protestations by her owner, Lana Levai. Judged by international all-rounder Ferelith Somerfield, the 2009 Crufts Bitch C.C. winner reportedly arrived complete with current health certificates and an active work history, but none of this held water against the scrutiny put to her by the examining veterinarian.

Gundog Group 4 - Crufts 2012 Day Two: Foreign-bred Dogs Top the Gundog Final

Eng. Ch. Austr. GCh. and NZ GCh. Robwyn Dreams Are Free at Ridanflight, the Pointer from New Zealand, was fourth in the Group. Photo Karl Donvil.

It’s unclear just what was determined to be the fault at hand, and no information regarding any specific test or examination was made public, but with the rising tide of inquiry at this point, it surely can only be a matter of time before the Kennel Club comes forward. With two days of judging left to go—and numerous other “at-risk” breeds waiting off-stage—it remains to be seen where this particular vehicle is being driven.

Editor’s Notes: What an amazing day in the U.K. for foreign-bred Sporting dogs! Great Britain is indeed known for its sporting life and Gundogs are among the country’s favorites, but this year the prizes went to four dogs bred outside the U.K.

Gundog authority John Thirlwell judged the Group. John not only handled the Vizsla ‘Yogi’ to BIS at Crufts, but is also world-famous for his Ferndel Welsh Spring Spaniels. Eng. Ch. Ferndel Copywrite was the Top Gundog in the U.K. in 2003—just imagine a Welsh Springer Spaniel the Top Sporting dog in the U.S., if you can—and in the same year his Eng. Ch. Ferndel Cecilia was the Top Gundog Brood Bitch and the Runner up to Top Brood Bitch among all breeds.

Mr. Thirlwell’s Gundog Group First went to the American-bred Irish Water Spaniel, Eng. Am. Ch. Whistlestop’s Elements Of Magic CD RN, bred in the U.S. by Colleen McDaniel and Stacy Duncan and owned by Colleen with Briton Judith Carruthers, who owner-handles ‘Merlin.’ The beautiful Water Spaniel arrived in the U.K. in April of last year and made history for the breed by winning three all-breed Best in Shows and becoming the Number 1 Gundog and Number 5 among all breeds for the year, and he was only 2 years old! This win at Crufts is a perfect addition to his career.

Second went to yellow Labrador Retriever Eng. Am. Can. Ch. Salty Dog of Tampa Bay, bred in St. Petersburg, Florida, by Linda Hess and owned and handled by Anthony Allen. ‘Salty’s’ sire, Am. Ch. Aquarius Centercourt Delight, was handled in 2004 and 2005 by Joy Quallenberg to Number 1 Lab in the U.S., Number 4 and Number 10 Sporting dog those two years, respectively, and is the all-time top-winning Labrador Retriever in the history of the breed in the U.S. He was bred by Kathy Sneider.

Third in the Group went to the import English Springer Spaniel Eng.Ch. Nord. UCh. Barecho Hold Your Horses At Peasblossom, bred in Sweden by David and Helene Bjorkman of Kennel Barecho and owned by Dave and Jacky Mitchell of the U.K. Although ‘Seamus’ does not look like the American version of the English Springer Spaniel, it is evident from his photograph that he is of sterling quality.

And Fourth in this Group went to the Pointer imported to the U.K. from New Zealand, Eng. Ch. Austr. GCh. and NZ GCh. Robwyn Dreams Are Free at Ridanflight. ‘Ryan’ is the only Pointer in the history of the breed to hold championship titles in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., and he won 20 Best in Shows and 66 Group Firsts in New Zealand for breeder Paul Robinson. He is now owned and handled by Steve Rose, co-owned by Paul Robinson. –C.M.

Group Details

THE GUNDOG GROUP—Judge Mr. John Thirlwell

First: Irish Water Spaniel Eng. Am.Ch. Whistlestop’s Elements Of Magic CD RN
(Am.GCh. Poole’s Ide Got Water RN x Am.Ch. Whistlestop’s The Wind Moriah)
Owners: Mrs. J. Carruthers and Mrs. C. McDaniel

Second: Labrador Retriever Eng. Am. Can.Ch. Salty Dog of Tampa Bay
(Am.Ch. Aquarius Of Centrecourt Delight x Belquest Splash Of Covergirl)
Owners: Mr. A.C. Allen (handling for Mrs. L. Hess)

Third: English Springer Spaniel Eng.Ch. Nord. UCh. Barecho Hold Your Horses At Peasblossom (Imp. Swe)
(Nor/Swe.Ch. Barecho Fun For The Future x Swe.Ch. Wongan Romanza At Barecho)
Owners: Mr. and Mrs. D. Mitchell

Fourth: Pointer Eng. Ch. NZ. and Aust. GCh. Robwyn Dreams Are Free At Ridanflight (Imp. NZ)
(NZ.Ch. Chesterhope Catch A Dream At Robwyn x NZ.Ch. Atsira Never Say Never)
Owners: Mr. S. Rose and Mr. P.H. Robinson