THE PRESENTATION of a £1.6 million cheque, six new breeds and a new competition are all promised for Crufts this year, said Kennel Club chairman Steve Dean in his opening speech today (Thursday).

An ‘enormous amount of hard work’ by the Crufts team made the show the ‘amazing spectacle’ it was, he added.

“The next four days are packed with a huge variety of events which encompass everything that is great about man’s relationship with his best friend, the dog,” he said.

“I suspect that many of you here today have travelled a significant distance to be with us and you are not alone. This year’s show will see over 2,500 dogs competing from 45 different countries other than the UK. Add in a record-breaking entry of 46 countries for the International Junior Handling competition, including for the first time the likes of Azerbaijan and Guatemala, and it’s clear to see that this really is the biggest dog event in the world.”

There are six new breeds on show at the show this year, Prof Dean said, originating from different parts of Europe and beyond – the Catalan Sheepdog, Turkish Kangal Dog and Eurasier – who have their own classes for the first time – and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, which is competing in the any variety working dog classes.

The Portuguese Pointer makes its debut in Discover Dogs, where visitors can meet about 200 pedigree breeds and find the right breed for their lifestyle by learning more about the care and training required for each.

Also new at this year’s show is a fun competition called ‘Obreedience’, which takes place in the Obedience Ring on Saturday.

“Tomorrow we will mark ten years of the Assured Breeder Scheme which was launched at Crufts 2004,” Prof Dean said. “The scheme has probably grown beyond anything we might have envisaged ten years ago and it is only right to mark this significant milestone, which we will be doing with a celebratory cake-cutting.

“We will also be using the main stand this year to promote the newest addition to the KC’s range of health services, with the launch of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs). Developed with the Animal Health Trust (AHT), EBVs are part of our Mate Select programme and will help breeders in tackling the complex conditions hip and elbow dysplasia.”

On Friday the KC Charitable Trust is to present the AHT with a cheque for £1.6 millionto fund the next five years of the KC Genetics Centre and further work at the KC Cancer Centre.

“The Genetics Centre has now been in operation for five years and recently launched a report on its progress in this time which highlights the remarkable advances that are being made,” Prof Dean said.

“On Saturday we will see the second International Canine Health Awards here at the show, withinnovative researchers and veterinary scientists who are having a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of dogs being recognised for their work. The two awards being presented carry a prize fund of £50,000 towards the winners’ future work. Our thanks go to Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metro Bank for this most generous funding.”

Prof Dean also thanked More 4 and Channel 4 for the ‘extensive’ TV coverage to go out over the four days.

“Channel 4 has done a fabulous job in promoting the show in advance with their Superstar Dogs programme in the run up to the show,” he said. “This has been a great success and the winner will be presented with their award by presenter John Barrowman in the Main Arena on Saturday afternoon.”

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