Crufts, held each year in March in Great Britain, is billed as the world’s largest dog show, and most years that is, indeed, true. A time or two over the past half-dozen years, the entry at the FCI World Dog Show may have surpassed that at Crufts, but the show that celebrates its 121st event this year, if not always strictly the largest numerically, is considered by many to be the grandest.

For so many years, the dog show founded in 1891 by Charles Crufts has been the pride of the British dog show world and beloved by the average British citizen as well. Its first show drew about 2,000 dogs, but by 1936 it had grown to over 10,600 dogs entered in 80 breeds. At its 100th anniversary in 1991, the Guiness Book of World Records officially named Crufts the world’s largest dog show; that year there were 22,973 conformation entries. When all events are included, the show typically draws 27,000 to 28,000 dogs, and it is estimated that more than 150,000 spectators attend.

A flier from one of the earliest Crufts dog shows, in 1886.

Of course, today the dog show that is held in Birmingham, England, about 100 miles outside London, is quite a different event than it was more than 100 years ago – or for that matter even 10 years ago. The first major transformation the four-day event underwent in its modern iteration began in 2001, when the first phase of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) was put into effect, essentially permitting dogs, cats and other pets into the U.K. from several European Union countries without being subjected to the six-month quarantine previously required.

Within just a year or so, the U.S., Canada and Australia also became part of PETS, and, with foreign dogs now eligible to enter the famous dog show, things would never again be quite the same.

U.K. Crisis Tempers the Invasion…For Now

The first year that dogs from Europe were allowed to enter Crufts, 2001, turned out to be the year that, for quite some time, we wondered if there would be a Crufts. In mid-February of that year, foot-and-mouth disease was discovered in some pigs in Essex, in eastern England. Within 24 hours an outbreak was confirmed, and before a week had passed thousands of cattle and pigs on eight farms had to be destroyed.

As more and more cases of the malady were found on farms across England, then in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the government asked citizens to avoid traveling near farmland to prevent the highly contagious disease from spreading further. While foot-and-mouth does not affect dogs, show organizers shared the concern that people traveling to and from Crufts might inadvertently aid in spreading the disease, and the show was postponed indefinitely.

The last confirmed case of foot-and-mouth was found in Cumbria on September 30, 2001, but by May of that year the crisis was well enough in hand that Crufts went ahead. All of the uncertainty kept all but a handful of foreign exhibits away. Just two placements in one Group, Working, gave evidence that foreign dogs now able to travel to Crufts might significantly impact the shows results

. The Group was won by the Italian Siberian Husky, Int. Ch. Cry Out, bred and owned by Cristina Rimini and Davide Capanni and Group Third went to the Great Dane, multi-Ch. Hotpoints Welcome Mr. Blue, bred and owned by Boni Moen of Norway.

According to the BBC, by the time the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2001 ended, there had been approximately 2,030 confirmed cases in the U.K. and Northern Ireland, and approximately 6 million animals, including cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, had to be slaughtered.

By January of 2002, the Crufts agricultural crisis was over, and the second year that foreign dogs were eligible to enter Crufts, there were 21,000 conformation entries, with only 344 from outside the U.K. Most entries were from England’s neighbor, the Netherlands, but the dog that arrived in Birmingham to change the history of the show was from Scandinavia.

Going into the show that year, a couple of British dogs were favored to make it to the top. The Top Dog of all breeds in 2001 was the Pekingese, Eng. Ch. Yakee A Dangerous Liaison (familiar today as the sire of America’s all-time top Toy, Eng. Am. Ch. Yakee If Only and great-great-grandsire of our Westminster BIS-winning ‘Malachy’). Also, well-known British handler Michael Coad was showing a white Standard Poodle, Int. Eng. Ch. Del Zarsoso Con Gancho, about which there was some buzz.

But this white Standard dog didn’t win the challenge certificate. Instead, Nord. Ch. Topscore Contradiction snatched the dog ticket and Best of Breed. Then he won the Utility Group. Owned by Kari and Stein Glenna of Norway, and handled by Mikael Nilsson, a well-known Poodle breeder and handler from Sweden, ‘King’ was purchased as a pet, and became the Stein’s first show dog. But he came from top-winning and top-producing American and European stock, and the 2002 Crufts Best in Show judge, Pamela Cross Stern, said that there was “no denying” the white dog the Best in Show win. “He is a Poodley Poodle who is the epitome of the breed.” The U.K.’s 2001 Top Dog, the Pekingese, had to settle for Reserve BIS.

Crufts BIS 2002, Standard Poodle Ch. Topscore Contradiction, with Mikael Nilsson.

King went on to a spectacular show career, winning Best in Shows at the World Show in Holland and at the prestigious Stockholm show (twice), and becoming Top Dog of all breeds in Norway. He also became an American champion, winning multiple BIS here to earn his title.

Outsiders Keep Arriving on British Shores

Afterward, in some ways, the Brits must have regretted the Pet Travel Scheme that allowed the invaders to come in and win at their beloved show. The following year the Peke went all the way to Best in Show, but the Gundog Group was won by Nord. Fin. Inkwells Named Shadow, a Flat-Coated Retriever from Sweden. And more and more dogs from outside the U.K. have continued to do well at Crufts.

In 2004 the Australian Shepherd bitch, Am. Ch. Bayshore Russian Rhoulette, and her owner-handler, Leon Goetz, flew to England. ‘Judy’ was a two-time National Specialty winner and the top Best-in-Show winning Australian Shepherd bitch in the world, with 27 wins. She and Leon won the Pastoral Group that year at Crufts. The Utility Group winner was also American-bred, although the Bichon, Am. Ch. PaRay’s I Told You So, was by that time a “British citizen,” so to speak, as he was now owned by Briton Michael Coad with Americans Lori and Tracy Kornfeld, and Phyllis Sewell.

Crufts 2004 Pastoral Group winner Am. Ch. Bayshore Russian Rhoulette.

Now we arrive at 2005. When the finalists entered the ring, all of the contenders were indeed in their country of origin, but without the change in the rules from four years earlier the little red girl who was Best in Show simply wouldn’t have been shown. The Norfolk Terrier bitch, Eng. Am. Ch. Cracknor Causes Celebre, had won the Group at Westminster and then hopped a plane with her buddy Peter Green. Both back on home turf, ‘Coco’ went all the way under judge Jean Lanning, making fanciers on both sides of the pond proud.

The next year, a dog representing both Canada and the U.S. took home the top prize under judge Brenda Banbury. Australian Shepherd Am. Ch. Caitland Isle Take a Chance, bred in Canada by Cathy Bishop and owned by American Nancy Resetar, was handled to the win by Californian Larry Fenner.

The Reserve BIS winner that year was another naturalized Brit originally from the U.S., the Wire Fox Terrier Am. Eng. Ch. El-Rays Snowtaire Iceni Payback. She was bred in Washington state by Barbara Decker and owned by Barbara with Phil Davies of Perrisblu Kerry Blue Terriers in Wales. Andrew Goodsell handled ‘Payback’ to many big wins in the U.K., including the Crufts Reserve BIS.

Crufts 2008 BIS, left, Am. Ch. Caitland Isle Take a Chance with handler Larry Fenner, and Reserve BIS, Am. Eng. Ch. El-Rays Snowtaire Iceni Payback with handler Andrew Goodsell

The Toy Group winner that year was also foreign; Danish-owned Pomeranian Ch. Finch’s Ovations For Me was bred in Iowa by Diane Finch and sired by the American National Specialty winner Ch. Pufpride Sweet Dreams, who also won 43 BIS in the U.S.

In 2007 it looked like an invasion from a foreign country, but the Best in Show winner, although owned by John Shaw and Maria Francis of Hong Kong and handled by American Larry Cornelius, was British-bred and also owned by Ken Sinclair. His other owner, Neil Smith, is also from the U.K.

However, the Gundog Group winner, Flat Coat Almanza Far & Flyg was bred in Sweden by the well-known kennel of Sälthult Hasselbacken and Susanne Karlström.

The 2007 Gundog Group winner, Flat Coat Almanza Far & Flyg from Sweden.

Although we won’t list all of the foreign dogs who have won placements in Crufts Groups, I’m compelled to mention that in the Terrier Group the Australian-bred Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Aust. Am. Ch. Hobergay’s Fineus Fogg, owned by comedian Bill Cosby with Jean Heath and his breeder Emma Greenway, took home the second place ribbon, handled by Bill McFadden. Fourth in that Group went to the American Scottie, Ch. Charthill Empire Maker, owned by Charla Hill, Kathy Vogt and Michael Karem, and handled by Geoff Dawson.

The Working Group winner, Alaskan Malamute Ch. Giving A New Royal Star de Jungla Negra, was bred in Spain by Patricia Andres and Jose Biela, and owned by Italian Giuseppe Biagiotti.

In 2008 the Terrier Group winner was a foreigner in the form of the American Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Am. Ch. Caraway Celebrate Life, handled by Shari Boyd Carusi for breeder-owners Beth Verner and Betty Chapman. The Wire Fox Terrier that was Top Dog of all breeds the following year, Eng. Ch. Blackdale Carousel, had to settle for second to the Yankee. Happily for the local crowd, the rest of the major winners that year were from the U.K.

In 2009 a Canadian-American invader again took the top spot from a local favorite when judge Peter Green awarded Best in Show to the Sealyham Terrier, Am. Can. Swed. Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice, bred in Canada by France Bergeron, owned in the U.S. by Sandra Middlebrooks, Margery Good and Richard Good, handled by Margery. The fabulous Standard Poodle Eng. Am. Ch. Afterglow the Big Tease, bred, owned and handled by Michael Gadsby, was Reserve BIS. ‘Donny’ was a multiple BIS winner when campaigned in the U.S., and in fact won Poodle Club of America from the classes.

In 2009 BIS went to Sealyham Terrier Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice and owner-handler Margery Good, with Reserve to the Standard Poodle Ch. Afterglow The Big Tease and breeder/owner-handler Michael Gadsby.

In the Hound Group, the Finnish Pharaoh Hound, Int. Ch. Northgate’s As You Like It, was first, bred by Hanna and Kari Ukura. The Pastoral Group winner, the Swedish Old English Sheepdog Ch. Villas Cruella at Dizzny, was Top Dog all breeds in her home country in 2008. Both the second and third place dogs behind her were also from outside the U.K.: the American Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ch. Riverside Wicked Wonderful, bred, owned and handled by Deb Shindle, and the Danish Puli, Int. Dk. Lux. Ch. Bubbleton Birthday Bijou, bred, owned and handled by Jesper Ravn and co-owned and co-bred by Klaus Andersen.

In the Terrier Group, standing behind the Sealy was the future Westminster Best in Show winner, Scottie Ch. Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot, owned by Amelia Musser, bred by Mary O’Neal and the Anstamm Kennel, and handled by Gabriel Rangel. Another future mega star in the U.K., the Norwich Terrier Eng. Ch. Ragus Rings True, settled for third in the Group, breeder/owner-handled by Lesley Crawley.

That wasn’t the end of it that year. In the Toy Group, the winner was the Papillon, multi-Ch. Queen Bless JP Royal Connection, bred in Japan by Chie Ejima, owned in Belgium by Jan Roosens and Mrs. Abeloos-Devos.

The 2009 Toy Group winner was Japanese-bred Papillon Ch. Queen Bless JP Royal Connection.

In 2010 the Reserve BIS award went to a Russian-bred and -owned Scottie, Ch. Filisite Brash Celebration, bred, owned and handled by Valentina Popova. Finnish Pharaoh Hound As You Like It won his second Group at Crufts, but again the rest of the Group First winners, at least, were local heroes.

The 2010 Reserve BIS winner, Scottish Terrier multi-Ch. Filisite Brash Celebration, with breeder/owner-handler Valentina Popova.

In 2011 quite a number of the Group placements were from foreign countries: two in the Hound Group, and all but the first-place winners in the Pastoral and Toy Groups. In the Terrier Group, the second place Airedale, American-bred Ch. Longvue Jackpot, although owned by Britain’s Judy Averis, was breeder-handled by Todd Clyde.

These are really just a few of the many dogs from countries outside the U.K. that have done well at Crufts over the past decade. Many, many of the shows’ challenge certificate and Best of Breed winners have now come from all over Europe, Scandinavia, the U.S. and elsewhere.

One can’t put the cat back in the bag – not this cat anyway – and now that exhibitors from around the world have discovered that they can, indeed, travel to England in March and take home a prize from one of the most amazing dog shows in the world, they’ll continue to do so. I’m betting that there are quite a few, in fact, who are packing their bags as I write this, getting ready to leave for Birmingham and a shot at a ribbon at Crufts.

We’ll be reporting on all of the 2012 winners right here on Best In Show Daily, so be watching for the results. And also keep an eye out for my upcoming article about the second major transformation Crufts has gone through, resulting from the BBC television broadcast of “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”