The judge assigned to select the 2012 Best in Show winner at Crufts, the world’s largest dog show, is Frank Kane, who hails from the north of England. Well-known to those in the British dog show world as a breeder, exhibitor, judge, author, teacher, administrator, he is also as a bit of a celebrity, as he has for years been a popular television commentator for Crufts.
Kane has an enviable background in dogs, particularly considering that he didn’t come from a dog show family. When he was a boy, his family participated in horse and pony shows, and one day when on the show grounds he wandered from the horses to where dogs were being shown. Cockers (English, to Americans) happened to be in the ring. The young man was captivated, and that single incident set him on a path that he has followed for decades.
Frank’s parents bought him his first Cocker, a blue roan, when he was 12. It seems that the young man, so interested in this newfound interest, got to every dog show he could, and his appreciation for the English Cocker Spaniel deepened. He began to become acquainted, one by one, with dog people who in the coming years would become his mentors, teachers and friends.
He attended his first Crufts at age 16, and in his teens Frank gained valuable knowledge by visiting kennels whose dogs he admired, and by persuading local people to enter their dogs at shows and allow him to show them. During college, he often spent breaks working at different dog operations, where he was not only a “kennel man,” but was also often allowed to handle the dogs, among them Dachshunds, Cockers, Beagles and American Cockers.
After college, Frank took a post as a college instructor. His interest in the dog show world continued, and his Hirontower kennel subsequently produced 13 American Cocker Spaniel champions and two Sealyham Terrier champions, quite a feat in the U.K.
Frank first began judging in 1972. Today, in addition to awarding Challenge Certificates in all of the Gundog breeds, he is approved to judge all Groups and Best in Show at the championship level in the U.K. A popular judge abroad, Frank is approved to award CACIBs in all breeds recognized by the English Kennel Club, and to judge Best in Show at International shows.
Frank’s interest in the purebred dog world goes well beyond breeding, exhibiting and judging. He has authored several books on dogs, the most recent, “Judging the Gundog Breeds,” published in 2010 to acclaim from his fellow judges. Devoted to promoting a positive image for the purebred dog world, he once said that the highlight of his year was “the opportunity to bring pedigree dogs to the public” through his television commentary.
Since retiring from teaching at the college level, Kane has served the Kennel Club in Great Britain. He first became part of the Breed Standards and Stud Book Committee, of which he is now chairman. In the United States, the breed parent clubs essentially have “ownership” of each individual breed standard, but in the U.K. breed standards are maintained under the authority of the Kennel Club, and this committee works out any proposed changes in a standard.
The veil of ridicule that purebred dogs have been under the past several years, in the U.K. in particular, means that the work of the Breed Standards and Stud Book Committee has been more important than ever, as it has reviewed every breed standard in an effort to assure that none of them in any way encourages breeding for a characteristic that might adversely affect a dog’s health or well-being. The committee is also tasked with making changes where necessary.
Frank also serves on the Kennel Club General Committee, in some ways similar to the AKC Board of Directors, and on the Show Executive Sub-Committee. His background in education, coupled with his interest in canine anatomy, form and function, make him the perfect candidate to teach conformation and movement to those going through the KC’s judges’ training programs. Frank also serves on the Kennel Club’s Canine Health Group.
Aside from his judging and kennel club activities, Frank has maintained an interest in horses, in particular hunters, cobs, show hacks and children’s riding ponies. But it is to the dog world that he has devoted much of his life, and in 2010 British Dog World, England’s longstanding weekly newspaper, honored him with an award for outstanding achievement within the dog world.
Crufts is a special show for Frank for all of the obvious reasons, but he also says he will never forget winning his first Best of Breed at the legendary show. He still gets the same adrenaline rush, he says, when he walks into the venue on the first day of the show each year. Up until now, perhaps his most memorable assignment was judging the Gundog Group there in 2001. This year he’ll get to live the dream that judges across Great Britain fantasize about, when he steps into the ring to select the Crufts Best in Show winner on Sunday evening.
In a recent interview with Andrew Brace for Dog World, on the topic of judges having the integrity and fortitude to resist outside pressure or influence, Kane said this: “The most important thing for me is that every exhibitor gets a fair crack of the whip, an honest opinion, and is treated equally. No judge gets it right all the time; exhibitors are not fools and can accept a judge making an honest mistake much more readily than when it is perceived that some exhibitors are being favored.” It seems he is more than qualified to judge the final at the world’s largest dog show.