Fri, 03/22/2024 - 11:24pm

Viking Raider!

The Australian Shepherd with the Norse name wins it all at Crufts 2024


Photos by Alan Seymour, Vince Hogan and Beat Media


The world-famous Crufts dog show has taken place once more in Birmingham, U.K. … but what a Crufts show we have just had at the NEC complex! It was a case of “local girl does good” as Melanie Raymond took top spot with the popular Australian Shepherd dog “Viking,” rounding off a great season in which he was crowned U.K. top dog at the end of last year, winner of the Eukanuba Champion Stakes this February, and now Best in Show at Crufts 2024.

Reserve Best in Show in the famous Crufts arena under popular Irish judge Ann Ingram (first time ever for an Irish judge to do BIS at Crufts) and also the first time with tickets was the Jack Russell “Zen,” who came all the way from Japan with well-known breeder Kao Miichi to compete.


Best in Show was the Australian Shepherd Ch Brighttouch Drift The Line Through Dialynne (Imp Rus), owned by Melanie Raymond, John Shaw and Kerry Kirtley, and handled by Melanie. Pictured with group judge Barrie Croft and Mark Beazley, KC CEO.


Reserve Best in Show was the Jack Russell Terrier Multi-Ch Original Master’s Voice Lovesong Monamour, owned by Kao Miichi, handled by Hiroshi Tsuyuki, pictured with group judge Hans Van Den Berg and Paul Eardley representing the Kennel Club.




BIS judge Ann Ingram, who was also celebrating her birthday on the day of Best in Show, was actually due to take up this appointment until a certain Covid got in the way! So, this event was a long time coming!

For an emotional Melanie Raymond, like the owners of most Crufts BIS winners, it was a dream come true.
“Nothing prepares you for winning the best show in the world. It has been a dream of mine since I was small and never thought it would come true,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who has supported us along the way: my family, my husband who holds everything together, my co-owners John Shaw and Kerry Kirtley for believing in us, and all our friends for the support, even when I’m stressed out and demanding. To Larisa for sending me such a wonderful boy.

“Thank you to all three judges: Zena Thorn-Andrews in the breed, Barrie Croft for the group and of course Ann Ingram for making this lifelong dream come true and a memory that will never be topped. Congratulations to all the other finalists, some of my closest friends, which made the experience even more special.

“But the biggest thank you goes Viking for been the most amazing partner — I love you so much!”

Co-owner John Shaw, also well known in Pekes in the U.S., was ringside at the show, and told me, “As a dog owner who has been involved with owning and campaigning dogs on three continents for decades, the highest accolade is winning Best in Show at Crufts. Winning the same award for the second time is beyond my wildest expectations and imagination. The feeling is indescribable.”

John won BIS with a Tibetan Terrier back in 2007 and Reserve BIS with a Toy Poodle called Waffle a couple of years back.

Melanie lives “just around the corner” from the NEC — about five minutes away by car! What a contrast then to the Reserve BIS, which came all the way from Japan to compete in the breed, which had tickets for the first time at Crufts. What a way to end the day for owner Kao Miichi and partner Hiroshi Tsuyuki, who handled the ever-so-popular Zen and captured the hearts of the packed arena on Sunday night. Formally known as Original Master's Voice Lovesong Monamour, Zen was bred by Cathy Veyssiere.

An equally excited Kao melted hearts on Sunday night with her reaction to the win live broadcast on the U.K.’s Channel 4.  “We have been in a dream,” Kao said after returning home late Tuesday night. “It was not just because of the win at Crufts, but the very first CC ticket has been issued to the Jack Russell Terrier. This was what Judy Averis and I had talked about when we drank wine together a long time ago. So, it was really a dream come true moment for me and Hiroshi. Zen is nine years old, lives in my bedroom, I love him every day. We had enjoyed all the moments of this long adventure as if it was our family trip. Thank you to the Kennel Club, thank you to Crufts, the most amazing purebred dog event in the world.”




Most pundits and ringside commentators agreed that Ann had been presented with a super line-up for Sunday night, with U.K. and International winners sharing the spoils. Animal-rights demonstrators tried to disrupt proceedings at BIS time, but were quickly ejected by security staff.

For Kerry Rushby, who is staff member at OUR DOGS newspaper, it was an emotional moment for her and co-owner and handler Lee Studholme when her 3-year-old Leonberger “Neville” (Ch Corleone Navigator at Kalizmar) took the group.

“Winning the Working Group at Crufts is a dream come true,” Kerry said. “I never thought that 20 years ago at Crufts in 2004, when I won my first Best of Breed, aged 18, that years later we would be making breed history and winning the Working Group at Crufts.


Winner of the Working Group was the Leonberger Ch Corleone Navigator at Kalizmar (Imp Can), owned by Kerry Rushby and Lee Studholme, pictured with group judge Paul Harding and presenters Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Carl Lester MBE.


“Neville was imported from Canada to improve our bloodlines. Lee’s expert handling and presentation of Neville is phenomenal, and the bond they have together when showing is unbreakable. We are so grateful to all the friends and fellow breed people who have congratulated us and supported us on this incredible moment at Crufts 2024. We must also thank our breed judge Jeff Horswell and group judge Paul Harding for sending Neville through. A delight to see a sparkle in Ann Ingram’s eye when she enjoyed judging all the dogs in the final at Crufts. A memory to last a lifetime for both Lee and I. We are still on cloud nine, and plan to be for some time.”

Kerry has judged Leo specialties in the U.S., and she is also seven months pregnant and expecting her first baby with partner Scott! Quite a weekend for her family.  




The BIS judge is a well-known international all-rounder, and Ann said about the show:

“Simply the best pretty much sums up how it felt to be center stage Best in Show at Crufts! Few would disagree that it is the greatest dog show in the world, celebrating the very best of dogs, at all levels of canine activities.
“My greatest appreciation to all the committee and volunteers who work so hard to run the show like a well-oiled machine, making it an incredible success.
“What an enormous honor to be the first-ever Irish judge to have the privilege of judging Best in Show. 

“I cannot thank my fellow countrymen enough for their incredible support and also the many well-wishers all over the world — you made me feel like a superstar!

“My heartfelt thanks to the Crufts committee for inviting me. I could hardly believe it when I received the original invitation, and although, thanks to Covid, it was six years before I would actually take center stage, I can certainly say it was well worth waiting for!
“I knew I was going to be spoilt for choice, and I would like to thank every group judge for the top-quality dogs they sent through. I felt quite emotional as I watched each dog enter the ring to perform like a superstar, handled and presented to their very best. I knew my choices were not going to be easy to make — super well done to you all.”

In addition to the Australian Shepherd, Jack Russell Terrier and Leonberger, the four other group winners for Ann to assess were:

The Papillon that won the Toy Group, “Raffa” (Ch Fashion First High Priority), age two, handled and owned by Asta Maria from Sweden; Ch Forget-Me-Not V Tum-Tum’s Vriendje, a Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen from Netherlands, and his co-owner and handler Anouk Huikeshoven, who won the Hound Group; Elton the French Bulldog (Ch Chelmbull Rocket Man WW), age three, handled by Abbie Cund and co-owned with Dean Cund, Alex Harrop and Linda Harrop, who won the Utility (Non-Sporting) Group, and the Gundog (Sporting) Group winner the Weimaraner Sh Ch Gunalt Hendricks, owned by Davis and G.A. Alcorn and Gavin Ingram.


Winner of the Toy Group was the Papillon Is Ch Fashion First High Priority, owned by Asta Maria Gudbergsdottir, pictured with group judge Dr. Andreas Schemel, Stuart Payne and breed judge Glenn Robb.


Winner of the Hound Group was the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen, Ch Forget-Me-Not V Tum-Tum’s Vriendjes, owned by Anouk Huikeshoven, pictured with group judge Espen Engh, Gwen Huikeshoven and KC Board member Ian Seath.


Winner of the Utility Group was the French Bulldog Ch/Esp Ch Chelmbull Rocket Man Ww, owned by Abbie and Dean Cund and Linda and Alex Harrop, pictured with group judge Dave Killilea and Maria Harding representing Crufts.


Winner of the Gundog Group was the Weimaraner Sh Ch Gunalt Hendricks, owned by David Alcorn and Gavin Ingram (right), pictured with the group judge Jenny Miller and Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.






This year Crufts welcomed well over 24,000 dogs at the NEC Birmingham, the venue for the show for the last 30 years. The entry was slightly up over last year, with 19,252 dogs entered in the breed, agility and obedience championship competitions, and included more overseas dogs entered than ever before, which accounted for the increase with the U.K. entry slightly down. For the first time at Crufts, the Kooikerhondje, Jack Russell Terrier and Lagotto Romagnolo had Challenge Certificate status. Entered in the 2024 show were 42 Kooikerhondjes and 123 Jack Russell Terriers, while last year’s Best in Show, the Lagotto Romagnolo, attracted an entry of 91 dogs. What a great day for the Jack Russells, as their Best of Breed went on to win Reserve Best in Show, of course.

Elsewhere, the Golden Retriever had the largest entry for an individual breed from the whole show, with 538 dogs. This was just ahead of the Labrador Retriever (519), which held that distinction at Crufts last year.

The show continues to maintain its international flavor, and this year attracted more overseas entries than ever before – 3,766 dogs – with the Netherlands leading the way with 382 dogs, just ahead of Germany (375), France (371) and Italy (330). Other countries to attract entries of 150 dogs or more were Ireland (290), Poland (263), Belgium (242), Spain (193), the Czech Republic (188) and Sweden (179).

From the U.S., we had 58 dogs making 65 entries. American visitors spotted at the show were Dennis Sprung, Gina DiNardo and Mark Dunn from the AKC and Linda Clark, who was visiting. Handling and doing well in Scottish Terriers as ever was Rebecca Cross.




Continuing with the international theme, a 14-year-old junior handler with “Nando” the Siberian Husky (Arcticskies Fernando Avec Kessem JW) won the International Junior Handling final at Crufts. On the second day of the show, judge Rony Doedijns from the Netherlands awarded first place to Zofia Raboj from Poland.



Runner-up was Cecilia de Bella from Italy, handling a Spanish Water Dog, and third place was Freyja Gudmundsdottir, representing Iceland, handling a Tibetan Spaniel.

Thirty-six junior handlers between 11 and 19 years old from all around the world took part in the prestigious final, which showcased their handling skills and breed expertise with a dog they only met that morning.

 “I still can’t believe it — I really didn’t expect it,” Zofia said. “It’s the best feeling in the world to win this competition. I think Nando and I built a good relationship in the short time we had together. I showed what I could do and then just had fun with him. It’s a dream come true!”




To sum up from an exhibitor point of view, here are the words of someone who didn’t win Best in Show or group, but gave an excellent summary:

“Love it, hate it, it doesn’t matter which way you look at it, Crufts is the greatest dog show on earth. Many people might moan about it for whatever reason, but every year we are thrilled if we qualify.

“The build-up to Crufts is like no other show, and from the moment you walk in, that feeling of excitement takes over.

“The green carpet awaits, the thrill of being there, all part of what we who love it feel every single year. If you win your class, you're elated, but even a place should be celebrated at this prestigious event.
“Yes, it's a long and tiring day, and the TV coverage isn't what we as exhibitors might want, with very little breed judging and most of us would love to see more, but on the whole we look back with fondness on the good times spent with friends from home and abroad and in some cases making new friends.

“I suppose it's what you make it, but at the end of it all it's a showcase for our pedigree dogs to shine, and to be a part of it is magic! Roll on, Crufts 2025!”

Well, that says it all!

If you have not experienced the fun, the mayhem, the excitement of Crufts, then it’s one for your bucket list, with show dogs, agility, flyball, obedience, gamekeepers’ classes, meet the breeds, juniors, adults, shopping … the list goes on … and on!




At the after-show gathering, Chairman Tom Mather announced the gate figure as just over 159,400 and also thanked all staff and volunteers on another successful Crufts.

In one article it is almost impossible to describe the myriad of events that go to make up the world’s greatest dog show … which has just claimed that title yet again at Crufts 2024!




The highest number of dogs in a single breed in each group:

Utility (Non-Sporting): Dalmatian – 223

Toy: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – 278

Gundog (Sporting): Golden Retriever – 538

Working: Newfoundland – 176

Pastoral: Border Collie – 288

Terrier: Staffordshire Bull Terrier – 364

Hound: Whippet – 395


The following four breeds, in addition to those mentioned above, exceeded an entry of 250 or more:

Cocker Spaniel (421), Flat Coated Retriever (349), Irish Setter (262) and Rhodesian Ridgeback (251).

In contrast, the Belgian Shepherd Dog (Laekenois) and Foxhound attracted just three dogs each, while the Turkish Kangal Dog had two dogs entered.




© Dog News. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.

Stay Connected

YES! Send me Dog News' free newsletter!