Editorial: March 10, 2023
Two of the greatest dog shows in the world are about to take place. In March, the Crufts dog show will take place at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England. In spite of its name, it is owned by the English Kennel Club and named for the man who founded the show, Charles Crufts, who was a manufacturer of dog food. Crufts was first held in 1891 with an entry of 2,437 dogs. Then in May, the venerable Westminster Kennel Club will hold its show at the United States Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, where the U.S. Open is held each September. Even Crufts survived its move from Earls Court in London to the NEC in Birmingham. Their present venues can’t be compared. But just as the English and American kennel clubs are different, so are their two most prestigious dog shows. The Westminster Kennel Club, the second oldest continuous sporting event in America, second only to the Kentucky Derby, was first held in 1877. That first dog show drew an entry of 1,201 dogs. Today the show is limited to 2,500 champions of record, with no classes for class dogs. The top-winning five dogs in each breed receive an invitation to pre-enter the show before the regular entry date. In years past there were several other special events held to entertain the attendees at Westminster, but they were eliminated over the years. There is no rotation of breed/group judging every year. These days, with the exception of Junior Showmanship, obedience and agility, it is conformation that reigns supreme. Westminster caters to the cream of the crop, and the formal group ring, which only hosts special presentations, group and Best in Show judging, adds dramatically to the two evenings’ events. Across the pond, the Crufts dog show occupies 2 million square feet of exhibition space comprised of five exhibition halls and a 15,683-seat arena for special events, group and Best in Show judging. The dogs are judged over a four-day period, with the breed/group judging of every day rotated every year. In addition to the conformation judging that this year is more than 19,000 dogs, the event also includes the very popular Discover Dogs, obedience, agility, stakes classes, special sporting breed classes and the very popular international Junior Showmanship competition, where children from around the world compete with a dog of their choice and then a dog that is picked by the organizers to exhibit. No easy task to come out on top for those juniors. Each evening in the main ring, before the group judging, there are special presentations of breeders, stakes, agility demonstrations and other entertaining features that show off the talents of our purebred dog community. It truly is four days of purebred dogs with major live television coverage and national interest. The roads traveled to attend these two dramatically different dog shows both meet at the same destination: Two world-famous events at which to exhibit our breeding stock and promote the joys of owning a purebred dog in a sport that welcomes all comers.