This March, Crufts celebrates its 125th anniversary. Started by just one man, in 1891, it is now one of the biggest indoor events in the UK and the greatest dog show in the world.
Named after its founder, Crufts has evolved from a modestly successful, specialist dog show, into the greatest in the world, with more than 22,000 dogs and 150,000 visitors attending the event each year. It is televised nationally and streamed all over the world.
Charles Cruft left college in 1876 and began his path to Crufts with an apprenticeship as an office boy for James Spratt, who had set up a new venture in Holborn, London selling ‘dog cakes’.
Charles quickly climbed the ladder and within two years he was selling to kennels around Europe. In 1878, French dog breeders invited him to organise the promotion of the canine section of the Paris Exhibition.
Back in England in 1886, Charles took up the management of the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster and just five years later, in 1891, Crufts was held for the first time at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington. It has grown and evolved ever since.
Perhaps Crufts is most famous for its Best in Show winners, but it was not until 1928 that the Best in Show title was introduced, with 74 dogs claiming the title since then. However, people come to compete for a range of titles with their dogs in competitions such as flyball, agility, rally, Eukanuba Friends for Life and Scruffts.
Due to external factors, there have been a number of years that Crufts has not taken place: from 1918-1920 Crufts was suspended following WWI and again from 1940-1947 during and after WWII. In 1952, Crufts was almost cancelled following the death of King Edward IV a few days before the event took place, and didn’t take place in 1954 due to strike action by the Electricians Union which resulted in electricians refusing to disconnect the stands from the previous show held at Olympia. In 2001, the show had to be postponed for two months due to an outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease.
In 1938 Charles Cruft died and his widow Emma took over the event for the next few years before the Kennel Club purchased the rights to the show in 1942, though they had to wait until October 1948 to host the show for the first time. In 1950, Crufts was watched in living rooms around the country as it was first aired on television, and now people can watch Crufts on Channel 4 and More 4 in the UK, or stream it from the Crufts YouTube channel from anywhere in the world.
In 2013, Crufts made headlines as it began hosting the popular crossbreed only event, Scruffts, with many believing that this was the first time crossbreeds were able to take part at the show. However, it was back in 1955 that Crufts first began welcoming crossbreed dogs in the Obedience Championships, and the introduction of agility in 1978 and then flyball in 1990 presented further opportunities.
Crufts has taken its prominent position seriously and the event has been used to highlight canine health and responsible ownership for many years. In 1994, the Discover Dogs area was created to help dog loving visitors at the show find out more about the different breeds and how they may fit into their lifestyle. Then, in 2009 the event introduced a specific area dedicated to dog health, with experts providing information and advice about breed health and scientific advances.
Featured Image: Young Kennel Club (YKC) encouraging children to learn about dog care including a safety around dogs scheme called “Safe and Sound” for Teachers and Schools, accessible online.
BELOW LEFT TO RIGHT:
Clare Balding at Crufts (Photo credit acknowledgment and thanks: Andy Biggar and the Kennel Club)
1928 Best in Show Winner Primley Sceptre (Photo credit acknowledgement and thanks: the Kennel Club)
Trumpeters on Finals night as part of build up to Best in Show Finalists in the Arena
1891 – The first Cruft’s show takes place at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington with 2,437 entries and 36 breeds.
1918–1920 – Cruft’s is not held due to the First World War.
1928 – Best in Show award starts. The first winner is a Greyhound called Primley Sceptre.
1932 – First female owner of Best in Show, Lorna Countess Howe with Labrador Retriever, Bramshaw Bob.
1936 – Charles Cruft celebrates his Golden Jubilee five years early, breaking the 10,000 entries mark for the first time.
1938 – Charles Cruft dies. His widow, Emma Cruft takes over the running of the show.
1940-7 –Cruft’s is not held due to the Second World War.
1948 – The first Cruft’s Show under Kennel Club auspices takes place.. Held at Olympia, it proves an immediate success with both exhibitors and the public, with eighty-four breeds entered, almost double the number of breeds at the first Cruft’s in 1891. Since then Crufts has increased in stature year by year, now attracting around 200 breeds annually.
1950 – Cruft’s first televised
1952 – The death of King George VI on 6th February threatens the possibility of the cancellation of Cruft’s for that year but the show is allowed to take place two days later.
1954 – Electricians strike action leads to the show being cancelled, as electricians refuse to disconnect the stands from the previous show held at Olympia, and the venue can therefore not be cleared to make way for Cruft’s.
1955 – Cruft’s becomes an Obedience Championship Show. Working Sheepdogs are entered, becoming the first crossbreeds to compete at Cruft’s. Crossbreed dogs are now a central part of the show, taking part in a wide range of competitions including agility.
1961 – Entries break the 15,000 mark for the first time.
1972 – During the Winter of Discontent, Cruft’s 1972 takes place under subdued lighting and with an abbreviated catalogue due to the three day working week which had been enforced. As one commentator says: “For two days every visitor was able to forget the troubles of the world.”
1974 – Cruft’s changes to Crufts. During a rebrand as it is decided that the apostrophe is no longer needed.
1978 – Agility first demonstrated at Crufts.
1979 – The show moves to Earls Court as the increasing number of entries had the show outgrowing its former venue at Olympia.
1980 – First official Agility competition at Crufts – bringing a new atmosphere to the event.
1982 –The show is extended to three days to accommodate the increasing numbers of dogs and spectators.
1985 – The Kennel Club Junior Organisation is launched. Now the Young Kennel Club (YKC), its competitions form an important part of the current Crufts show.
1987 – The show is extended to four days to accommodate further increases in the number of dogs and spectators.
1988 – More than 110,000 people come through the doors making Crufts not only the biggest dog show, but also the most popular show to be held at Earls Court.
1990 – Flyball first demonstrated.
1991 – Crufts Centenary Show is held at its new venue, the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre – the first time the show had moved from London.
1992 – Mary Ray demonstrates her fast moving Heelwork to Music routine. She is now a regular performer at the event.
1994 – Discover Dogs area is introduced to Crufts as part of the Kennel Club’s commitment to encouraging responsible dog ownership, enabling dog loving visitors at the show to find out more about the different breeds and how they may fit into their lifestyle. Good Citizen Dog Scheme Ring introduced to Crufts, enabling dogs to demonstrate their pet obedience credentials, and owners their responsible attitude to dog ownership, through obtaining certificates from bronze to gold.
2000 – Rescue Dog Agility introduced to the show, enabling rescue dogs to shine in the fun and fast paced demonstration.
2001 – Crufts moved from March to May due to Foot-and-mouth disease. The International Agility Competition takes place at Crufts for the first time.
2004 – The popular Friends for Life Competition first appeared, then called Hero Dogs. The popular annual competition ensures that man’s best friend gets the recognition he deserves for bravery, support and companionship. Southern Golden Retriever Display Team appears at Crufts for the first time and this has been part of the event every year since.
2007 – As the event continues to grow, the Genting Arena is used for the first time, for competitions including Agility, Friends for Life and Best in Show.
2009 – Crufts streamed online for the first time and became the most watched channel on YouTube in the UK. The Health Zone is introduced, with experts providing information and advice about breed health and scientific advances.. Breed rescue charities, the unsung heroes of the dog world are given a high profile area, so that the public can find out more about their work. They are supported by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.
2013 – The final of the popular, nationwide, crossbreed only competition, Scruffts is held at Crufts for the first time. Taking place in the Crufts main arena it attracts huge crowds and extensive media attention. Crufts televised on Channel 4 in addition to More 4 for the first time.