Breed of heroes joins the competition at Crufts

A poodle with a perfect Elvis Presley quiff trotted majestically in the Crufts competition ring with its trainer, in the hope of catching the eye of the judges at the biggest dog show in the world.

Alongside, more than 23,000 dogs were limbering up to compete for the coveted Best In Show title in tomorrow's final, which last year was claimed by a brindle whippet called Deedee.

But among the usual array of extravagantly made-up competitors lurked a grittier kind of canine.

A new contest for Kennel Club Hero, decided by an online vote, had a shortlist of six dogs including Mandy, a former trailhound who had saved her owner from a house fire, a guide-dog for the blind, and a partner dog whose domestic achievements included unloading the washing machine and taking money out of ATMs.

The annual event, which drew 200 breeds to the NEC Birmingham, includes a cup competition for obedience and a contest for junior contenders, and over four days, dogs ranging from chihuahuas to great danes, compete in seven show categories. The finalists go through to the final heat tomorrow.

The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts, this year recorded fewer entries from the UK and Ireland's 26 native breeds, such as the curly-coated retriever and dandie dinmot, in favour of dogs such as the labrador and King Charles spaniel, and it is campaigning for preserving the numbers of indigenous breeds.

Caroline Kisko, the club's general secretary, said: "The show isn't just about dogs in competition. Dog lovers and prospective owners will also have the chance to get up close and personal with 180 breeds of potential pedigree partners in the Discovery Dogs area, where they can gain expert guidance from handlers."

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