A giant schnauzer named Philippe took the coveted best in show trophy at Crufts last night, at his third attempt.
His delighted owner, Kevin Cullen, from St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, said: "I cannot believe it. It's an absolute dream. He never lets me down. It means the world to me, it really does."
The four-day festival of all things canine is the biggest dog show in the world. It was opened by the actor Neil Morrissey, but the likes of Philippe, the best in show runner-up Hermioni – a Samoyed owned by Lisa Bobrowski of Woking – and a suspected "superpoodle" were the real celebrities.
Nearly 23,000 fastidious and mostly well-groomed owners descended with their pets on Birmingham's NEC arena for Crufts, which ended last night with the presentation of the Keddall Memorial Trophy to the best in show. Yesterday alone, 6,000 dogs appeared in the breed categories and more competed in other displays and contests.
But even before the show opened, critics had been murmuring that Crufts has become too commercial, turning its back on pedigree canine excellence in favour of an X Factor format. There were also whispers about the number of foreign dogs in the show, following new rules on pet passports.
The Kennel Club has been doing its best to modernise the event, which it took over in 1942 from the family of Charles Cruft, the dog food salesman who ran the first show in 1891.
Stalls at this year's bash stocked everything from Swarovski crystal-encrusted jackets to dog headstones. Hotels battled to offer their four-legged guests the biggest and softest king-sized beds.
Traditionalists also complained that there was too much razzmatazz, expressing particular disquiet over the new dancing to heel competition, which, with its music and flashing lights, has been branded "Strictly Come Barking".
In scenes reminiscent of a Pop Idol final, the main auditorium was packed with a partisan crowd for the final on Friday. Disappointed fans booed as Nicky Joyce and Dazzle the sheepdog came second after performing a lively Latin quickstep to Enrique Iglesias.
The bookmaker William Hill suspended best in show betting on the first day because of suspicions over the presence of a dog likely to sweep all before it – dubbed "superpoodle". Gamblers had staked large sums on the winner coming from the utility dog class.
William Hill had predicted that an entrant from that category, which includes miniature poodles and Dalmatians, would stand little chance against competitors from the pastoral, terrier, toy, gun and working-dog classes. But after a few hours of betting last week, the bookmaker slashed the odds to 6/4, fearing a hitherto unknown champ in waiting.
The utility class was won by a Japanese Shiba Inu called Tango. Her owner, Janice Bannister, of Gibraltar, said: "I never heard anything about the betting and as far as I know no one was betting on our dog. I don't gamble and I've never heard of anything like it happening before."
A spokeswoman for the Kennel Club said: "It's highly amusing to us as we don't understand how anybody could second-guess the judges and their decisions."
This year 22,964 dogs competed in more than 2,000 individual classes for the best in show title. It is just short of Crufts' 1991 centenary year record, when 22,991 dogs competed.Reuse content