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Blonde ambition at Crufts

Crufts, the annual beauty show for pedigree dogs, drew huge crowds on its opening day yesterday, despite a long-running battle with animal welfare campaigners, which meant for the first time in 40 years there is no national television coverage of the event.

The organisers of the four-day event say they love dogs and care about their health. But their critics say that they are so obsessed with what a dog looks like that they are prepared to ruin its health with cruel breeding practices. The show has lost one of its biggest sponsors, Pedigree pet food, and the RSPCA and Dogs' Trust have also withdrawn support. A demonstration by anti-Crufts activists is likely on the final day of the show, on Sunday.

However, the row between the rival groups of dog-lovers does not appear to have threatened the popularity of the extravaganza, which draws thousands of thoroughbred mutts and their owners from all over the world.

The organisers say about 22,000 dogs will compete, the third highest total in the show's history. They have also tried to counter the BBC's refusal to cover the event by offering live coverage on the internet.