Even after 120 years, all roads still lead to Crufts

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Fast, powerful, highly athletic, but most importantly for this Weimaraner, highly photogenic – the greatest dog show on earth is on at the Birmingham NEC. Thousands of dogs and owners turned out for the first day of the annual Crufts dog show yesterday, celebrating its 120th anniversary.

About 28,000 dogs are competing through the weekend in various categories. The annual event has changed greatly since 2,437 pooches were entered for the first competition in 1891. Charles Cruft instigated the contest in Victorian London, having started his career selling "dog cakes".

Crossbreeds and mongrels are included, which the Kennel Club was at pains to point out last year after the controversy that dogged the 2009 show, when a documentary alleged that it awarded top prizes to unhealthy and inbred animals. The BBC withdrew its coverage of the 2009 event.

Now the event includes many diverse displays, judging animals not only in speed and agility, but also heel-work to music and obedience. Guide dogs for the blind and the deaf also get the chance of the spotlight. The big award is Best in Show, which was last year won by a Hungarian Vizsla named Yogi.

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