Named after its founder, Charles Cruft, this year will mark the competition‘s 129th anniversary.
Despite some describing the championship and the practices associated with it as cruel, the show’s organiser, the Kennel Club, states that it is “committed to ensuring that all dogs have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy lives, with responsible owners”.
Here’s everything you need to know about Crufts, from how it started to why some criticise the competition:
What is Crufts?
Crufts is an annual canine event held over the course of four days at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
Only dogs invited by the Kennel Club and Assistance Dogs are allowed to take part in the show.
While the main focus of the event is the breed show, during which thousands of dogs take part in trials that test skills such as their agility, obedience and ability to move in sync with music, Crufts also features a trade show, where attendees can buy products for their pets.
Crufts also features a section at the event called Discover Dogs, where attendees can meet more than 200 different breeds of dog and learn about them by speaking to respective owners and breeders.
In 1991, Crufts was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest dog show, with more than 22,000 dogs participating in the conformation classes that year.
It is estimated that approximately 27,000 dogs now take part in Crufts on an annual basis, while 160,000 people are expected to attend the event.
In addition to the main NEC arena, events at this year’s show will also be held in five rings: the Obedience Ring, the Good Citizen Dog Scheme Ring, the YKC Ring, the Dog Activities Ring and the Breed Rings.
How did it start?
Crufts was created by and named after dog biscuit manufacturer Charles Cruft.
The competition originally began as an event exclusive to terriers, the first of which was called the “First Great Terrier Show” and put on in 1886.
Five years later, the show had evolved to become “Cruft’s Greatest Dog Show”, and saw around 2,000 of all different breeds compete.
When is it taking place?
This year’s Crufts is due to be held from Thursday 5 March until Sunday 8 March.
The halls at Birmingham’s NEC will be open from 8.15am until 6.30pm for the event.
Channel 4 will be broadcasting live from the event every day during a one-hour show called Crufts 2020.
The programme will be shown at 3pm on Thursday and Friday and at 4.30pm on Saturday and Sunday.
What awards are being given?
In addition to the highly prized Best in Show award, dogs taking part in Crufts may also be in the running for accolades in sections including the Heelwork to Music competition, the Flyball Team competition and the Agility competition, among several others.
The prize of Best in Show was first introduced at Crufts in 1928, when it was awarded to a Greyhound called Primley Sceptre.
When vying for top award, dogs first compete against other dogs of the same breed on attributes such as their appearance, obedience and agility.
A male and female winner is chosen from each category per breed, before this number is whittled down to a best male and female dog for each breed.
One of these dogs is then be chosen to compete for Best in Show.
Why has it been criticised in the past?
In 2018, the competition ended in controversy as animal rights protesters ran into the ring as Tease, a two-and-a-half-year-old whippet, was being awarded Best in Show.
The protest was organised by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), who said the demonstrators had “highlighted the suffering of dogs bred by humans to have grossly exaggerated features”.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens tells The Independent that the organisation has expressed concern over the treatment of the dogs who participate in the competition for years.
“We recognise the positive activities at Crufts from agility to Flyball, obedience to Friends For Life. These events showcase the heartwarming bond between dogs and their handlers, and helps shine a light on how brilliant man’s best friend truly is,” Hens says.
“However, we’ve long held concerns about the main element of Crufts; a dog beauty pageant which judges entrants primarily on their appearance without taking sufficient account of their health or welfare.”
Hens continues, explaining that several Crufts participants of old have displayed “visibly exaggerated features” that have indicated that they may have “serious health issues”, including flat-faced dogs such as French bulldogs and pugs that may struggle to breathe efficiently.
“The Kennel Club and some breed clubs have now, thankfully, committed to taking some steps to help improve the welfare of these dogs and we hope these will be acted upon and the necessary actions taken to ensure this is a priority for Crufts in the future,” Hens adds.
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