news - 05/03/2020
Crufts 2020 Friday -
by Karl Donvil
Crufts 2020, where every dog has its day The days before this year's Crufts were very exciting. Not only was there the question as to what level the Brexit would affect the show, but a few weeks prior to the show, the first signs of Corona in Europe arose, accompanied by the first measures to control the virus. Alike a lot of people I was slightly worried if during the four days of the show we would face restrictions for traveling back home, risks of being contaminated at an event that attracts people from all over the world who have the habit to attend every weekend shows where people come from many different countries. For sure, if any event was very risky to spread the virus worldwide, Crufts was surely one of them.
19909 dogs were entered for the show and 3171 of them were Crufts Qualified dogs from 43 different countries and 4 continents. And that's just the dogs for the show as all together 26.000 dogs were coming to Crufts for several other reasons too, like the sports and international competitions. The number of foreign entries was already affected by the BREXIT with no less than 12 %. People were worried and rumors circulated about the UK Government decisions to expect. However, the government released the travel regulations only two days after the closure of the entries, stating that nothing would change during the transition year. And of course, the result would have been different in the positive sense, if things would have been clear weeks before closure. This, along with the spread of the Coronavirus, made many exhibitors think twice and decide to avoid any risk of being in a lockdown situation with their dogs in a foreign country. I met several professional handlers who had only a few dogs to show, whereas they would normally have many more. For them, of course, it was bad luck as they had made all the expenses for traveling and accommodation. A young colleague, a photographer from Milano in Italy, had even more bad luck. He hardly arrived in Birmingham when he learned that the Air Company Fly-be, that he traveled with, was declared bankrupt, while on Sunday the news arrived that the North of Italy went into quarantine. Fortunately, he could find another flight and the quarantine rules were clarified, allowing Italians to travel home. How many entries from each country were withdrawn has not been communicated but ironically the country with the highest Corona infections in Europe was also the country with the highest number of entries for Crufts with 366 dogs, followed by France with 317. The number of UK entries was 16.525. After all, it was rather weird to see that very few people were taking the risk of contamination very seriously. I saw only one person with a protection mouth mask and although in the halls I had the impression that it was busy as usual, in the hallways it was unusually calm, strange! Last year the show had no less than 166.500 visitors. This year there were 155.000, which means that the impact of the Corona problems was not that big. In the weeks prior to the show, the Crufts website published the latest updates about the Coronavirus and green light was given the day before the show. Of course, certain precautions were taken and advice was displayed on signage. In every toilet, there was hot water to wash the hands and hand sanitizers were to be found not only there, but also at every entrance of a hall, alongside every ring and at all the places where officials were doing their jobs. In the main ring, every judge was offered to disinfect the hands after every dog. But besides this, it was business as usual from the first day on. The trade stand holders were all happily surprised and didn't expect it after all the troubles the show of this year had to face.
It is no longer a secret that I'm a big fan of the Crufts Show Guide that people can buy and that contains a huge amount of useful information for all people who would like to purchase a puppy in the future or who need information about what activities are available. Crufts has hundreds of trade stands and there is so much to see that if you are after something in particular, you are lost without such a show guide. The space is huge! The 5 Halls, the Arena plus the Pavillon take up no less than 25 acres. 5000 Volunteers work together to bring Crufts to a good end, an amazing number!
The British Kennel Club is doing a lot of work for improving the quality of the breeds. While a few decades ago the emphasis lay on the beauty and exterior of the breeds, the focus is now on the health of breeds with problems and significant progress is made since DNA research became common and affordable. Animal rights organizations play an important part in it indirectly. Now the focus is on the short-nose breeds. The Kennel Club has now developed a "Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome health test and a new heart scheme for the Problems in the Cavalier King Charles breed. Some pressure from outside can make a significant change! But it does not always need to come from outside. The Kennel Club has always been very concerned about vulnerable breeds and does a lot to promote them. Crufts is always a good occasion to do so. But nothing is better than help from the media and celebrities. Since Boris Johnson became prime minister the popularity of the Jack Russell has increased significantly since he adopted Dilyn who came to live with him at Downing Street. No need to tell what breed Johnson has. And without doubt, the popularity of the Welsh Corgi Pembroke, once the Queen's favorite breed, has seen the same increase thanks to the popularity of the series "The Crown". The Labrador leads again after a short reign of the French Bulldog and the Irish Red and White Setter's position as the most vulnerable breed is alarmingly critical. New on the list is the Old English Sheepdog or Bobtail, imagine! Almost every year the Kennel Club recognizes a new breed. This year it is the Barbet, an old French breed that is most probably the ancestor of the modern Poodle. The Barbet is a water dog, used for hunting ducks and seen on many old paintings and etchings.
There is so much to see and discover at Crufts, so many competitions in all the different disciplines. No way to follow them all. I met a woman on the train who every year comes to Crufts all four days. It is her holiday and she still enjoys every minute. And she is certainly not alone. The Arena can take 7000 people. Friday and Saturday it was almost full and on Sunday it was completely sold out. But during the day you can sit there from 5 till the very end around 8 PM. there is always something to do and to see. But in the halls too, there is plenty of activity apart from the show itself. Popular are the various Obedience disciplines, Fly Ball, Police dog demonstrations, Heelwork to Music, International Junior Handling, etc. The list is very long! But probably the most popular are the different national and international Agility competitions. The most important of them are held in the Arena just before the Group judgings and the volume of the applause is sometimes going over the pain threshold. But there is nothing worse for the ears and that excites the public more than Flyball. I just wonder how painful this must be for the sensitive hearing of dogs. During the evening program, before the group judging of the day, there are nice treats for the spectators, with a round of Agility to start with. On Saturday we had the Heelwork to Musik finalist. Belgium won this international competition. The act was so close to perfection and breathtaking, a rather simple act and song, nothing very spectacular, but so sincere and eye-pleasing that nobody doubted this placement. Also popular is the Scruffts finals for Crossbreeds. I think its popularity has to do with the fact that people can more easily familiarize themselves with cross-breeds, contrary to the purebred dogs that look so glamorous and out of reach like movie stars. On Sunday, when for a seat in the Arena a ticket is required, there is always the famous "Friends for Live" competition for certain dogs that have meant or done something very special for someone. Friends for Life celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have changed the lives of their masters through bravery, active support or just companionship. People can tele-vote for their favorites and that's always a guarantee to success. And one of the mean acts is the Police Dog team Presentation. This is a spectacular and impressive act and I am sure a lot of kids will start dreaming of a career at the police later. Things like this make Crufts for the English dog-loving people into their highlight of the year. But the attraction for Crufts goes much further across the British borders. A lot of people from abroad just want to come over and see their breed. Others come for shopping and traders are looking for new things on the market. And for those who are regular visitors, it is a chance to see friends from all over the world who share the passion for dogs. Crufts is much more than just a dog show and that makes it unique in the world. And what I like so much, in particular, is that for everybody who participates winning is the goal but participating is, in the Olympic Spirit, more important than winning. Going home with a 3rd or 4th place is already an achievement. There are many people I know that qualified for Crufts and that want to grab the chance to participate, whatever the result. Being qualified for Crufts is a win in itself. A quick look at the statistics is enough to see how difficult it is to win the breeds. The best scoring breeds in each group are as follows: in the Working group the Siberian Husky had 184 entries, in the Pastoral group it was the Border Collie with 303. In the Terrier group, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier with 341entries was the most popular, while in the Hound group the Whippet was in the lead 388. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was still the most popular breed of the Toy Group with 286 specimens, for the Utility group it was the Bulldog with 235 and by far the most popular breed at Crufts but also in the UK, in general, was the Gundog group leader, the Labrador Retriever with no less than 543 dogs in competition. And that are only the record holders, but this counts for many breeds and even the rare breeds offer enough competition to make a lower place worth participating. The highly unusual Basset Bleu de Gascogne and the Foxhound have drawn just four entries apiece.
On Friday the Utility and Toy group were on turn. In Utility 2862 dogs were entered. Here we have the Bulldog who takes the lead with 235 dogs entered. The French Bulldog is still very popular with 212 dogs, but the Tibetan Terrier came also close with 203 dogs. The Dalmatian was just not enough to make two teams of 101 Dalmatians, there were 196 of them. Frankie (Ch Minarets Best Kept Secret), a Four-year-old Miniature Poodle from Ramsgreave, Lancashire, won the group that was judged by Mr.Paul Harding. Frankie previously won Reserve Best in Show at Crufts in 2017 and is owned by Melanie Harwood and her mother, Carol.
In the 2621 dogs that were entered in the Toy group, we see the Cavalier King Charles on top with 286 specimens. The Chihuahua lost the first place and the popularity of the breed has gone down in Britain with 26 %, but that was still good for 216 dogs for the long coats and 143 for the smoots. The Pug is still very popular with 281dogs entered and the Papillon, the BIS winning breed of last year, had 196 dogs in competition. Pablo (Ch Regina Bichon You Rock My World At Pamplona), a two-year-old Bichon Frisé living with his owners in Preston, Lancashire won the Toy Group that was judged by Mrs.Carolyne Roe.
Friday was reserved for the Gundog Group only with 4481 participating dogs. Here we find several top-scoring breeds. Of course, the Labrador puts the crown with 543 dogs, on the heels followed by the Golden Retriever with 519. But also the Cocker Spaniel is still very popular, 370 were shown here this year. The laughing Flat Coated Retriever was represented by 331 of them. There were also 294 Irish Setters, 180 Pointers, 177 Welsh Springer Spaniels and 162 English, 153 Gordon Setters, 150 English Setters, all huge numbers in fact and the British breeds are without any doubt the most popular. Elsie (Gwendariff Coco Nut Cream), an Irish Setter from Huddersfield, bred in Northern Ireland, won the Gundog Group. Aged six, she is owned by Deborah Armitage, her handler and breeder is Diane Stewart-Ritchie. The Group was judged by Mr.Per Iversen from Norway.
On Saturday we could enjoy the Working and Pastoral Groups. Best scoring breed in the Working Group is the Siberian Husky, although it dropped in popularity in the UK with 37%. But here, at Crufts, we could see even more of them than last year, 184 altogether. Other high scoring breeds here are the Tibetan Mastiff with 184, the Newfoundlander with 182, the Bernese Mountain Dog with 168, the same as the Rottweiler. Winner of this Group, that was judged by Mr. Christopher Habig from Germany, was Drago (Ch Phoenix Never Dies Du Monde D’Elias), a three-year-old Bullmastiff from Belgium, owned by Sylvie Loosveldt. In the Pastoral Group it is the Border Collie that leads with 303 dogs, before the Bearded Collie with 256, the Shetland Sheepdog with 228 and the Collie Rough with 219 dogs. Here the winner was Zokni (Ch Bottom Shaker The Greatest Picture), an Old English Sheepdog from Hungary, aged three, and handled by Zsolt Hanó. This Group was judged by Mr. Luis Pinto Teixeira from Portugal.
And that leaves us with two more groups to go on Sunday before the Finals could take place. The Terrier Group, the most British Group of all, is not the most popular when it comes to numbers. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an exception along with the Border Terrier which is strangely enough not the most flashy breed in the group. There were respectively 341 and 256 in competition. All the others are far behind with only a few with a little more than 100. Mr.Tom Johnston judged the Group and chose Pixie, a Kerry Blue Terrier from Swansea, as his BOG. Pixie, (Indian Princess at Perrisblu), aged three, is owned and handled by Phil Davies.
The Hound Group is one of the most varied groups, for non-British, the most bizarre where Dachshunds have to compete and be compared with Irish Wolfhounds, Bloodhounds to whippets. Outstanding numbers here are found in the Whippets with 388 of them. Another popular one is the Rhodesian Ridgeback with 226 dogs in the rings, but the Beagles were with tree more, 229. The Afgan Hound is a classic with 188 as is the Basset Hound with 156. But I'm surprised that the Irish Wolfhound was very strongly represented with no less than 144 in competition. Winner in this Group was the Maisie (Ch Silvae Trademark), a Wire-Haired Dachshund, owned and shown by Kim Mc Calmont from Berkeley, Gloucestershire. She was the pick of Mr.Mark Cocozza to win the Group. But a short time later, lining up for the finals, two-year-old Maisie was chosen by top-judge, Anne Macdonald to follow in the pawprints of Dylan, the winner of last year. That was a real surprise and the first time a Dachshund wins this prestigious show. ResBIS was our Poodle Frankie winner of the Utility Group on Thursday. It was the second time he won the ResBIS cup. It was amazing to see how both dogs kept showing for the photoshoot that takes easily 20 minutes, and Maisie in particular as she had shown since that morning in the breed ring, later in the Group judging and again for Best In Show, and still, she looked as she could go on showing for hours.
Another Crufts is over and added to the long list since the show was first held in 1891 by Charles Cruft in the Agricultural Hall in Islington. It was very close if this show could have gone on as only a few days later most of Europe was in lockdown caused by the COVIT-19 virus. Let us hope that by next year a vaccine is found and things go on as usual.
Article and photos by Karl DONVIL
Judge(s): Mr Per Iversen [Norway]
BEST OF GROUP
CH GWENDARIFF COCO NUT CREAM CW'18
Owner: MRS D M ARMITAGE
RESERVE BEST OF GROUP
CH KAN TRACE VERY CHEEKY CHIC [ATC AW02377HRV]
Owner: MRS S & MR A ZDUNIC-SINKOVIV & LUCIN
THIRD OF GROUP
CH GALAKSI FREAKING FAMOUS [ATC U00646DNK]
Spaniel (American Cocker)
Owner: MR M KRISTENSEN
FOURTH OF GROUP
CH LUDSTAR FREDERICK FRANKENSTEIN (IMP IT)
Owner: MRS F BOXALL