Plenty of life in the old dog yet
LElectricians’ strike leads to the show being cancelled as electricians refuse to disconnect the stands from the previous show held at Olympia and the venue cannot be cleared to make way for Cruft’s. IKE any devoted dog owner, Charles Cruft must be looking down with a great sense of pride at the way his pet project has developed into a mighty champion. From its humble roots in 1891, the dog show that bears his name has grown into a global celebration of man’s devoted animal companion.
Over the past 125 years the show has dropped an apostrophe, faced the shadow of war, disease and industrial disputes and yet continues to get bigger, better and ever more popular.
As competitors and dog lovers gather for this week’s canine spectacular in Birmingham’s NEC, the Crufts we all know and love is far a mightier and impressive beast than the fi rst humble offering staged by the man who provided its name.
Charles Cruft was born in 1852 and was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps in jewellery manufacturing. It was not the career for him.
He soon found himself working as an offi ce boy for a dog biscuit company and with a keen eye and an astute brain, he worked his way up to the position of offi ce manager at the age of 26 as the business became a brand leader.
Cruft’s business travel took him far and wide and while in France he was invited to run a dog show at the 1878 Paris World Fair.
Further shows and associations with dog clubs came his way and by 1891 he decided to unleash the experiences and knowledge he had gathered to stage what he described as Cruft’s Greatest Dog Show at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, London. The rest, as they say, is history. As the show quickly became an annual institution, it drew increasingly more distinguished and celebrated fi gures.
Queen Victoria showed her rough collies and Pomeranians, while her son, the future King Edward VII, displayed his rough bassets and a Samoyed. Royal associations are one of the event’s enduring traditions. The Queen has attended as a spectator and Prince Michael of Kent continues to attend most years.
YET while some traditions hold dear the show has evolved and grown, developing ever new innovations to keep pace with the changing face of dog ownership.
Throughout its 125- year history only two periods of suspension during the First and Second World Wars and an electricians’ strike in 1954 have stopped the show being staged. The foot- and- mouth disease outbreak caused a two- month cancellation. A sign of how the show was coming of age was witnessed in 1974 when a rebranding saw the apostrophe dropped from Cruft’s.
Obedience and agility events have now become enshrined in the show’s fabric along with prestigious titles for crossbreeds that stand with those for pedigree breeds. Scruffts, like Crufts, has become a household name.