By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
Last week we featured some of the highlights from the Crufts 4-day show at the Birmingham NEC, now Ann Evans shares some more facts and photos from the show.
If you visited Crufts, you would undoubtedly have explored the Discover Dogs area. It’s the perfect place to learn more about the different breeds, where they originated from; what their natural working role would have been – and in some cases, still is. It’s particularly useful if you are thinking about getting a dog. By talking to the owners of so many different breeds, you can find which might be right for you and your lifestyle – and which wouldn’t!
The Kennel Club currently recognise 218 breeds, the most popular being the Labrador, the Cocker Spaniel, the French Bulldog and the Pug. While at the other end of the scale there is the list of Vulnerable Native Breeds. Those dogs whose numbers are declining, and whose status in the dog world has diminished over recent years.
Since 2003 the Kennel Club with the support of the Irish Kennel Club have been researching to identify and confirm the relevant breeds and the extent and nature of their vulnerability. They concentrated on the breeds which achieved 300 or fewer registrations each year in the UK.
Since 2015 the Bearded Collie has been on the list. In 2016 only 284 dogs were registered. Compare this to 33,856 Labrador Retriever puppies over the same period. For Bearded Collie lover, Gail from Chesterfield, there was only one breed for her. And she happily gave 4-year-old Ember a hug before taking her into the show ring.
Bloodhounds have been on the Vulnerable Breeds list for quite some years, with just 53 puppies registered in 2016. We spoke to Christine Green in the Discover Dogs area who was there with her 9-year-old Bloodhound, Walnut, or to give him his pedigree name, Marksbury Humility. She said: “The breed and generics for Bloodhounds are better than ever. They don’t suffer from hip dysplasia and their life expectancy has increased greatly. Before the 2nd World War their life expectancy was 6 years, 40 years ago it was 7-and-a-half and now they are living to ten-and-a-half-years.”
Skye Terriers are also on the Vulnerable list, with only 28 pups registered with the Kennel Club in 2016. However, the Skye Terrier which takes its name from the Isle of Skye which lies on the northwest coast of Scotland is said to be the oldest terrier breed of Scotland, going back to the 14th century at least. We asked the very handsome Merlin aged 9 to pose for the camera and 20-month-old Pasha.
With so many gorgeous dogs to meet, one that caught my eye was Taz, a Lagotto Romagnolo, which is quite new to our shores. The breed originates from Italy, and the word ‘Lagotto’ is an Italian dialect word for ‘curly coated duck retriever’ and Romagne was the district in northern Italy where the breed developed. Environment changes in the 20th century diminished their duck retrieving days. However, their acute sense of smell means that they are now utilised in truffle hunting in their homeland.
All set for heading back home to Bath at the end of a long and successful day, were Roger and Maureen Millbank and their beautiful Flat Coated Retriever, 3-year-old Hamish, or to give him his pedigree name – Kvsans Eye of the Storm off Larksdown. They were in good company when it came to their favourite breed, as founder of the Kennel Club, Mr Sewallis Evelyn Shirley, who was Chairman from 1873 to 1899 was a great enthusiast of this breed and helped to stabilise the breed type.
Finishing our round-up of just a few of the thousands of dogs at Crufts, it was a delight to catch up with Richard Curtis. Richard is one of the UK’s leading Heelwork to Music/Canine Freestyle handlers. He’s a renowned competition judge and dog handler. He has also teamed up with Mary Ray in her show-stopping routines. He was busy doing three demonstrations per day with his dogs Betty an 8-year-old Chihuahua cross and Herbie a 3-year-old Border Collie. To the delight of the crowds, Richard demonstrated how to get started in Heelwork to Music Freestyle with your dog with some simple tricks and moves. It was a brilliant, fun performance. The dogs loved it, and the audience did too.