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History of Crufts


Crufts is the greatest dog show in the world, but have you ever wondered how it all began? Ann Evans leads us back in time to find out.



It’s estimated that around 160,000 people will visit Crufts from the 10th to 13th March 2022. Meanwhile millions of people all around the world, will be watching the action on TV. Crufts is known as the greatest dog show in the world and had Covid not put a stop to last year’s show, it would have celebrated its 130th birthday in 2021.



The show is named after its founder, Charles Alfred Cruft (1852-1938). As a young man, Charles Cruft became involved with dogs after starting work with James Spratt who had set up a business in London, making and selling dog cakes. Whilst working for Spratt’s in France, Charles Cruft was invited to organise his first dog show in 1878 at the Exposition Universelle. Following this success, back in England he ran dog shows for four years and then his very first Crufts Show. This took place in 1891 at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London.

The Crufts Show was a resounding success and continued to grow year on year. The only times the show didn’t run were during the war years: 1918-1920 due to the First World War, and from 1942-47 due to the Second World War. Over the years, the show grew with new events, clubs and organisations becoming involved. In 1928, Best in Show was introduced into Crufts, the very first winner was a Greyhound called Primley Sceptre.



Charles Crufts died in 1938 leaving his widow, Emma to run the show. Later, she handed over the reins to The Kennel Club who put the show on for the first time in 1948. They have successfully organised it ever since. In 1950 the show was televised for the first time. These days it’s televised on More4 and Channel 4 attracting millions of viewers.

The show continued to expand, reaching 15,000 entries in 1961. Different categories and events were added, including the obedience championships when working sheepdogs were entered; then agility followed in 1985 with the Kennel Club Junior Organisation being launched. As Crufts became bigger, the venue moved from Olympia to Earls Court in 1979 and became a four-day event in 1987. By 1988 it was attracting around 10,000 visitors, becoming the largest dog show in the world.



The centenary Show held in 1991 took place at the Birmingham NEC – moving out of London for the first time. The following year viewers and visitors were enchanted when Mary Ray performed her wonderful demonstrations of Heelwork to Music, starting a whole new trend. These performances by Mary have been a special highlight of the shows right through to 2018 when she performed her final display in the main arena.



Many more events were added to the Crufts Show, including Discover Dogs, the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, Rescue Dog Agility, the International Agility Competition, the Friends for Life – Hero Dogs which highlighted amazing stories of bravery, loyalty and companionship between dogs and their owners, and voted on by the public.

In 2009 the Health Zone was introduced, and judges were given the authority to remove unhealthy dogs from the show ring. Breed rescue charities were also given the prominence they deserved which was supported by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust. Two years later the Health Zone was renamed Breeding for the Future which is run in conjunction with the Animal Health Trust.



In 2021 Crufts was cancelled due to Covid, but 2022 promises to be a wonderful return with all the trade stands, charity stalls, Discover Dogs, The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life Award, display teams and of course the excitement of the show ring, leading up to the final Best in Show on the Sunday.

Crufts is on from 10th to 13th March 2022 at the Birmingham NEC.

Further information and ticket details: www.crufts.org.uk