When the opportunity to attend Crufts last year came up, I was beyond excited. After all, the world’s largest dog show, what conformation enthusiast wouldn’t be? While in England, I would be visiting friends and visiting some English GSP kennels that had dogs related to my new puppy, Dublin aka Gamebourne King’s Ransom aka the Monkey Man. My hosts had arranged for us to spend two days at Crufts as well.
Whenever people talk about Crufts they always mention the sheer size of it. When we first got there I was completely overwhelmed. It dwarfed any show I had ever been to and the whole day was devoted to nothing but gundogs. Gundogs represented the largest group at Crufts that year with an entry of over 5600 gundogs. It is a benched show so all the dogs must be present and on their benches except when in the ring. So, you can wander to your hearts content and see as many sporting breeds as you’d like. The UK recognizes many more breeds than we do so it was an opportunity to see a number of breeds I had heard of and many that I hadn’t even heard of before. I’ll do another post in the future featuring photos and descriptions of the gundogs I saw that are not recognized in Canada or are very rare here as there were quite a few.
With an entry of over 260 GSPs, we spent most of Saturday watching GSP judging. The rings were of an average specialty size but judging there is quite different in terms of classes. The younger dogs are broken down by age. Champions compete in the open class with the class dogs. A Dog CC (basically Winners Dog) and a Bitch CC (Winners Bitch) are awarded. Best of Breed is chosen from the two of them. This makes earning CCs very challenging for a young dog. I took several pictures of the dogs in competition but unfortunately the lighting was not bright enough for my little digital camera so I have none to share from GSP judging. Dog CC went to MacGregor Pyzartyst With Moregin JW. I quite liked this dog, enough that I've toyed with making further inquiries occasionally. Bitch CC and Best of Breed went to Sh Ch Barleyarch Pickpocket. Pickpocket is the breed record holder for CCs. She is owned and bred by Sue & Mike Harris of Barleyarch GSPs, and handled by Sue. She went on to make the cut in the group in the evening. Now, I've long been a fan of the Barleyarch dogs so it was a real treat to see so many of them in the ring and later to spend an evening with them.
In the late afternoon we went and found spots to watch the group and other entertainment in the main arena (there are five halls plus the arena – all devoted to the show). The evening show demonstrates how much more rounded Crufts is as compared to most other big shows. Westminster and our Show of Shows tend to focus almost strictly on conformation. At Crufts there was obedience, agility (both of them having individual and team events), as well as demonstrations on everything from dog/child safety to health care to therapy work. In the evening the winners of such events put on demonstrations for the public. One of the highlights was a team of Golden Retrievers that did group obedience displays together to music much like the horse displays that are found at higher levels at equine events.
Another class that was done in the evening that I found very interesting was the gameskeeper class. All dogs competing must work a minimum number of hours on a working game farm each year to be eligible to compete in the class. Many of the dogs were shown by the gameskeepers themselves. A lovely young lady and her German Wirehaired Pointer won. She is a fourth generation gameskeeper.
The group itself featured some truly stunning gundogs. Some breeds look quite different from their North American counterparts, particularly the coated breeds like the setters and the spaniels. Others, including the GSPs, would be right at home and do well in any North American ring. A few breeds, including Vizslas and German Wirehaired Pointers, stood out for the extreme quality of the entries as compared to the average seen here. (I’m sure that comment will get me in loads of trouble here :) In the end the Vizsla went on to win the group. Personally I liked several of them but the GWP - Freddy and the Bracco Italiano (ie Italian Pointer) Axel really stood out to me. I'm thinking there may be a bracco here one of these days as I was totally taken with the breed.
Freddy - Freddy von Kapellenhof at Bareve
Axel - Axel del Monte Alagro