579 What is Crufts FOR

by   David Hancock

Is Crufts a show for dogs or trade stands'? Is it perhaps the annual show for dog food manufacturers'? Is it of any value to doqs'? Charles Cruft may have been a showman and a biscuit-maker but isn't this show worthy of higher ambitions'? Someone should tell the BBC that this is a livestock show, not a kiss-a-canine competition. Their coverage of the show has developed into an extension of Children's Hour, with appropriately a Blue Peter presenter on hand. Soon, their coverage will deserve a new acronym: C-R-U-F-T-S, standing for the Competition Regularly Undervalued in Television Studios.

Does accuracy in their coverage matter'? The commentators this year told us many untruths: The Norfolk Spaniel was not named after the Duke of Norfolk. The Tibetan Mastiff was a flock guardian not a guard-dog. The Cavalier came about because of distaste for the King Charles Spaniel! The Kennel Club librarian is just that, NOT an expert on breeds of dog. Are the 'expert' commentators all blind'? Did they truly not notice the muzzleless Bulldog, the haw-stricken Clumber, the fat Pug with no muscle, the over-short-faced French Bulldog, the loose front in the Shiba Inu, the quite awful movement in the Chow Chow, the unsound GSD with a bent back and its tail dragging along the floor, the dreadful hind movement in the St Bernard or the plaiting Cavalier'?

 Why no comment on the harmfully-exaggerated Toy breed specimens on view'? Why no promotion of British breeds in the rings but plenty of foreign breeds'? Does the word 'fantastic' have to be the only word of praise (over 100 times) and what really is the value of Fogle eating dog food on air'? Why no airing of problems in dogs: the rescue nightmare, European legislation (ETS 125) coming our way, over 400 inheritable defects, the detested DDA and over-breeding by pedigree dog breeders without affixes'? Is it the world's biggest dog show because it's too easy to qualify'? The KC was never once faulted, yet every day the BBC faults every other responsible body in Britain. Six hours of fawning sycophancy does nothing to improve the lot of the domestic dog. The latter is the self- imposed mandate of the KC; surely their own show should respect this remit. The viewers are being patronised, the show dumbed down. This show and its TV coverage has gone seriously wrong.

So, with the best interests of pedigree doq breeding in mind, what can be done to put this 'greatest dog show on earth', as the Americans and the FCI never dub it, back on track'? First of all, if anyone cares to read the Crufts critiques after each annual show, it is clearly too easy to qualify for Crufts. Those who do get to qualify their dogs for this KC annual show should feel that that in itself is an achievement. Either the critiques are valid or the judges are inept, take your choice. But if comments by Crufts' judges in their critiques are valid, these words are surely worth heeding. Here is a collection.

Crufts 2006, Norwich Terrier - 'I was very sad to see the state of this breed in the UK... '; Labrador (dogs) -'I was appalled at what some people had qualified.'; Cavalier (dogs) - 'Some of the qualifiers looked more suited to open shows than ch. ' Crufts 2007, Tervuerens -, ...this variety is in the doldrums. '; Airedales -'Generally, movement is poor and in some cases appalling. ' Bullmastiffs -'My main concern was mouths, which in some cases were dreadful. ' Crufts 2008, Beardie (bitches) -'I found so many with really poor shoulders... '; Mastiffs -, I was very disappointed with the quality and movement. Some dogs were extremely lame. '; Dachshund (miniature long-haired) -, I was amazed to what extreme they have depreciated in quality. ' If pedigree dog breeding is a scientific venture then the identification of future breeding stock is a vital role for Crufts. But if it's too easy to qualify and if the top judges in each breed have their critiques ignored, surely the value of Crufts is seriously undermined.

For those who desire canine razzamatazz ahead of a livestock show, couldn't 'Discover Dogs' be developed as an annual event to promote each recognised breed, especially our vulnerable native breeds, backed by extensive dog food stands and accessories stalls, with the usual TV coverage. The current TV coverage of the breed judging is woefully inadequate but the KC seems content with this unsatisfactory aspect. What a lift for the much criticized Accredited Breeders Scheme, if those signing up could be promoted at such an event. Good breeders all so often get lost in the far too wide span of the existing Crufts, certainly in the TV programmes scheduled for it. A livestock show, if that is what Crufts wants to be, should concentrate on the dogs, the breeds, not on coats, combs and collectibles. With purebred dogs being seriously looked at, as inherited defects steadily increase and harmful exaggeration gets more and more attention, the public would benefit by hearing what each breed is doing about its problems. Pedigree dog breeding is far too important to have its annual day hijacked by minor celebrities and the predictable camera-hoggers.

Before all the Crufts showbiz luvvies take over the wheel, some crucial questions to be answered. Do the dogs being exhibited get the best deal? Is the best breeding stock being identified? Do these vital few days in the canine calendar contribute as much as they should to the improvement of dogs? Or is Crufts just another day out for people. Before the shouts of 'killjoy' rent the air, surely such a show can only be appropriately measured by its rating as a livestock show.