5 things to know about Crufts dog show

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2015 2:01 PM
5 things to know about Crufts dog show

LONDON (AP) — The dog world has been rocked by claims that Irish setter Thendara Satisfaction, better known as Jagger, was poisoned at Britain's prestigious Crufts dog show. Five facts about the country's premier canine competition:

IT'S A BIG BEAST

The contest was founded in 1891 — 14 years after New York's Westminster dog show — by Charles Cruft, a traveling salesman turned dog-show impresario. Run since 1948 by Britain's Kennel Club, it now calls itself the world's largest dog show. This year more than 21,000 dogs competed in the four-day event. Competitors came from 43 countries, including Brazil, Canada and South Korea.

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THERE'S A LONG WALK TO VICTORY

More than 200 breeds are eligible to enter Crufts, with the winners of seven groups — hounds, gundogs, terriers, utility dogs, working dogs, pastoral dogs and toy dogs — competing for the coveted Best in Show title.

Cocker spaniels are the most frequent winners, taking the Best in Show prize seven times. Irish setters and Welsh terriers have each won four times. This year's champion was magnificently monikered Scottish terrier McVan's To Russia With Love, better known as Knopa.

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CANINE COMPETITION ATTRACTS CONTROVERSY

There have long been health concerns about some purebred dogs. A 2008 BBC investigation claimed the breeding process put dogs' appearance over their health and resulted in high levels of deformity and genetic illnesses. The broadcaster subsequently dropped Crufts, which it had broadcast for decades. The show is now carried on another channel.

The Kennel Club says it has since introduced new standards and more stringent health checks. Dogs from 15 high-profile breeds including basset hounds, bulldogs, and pugs must be checked by veterinarians before their awards are confirmed.

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PAMPERED PUREBREEDS RILE PROTESTERS

The show is still targeted by animal-rights groups. The Best in Show award on Sunday was disrupted when a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ran onstage carrying a sign reading "Mutts Against Crufts."

PETA director Mimi Bekhechi said after the incident that "Crufts' shameless promotion of 'breedism' is the dog or cat equivalent to racism."

Organizers point out that there is a place for mutts at Crufts. Crossbreeds compete in skill and agility competitions, and have their own prize, the Scruffts trophy. This year's winner was Wylie, an injured mongrel rescued by British soldiers in southern Afghanistan in 2011.

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IT'S A DOG-EAT-DOG WORLD OUT THERE

Rumors of skullduggery have long dogged the world of canine competition, including claims of owners slipping rival dogs laxatives or sticking chewing gum in their fur. In 1996 a breeder was banned for giving a Chihuahua Valium at another British show.

The value of competitors can also make them a target for criminals. The Best in Show title carries a purse of just 100 pounds ($150), but puppies from winners can fetch thousands.

Shortly after last year's Crufts, thieves broke into a house in a central England village and made off with five Chihuahuas, including Xena, who had been named best Chihuahua puppy at the show. The dogs were found abandoned several days later more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.

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Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless