Afghan Hound Times
(Afghan Hound Database and Breed Information Exchange)

Crufts 1999 Report
Steve Tillotson, 1999


Before reporting on this year's Crufts, I thought readers might be interested to know a little about the worlds premier dog show including some snippets about the Afghan Hound at Crufts. I thought a summary introduction to the UK judging system might also be helpful.

Crufts dog show has been running for over 100 years but there was no Best In Show until 1928 when the award was first introduced and won by a Greyhound. It was a long time before an Afghan won the Best In Show, and we had to wait until 1983 when Ch Montravia Kaskarak Hitari achieved this for the breed. American readers might be interested to learn that Hitari carried the US lines of Ch Wazir Of Desertaire (goes back to Crown Crest Mr Universe) on both sides of his pedigree as well as the US bred Ajman Branwen Kandahar (Grandeur lines) on the dam side. Having waited this long to achieve the ultimate accolade for our breed, we went and did it again in 1987 with Ch Viscount Grand winning BIS. Grant's pedigree is strongly influenced by Wazir lines, and also the US lines of Mandith via the imported Mandith Patriot Of Khyber. More American snippets later...

Prior to the BIS being introduced, the first big Afghan Hound winner was Zardin who won the foreign dog class in 1909, 1910 and 1911. Afghans were awarded Challenge Certificates ("CC") in 1926. The first Afghans to win CC's at Crufts were Ranee and Taj Mahip of Kaf (both Bell Murray hounds) in 1926. Besides having to wait nearly 60 years to achieve BIS, we also had to wait 33 years before we won the Hound Group. This was achieved by Bletchingley Ragman Of Scheherezade, owned by Lt Col Wallace Pede of the US (stationed in the USAF in UK at the time) . So there's a further feather in the cap of our American friends and their influence in our big Crufts winners.

For most of it's history, Crufts dog show has been held in London, but, several years ago it moved to our second city Birmingham and To the National Exhibition Centre because it had outgrown the London venue. And wow, has it grown.. This year there were over 20,000 dogs entered, and likely there will have been over 120,000 visitors in addition to the several thousand exhibitors over the four days of the show. It is enormous! The show is held in five huge halls over four days. Each hall is about the size of an aircraft hanger!

The UK judging system, briefly is as follows; First of all, Crufts is the only Championship Dog show in the UK where the dogs have to "qualify" for entry. You qualify your dog by either winning, or gaining a high placement in specific (not all) classes at a dog show during the year. There are now 7 groups at our shows, the Pastoral group being new this year. Dogs are entered in "classes" which you can consider as "grades". Junior for.... junior dogs, and grading up through classes such as graduate, post graduate, limit, open, the more senior classes. The judge choose their winners from each class, then all the class winners compete to find the best of sex (at which point the Challenge Certificate and Reserve Challenge Certificate are awarded per sex). The two best of sex (dog and bitch) then compete in best of breed. The best of breed goes on to compete in the group. The group winner is the one of seven (group winners) to compete for the ultimate best in show.

Onto this years show then.. Each of the breed clubs (there are about 12 UK breed clubs) has a small tradestand ringside, so we do at least get a bit of colour in the dog section.. I wasn't able to watch the judging full time as I was running my vendor stand a couple of halls walk away. My first visit ringside was late morning with judging about half way through, lots of hustle and bustle, busy breed club stands, the annual scramble to collect your copy of the UK Afghan Hound Year Book, the additional interest in Lynda Race's new book on the breed launched at Crufts, lots of overseas visitors to chat with. The early judging might give a clue to the eventual best of breed?, pundits speculating early on.. Class sizes varied from around 14 exhibits to 30, so competition is quite stiff.

The influence of overseas lines was apparent in that several class winners/high placements came from imported lines, perhaps more so in bitches. Puppy dog carried Australian lines, Junior, Graduate, Undergraduate bitch winners were out of a Finnish bitch, second place in Undergraduate was Australian bred, as was third place in Limit bitch class. Open bitch winner was US bred, and Veteran bitch , bred in Ireland of entirely US stock.

I returned ringside to watch the CC/RCC judging, by which time the spectators were about ten deep around the ring (just as well I am tall and can see over..). Ch Saxonmill Rum Tum Tigger (open class winner) , owned by Roberta Hall won the dog CC (kennelmate Saxonmill Currant Bun also won Limit dog class), and the reserve went to Ch Amudarya Sholti of Zadal (second in open class), owned by Jeff and Heather Bunney. As an aside, I remember Sholti as a young dog, famous for his ring antics of somersaulting and really testing his owner handlers ability to hang on to him.. Good to see he settled down and later gained his title. Bitch CC went to the big winning bitch "Riot" - Ch Tejas Conquistador who won the Veteran class. Riot has only been shown lightly this year so it was good to see her out again, and she sure did her owner Mike Gatsby proud. Reserve went to the winner of yearling class - Gardwright Legend, owned by Gardiner, Clarke and Wright.

Having attended the 96 and 98 US National Specialities, I am well used to the "enthusiasm" shown by ringside fan clubs for the various exhibits. But... Crufts is ... "British", we are reserved, quiet... yeah right! It did seem to me that this year that the whooping and level of support for individual exhibits attained a level emulating that which is more akin to the US scene.... so perhaps our stiff upper lip is slipping?

So now we have our best dog - Tigger, and our best bitch - Riot, so who is going to go best of breed and represent us in the group? Ringside is packed, spectators from the bitch ring have crowded ten deep around the dog ring to watch the challenge between these two super Afghans.. In the UK, the system is that the dog judge goes over the best bitch, the bitch judge goes over the best dog, the judges chat, and hopefully agree which sex is best of breed. On this occasion, each judge believed their respective winners were best and therefore the "referee" had to be called. The referee assigned was Marion Spavin, a famous all-rounder judge. So with excitement high, hundreds of ringside spectators waiting, and waiting, and waiting.. for the referee. We had to wait 30 minutes before the referee could get to the ring.. Interesting contrast in the interim, Tigger, on his feet, on the edge of the ring with his owner/handler, mingling with friends and supporters, Riot more inside the ring, laying down mostly, relaxing with her owner/handler. The buzz around the ring disappears, some impatience sets in, but the crowd stay.

During this period, having manoeuvered myself into a front corner of the ring for a good view I stood beside one of the show operators, responsible for monitoring events and informing control of progress in the ring. I overhead him to say "The Afghan is a media friendly dog"... hows that for a bunch of words? I asked him to explain what it mean -- he said, the Afghans is such striking dog that the public love him - media friendly. So there you go, we all have a media friendly dog..

Finally, to some muted applause the referee arrives in the ring, resplendent in a lilac coloured outfit and proceeds to examine the Afghans, then run them around. After the long wait for the referee, the decision comes sudden and fast - Riot is best of breed! Ringside erupts with applause, Mike Gatsby throws both hands up in the air with sheer excitement - a wonderful moment for him and Riot. On a point of records.. I am not sure, but I believe Riot may well have taken (or at least equalled) the breed record for numbers of CC's won by a bitch. I need to check the statistics, but she must be close, if not indeed now the breed record holder. In any event, Riot is a great champion.. She went on to gain third in the Group, adding to her distinction on the day.

And so Crufts 99 ends. There were 165 dogs and 185 bitches entered, making a total of 371 entries. Dennis Simpson judged the dogs, Betty McClark judged the bitches.

Steve Tillotson 1999
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