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Crufts vs. Westminster: What's the Difference?

By: Alex Lieber

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The Crufts Dog Show is Great Britain's premier canine event and has long been compared to its American cousin, the Westminster Dog Show.

But there are some very important philosophical differences between the two world famous shows. A direct comparison does not capture the many dimensions that Crufts offers. In fact, Crufts is a much more relaxed and informal affair, a sort of festival for dogs and dog owners that's capped off by the competition.

Westminster, by contrast, exudes an aura of elegance and formality. It's not only the main event of the night, it's the only event. As organizers and promoters like to say, it's the Superbowl of Dog Shows in America.

Like the Westminster Dog Show, Crufts is run under the auspices of the nation's main registry for purebred dogs. In the United States, this is the American Kennel Club. In Great Britain, the organization is simply called The Kennel Club.

There are 197 breeds recognized by the club. People familiar with the AKC will notice a lot of similarities in the way they are divided – but it is important to note the differences. Here's a sampling of how The Kennel Club divides the breeds:

  • Hounds. These include the hounds associated with the AKC's Hounds group, such as beagles, basset hounds, Afghan hounds, bloodhounds, etc.

  • Gundogs. Retrievers, such as the Labrador and golden, are in this group, as well as the American cocker spaniel. The AKC lists these dogs as members of the Sporting group.

  • Terriers. This group mostly corresponds to the AKC's Terrier group, including dogs such as the Bedlington terrier, the cairn terrier, fox terrier, etc.

  • Utility. Called the Non-sporting group by the AKC, this group includes the Dalmatian, the chow chow and all three types of poodle (miniature, standard and toy). It should be noted that the AKC lists the toy poodle under the Toy group.

  • Working. Includes the Alaskan malamute, Bernese mountain dog, Bouvier des Flandres (AKC lists in Herding group), boxer, bullmastiff, Doberman, American Eskimo dog (AKC lists in Non-sporting group), giant schnauzer and Great Dane.

  • Pastoral. These breeds largely correspond to those in the AKC's Herding group. They include: Anatolian shepherd (AKC: Working group), Australian cattle dog, Australian shepherd, bearded collie, Belgian sheepdog, German shepherd, Old English sheepdog, etc.

  • Toys. Includes the affenpinscher, Australian silky terrier, bichon frise, Bolognese, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chihuahua, Chinese crested, Coton de Tulear, English toy terrier, Griffon Buxellois, Havanese and Italian greyhound.

    "Come As You Are" Attitude

    The main competition at Crufts centers on judging the Best in Show breed, much like at Westminster. Almost a thousand pedigree dogs compete in more than 2,000 individual classes for the Best in Show title.

    However, there are many other events for the average dog owner to compete in as well, including agility, flyball, obedience, racing, duck herding and even dancing. In a way, the Crufts Dog Show is an event for all dog owners, with something for the pedigree lover and the average dog owner to enjoy. Although Crufts is more relaxed, winning Best in Show is still a tremendous achievement for a dog.

    Not all dogs that compete in Crufts can compete at Westminster. Some breeds in the United States have their ears cropped; the practice has been banned in Great Britain for more than 100 years. This means the dog would not conform to the standard set by the AKC.

    Dog owners could visit one of more than 300 trade stands, where they can get anything from a portrait to treats for their dogs.

    How It All Began

    Crufts is named after its founder, Charles Cruft. Cruft sold dog treats – called dogcakes – throughout Europe and his travels exposed him to some of the finest dog kennels in Europe. Cruft organized the first show, under his name, in 1891.

    The show was very successful and continued to run after Cruft died in 1938. His widow ran the show in 1939. The show was interrupted by World War II and its chaotic aftermath, but returned under the auspices of The Kennel Club in 1948 (shows in 1949 and 1954 were also missed.)

    The show is in its 118th year, with the Australian shepherd winning the Best in Show at Crufts for 2006.

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