Dogs shows came into existence because sportsmen and stockmen wanted to evaluate their own animals against those of their peers. As various types of dog evolved to serve particular functions for their owners, selective breeding became an important part of fixing breed type. Fanciers who were keen to breed a dog with certain valuable features were naturally interested in finding dogs that possessed these features and incorporating them into their breeding programs.
THE EARLY DAYS
There are conflicting reports as to when the first recorded dog show took place. As long ago as 1775 a huntsman named John Warde organized hound shows outside the hunting season in an attempt to maintain contact with others who shared his love of fox hunting. in the early 1800s, many London public houses contained "pits" where dogs were expected to dispatch rats, an activity that satisfied the gamblers' instincts, and undoubtedly some notorious venues such as the Westminster Pit played host to dog fights.
As these barbaric sports became more frowned upon, the concept of the dog show evolved - and show dogs were referred to as "fancy pets." By the middle of the nineteenth century, British dog fanciers began to meet and compare the quality of their dogs. Initially these meetings were informal but later they became more organized competitions.
In June 1859 a well-organized poultry show at Newcastle-upon-Tyne included for the first time two classes for dogs, one for Setters and one for Pointers. The driving force behind the innovation was a Mr. Pape, a local gunsmith. In November of that year, Richard Brailsford ran a show in Birmingham that continues to this day as the "Birmingham National."
The ideal vehicle for improvement of stock is regular competition where the best specimens of the breed can be evaluated by knowledgeable and experienced people. Early dog breeders started with a good idea that today has grown into a popular pastime internationally. The first British dog shows catered for sporting dogs - gundogs, hounds and terriers - and soon other types were included such as the popular Toy breeds, kept purely for companionship and entertainment.
Interestingly, dog shows have long been attended by all levels of society and to this day the sport remains one of the least class conscious of hobbies. Since such shows began, lowly working people used to hold competitions in backstreet alehouses, while the nobility was patronizing similar events.
THE FOUNDING OF KENNEL CLUBS
As the breeds began to develop, shows increased in size and in 1873 the Kennel Club was formed in the United Kingdom. Its aim was to maintain a registry of all purelbred dogs and act as a coordinating body for competitive shows. As shows had become more popular, various irregularities and scandals occurred, and it was apparent that a rigid controlling body was necessary which could legislate and make rules and regulations. Sewallis Evelyn Shirley was the driving force behind the formation of the Kennel Club. In April 1873 he saw his dream realized. Shirley became the Kennel Club's first chairman, a position he held for twenty-six years. The Kennel Club ran its first actual show in June of that year, when 975 entries were received at the Crystal Palace venue. Soon it devised the Challenge Certificate as the highest award obtainable. These contribute to a dog's Championship.
The American Kennel Club was formed in 1884, and the Canadian Kennel Club was established four years later. The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) was not founded until 1911, its original member countries being Germany, Austria, Belgium, France and Holland. This is more of a coordinating body than a governing body, and it does not operate any registration system for dogs. Each year the numl3er of its member countries increases and under its auspices a "World Show" is held each year in a different country.
Perhaps the most fundamental difference be- tween the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom and the American Kennel Club is that the British governing body maintains its role as a traditional gentleman's social club, though since 1979, full membership has been granted to women. The American Kennel Club is not a social club but a huge, non-profit organization with paid staff, as well as a body of some 300 delegates from the many dog clubs throughout the United States. It is from these delegates that a board of directors and president are elected. The AKC's primary function is to he a registry body. However, its charter is very broad and gives the organization the right and power to oversee all aspects of the sport. As shows have become larger and the sport has escalated, there has been a need for more input and direction from the AKC.
Spectators in both countries frequently question the level of democracy present in these systems. Neither seems as open as, for example, Scandinavian kennel clubs where anyone who participates at kennel club functions must first become a member.
Today dog shows are organized in all countries of the world. Each country implements a system with some fundamental differences from country to country.
In the United Kingdom, for example, a dog has to win three Challenge Certificates (CCs) under three different judges to become a Champion. At least one of these certificates must be won when the dog is more than one year old. The CC is awarded to the dog and bitch considered the best by the judge at a Championship show where CCs are on offer, and all dogs of a specific breed are in competi- tion together, including existing Champions.
In the United States, however, Champion- ship-making points are only won with non- Champions in competition, the best dog and best bitch are declared Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. These dogs then go forward to meet the established Champions in the Best of Breed class. There is no minimum age limit for a Champion to "finish... (complete a dog's Championship) in the United States. The points system is quite complex. To become a Champion, a dog needs to win a minimum of 15 points, and 5 points is the maximum number a dog can win at one show. Points are allocated at the various shows based on both the location of the show (venues fall into different "zones"), the breed and sex of the dog, and the number of dogs in competition. To complete its American Championship a dog must have won at least two "majors" (3 points or more) under two different judges. The balance of points may he won in smaller numbers. As with the British system, the minimum number of shows a dog needs to attend to gain its title is three. However, the American system becomes further complicated in that a dog can increase its points won by acquitting itself well at Group level, where it competes with other breeds within its Group. Thus, if a dog wins no points because it is the only dog of its breed entered, but then goes on to win the Group or Best in Show where it defeats dogs which have themselves won points or majors within the I-)reed competition, it too will be given the same number of points as the dog it has defeated. The defeated dog retains its points, however.
The Canadian system is very similar to that found in the United States. In Canada a dog must defeat at least one other entry and ten points are required for a championship. in countries affiliated to the FCI, once the dogs have been judged, the awarding of Certificates depends very much on the age of the win- ners and the level of their previous wins. Consequently an International Certificate (Certificate d'Aptitude, Championship Internationale de Beaute) is often awarded to a dog that may not be standing first, or even second, because the dogs that have I)eaten it are either too young or alternatively are already International Champions. How- ever, awarding Certificates, in whatever country, is always at the judge's discretion and it is often felt that some judges tend to he overgenerous in their reluctance to withhold top awards when the presented dogs are clearly lacking in outstanding merit. Around the world, some smaller countries often combine aspects of both the American and British systems, even though they may be affiliated to the FCI.