Photos from when Crufts started bringing thousands of cute dogs to Birmingham

1991 marked a big blow for Birmingham – the move of the annual Crufts show to the NEC.

Since then, thousands of dogs and over a hundred thousand people have flocked to Birmingham and Solihull every year, barring COVID-mandated cancellations last year.

Channel 4 is broadcasting the competition in the UK and beyond, and the next edition of Crufts arrives in March.

But how could the competition be moved from its prime location at Earls Court in central London to the National Exhibition Center a hundred miles away?

The first Crufts took place in Islington, London, in 1891 – although founder Charles Cruft has been running shows since 1886.

He worked at a dog biscuit manufacturer, and the shows would have been a great way to network and make a name for himself in the dog-breeding world.

The first show had about 2,000 dogs. Over the years, Crufts has taken on a life of its own – there are regularly more than ten times as many dogs in modern times, as well as around 166,500 people at the 2020 event.

The prestigious Best in Show award was introduced in 1928, and the first recipient was a greyhound called Primley Scepter. The owner, Herbert Whitley, founded Paignton Zoo.

Crufts took the lead in introducing new disciplines to major dog shows – obedience shows were introduced in the 1950s, mind-blowing agility classes arrived in 1978 and trailblazing Mary Ray brought “the heel work to music” in Birmingham in 1992.

Visitation, by dogs and humans, has exploded over the years. Over 100,000 people flocked to Crufts at Earl’s Court in 1988, highlighting the need for larger premises.

The NEC spotted an opportunity. The Queen opened three new showrooms in 1989, and the Birmingham Exhibition Center got a further 8 rooms over the next ten years, providing plenty of space for the expanding Crufts.

The deal was done and Birmingham became the show’s new home from 1991, continuing to go from strength to strength.

After a rare year away, Crufts returns in March – and it’s sure to show off the best of our loyal friends once again.

Check out our gallery here to see the ‘Best in Show’ from our Birmingham Mail archive!

Are you looking forward to the show? What is the best dog or the best performance you have seen? Comment below or talk to us on social media.

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