If you’re a dog fan, you know of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which begins Monday night in New York, the National Dog Show and, of course, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Do you ever wonder how these dog shows got started?
1859 to 1863: The first British dog shows
Taking place in Great Britain’s Newcastle, organizers called for owners of setters and pointers to bring their animals for a dog show. A subsequent show held the same year also included spaniels. In 1860, a Birmingham show included the previously referenced breeds as well as hounds. The dog show made its triumphant entry into England’s capital city with the 1863 London dog show.
1873: Founding of the Kennel Club
In an effort to streamline dog show judging and admission criteria, fanciers decided to set up a governing body that would “control the dog scene.” Taking the form of a gentlemen’s club, the 1873 Kennel Club came into existence.
1874 to 1909: Growing pains of the show circuit
Devising equitable rules that would be fair to owners of all breeds introduced at dog shows was difficult. An initial set of rules was published as part of the 1874 Kennel Club Stud Book. Due to problems, the growing influx of breeders, the mushrooming interest in the sport and also the request to add more breeds, the rules grew along with these needs.
For example, an 1880 rule requires a champion dog to win three prizes at shows; its 1885 revision stipulated seven first prize wins. Championship prizes and certificates were differentiated in 1900. Champion qualifications were decided in 1909; it is interesting to note that this particular qualification process is still in effect.
1877: Setup of the (American) Westminster Kennel Club
The Westminster Kennel Club has the distinction of being the oldest dog fancier organization on American shores. It was founded in 1877 with the purpose of holding an annual show in New York City.
1884: Birth of the American Kennel Club
It did not take long for the British dog show craze to not only take New York by storm but spread even further. Members of the Philadelphia Kennel Club invited representatives from other dog clubs to form the “Club of Clubs,” the American Kennel Club (AKC).
1901: Dog Shows gain popularity in Great Britain
When the British Kennel Club introduced pedigree registration in 1880, reactions were mixed. As the sport of dog showing became competitive also due to the breeding business, the number of dog shows increased. In 1901 alone, at least 44 dog shows were held in England.
1908 to 1917: AKC experiences its own growing pains
Even as the AKC initially followed the code of rules set forth by its British counterpart, American dog show judges soon recognized the need for amendments and a change in the point system. While the point scale originated in 1900, a 1910 rule eliminated the graduate class in favor of an American-bred class, which also required a change in point allocation. The AKC began accepting applications for dog show judges in 1917, which did away with charges of bias.
1930: AKC requires exhibitor licenses
Exhibiting dogs for a cost associated with the service was thus far unlicensed. Due to the 1930 AKC rule, the Professional Handlers Association was founded in 1931.
1932: Children enter the sport
Children’s handling classes were first introduced at the Westbury Kennel Association Show of 1932. They caught on in popularity and eventually also entered the AKC rule book in 1951. The name of this particular class became “Junior Showmanship.”
1974: Women serve as delegates for the first time
Thus far, women could not represent the various kennel clubs at the American Kennel Club meeting. This rule changed in 1974, when female delegates were officially voted in.
1984: AKC celebrates 100 years
The American Kennel Club celebrated its 100th anniversary with the Centennial Show.
1985 to present: New breeds, same appeal
The AKC frequently adds new breeds to those that may be shown in its sponsored dog shows. Fanciers are eager to explore the opportunities these new breeds offer in the show circuit.