History Spotlight: CRUFTS & I…

A Personal Journey

This is probably not really a piece of breed history, but I’ll put it out there.

Charles Cruft hosted his first show under this name at Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London W. in 1891. 36 breeds mustered 2,437 entries.

In 1948, Cruft’s widow, Emma, surrendered the show and it’s name to the care of The Kennel Club and 84 breeds were entered, with the show staged at Olympia, London W.

1950, the BBC broadcasts Crufts.

I attended my first Crufts as an interested spectator of Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
I had a pet Blenheim bitch at home, and was reading everything I could on the breed, with no thoughts of becoming an exhibitor.
One of the books I’d read was Susan Burgess’s. The cover featured her dog Ch Crisdig Leading Seaman ( then considered the best ever headed specimen).
I was very excited to see Mrs Burgess showing ‘Smarty’ ( Leading Seaman), particularly as my pet Cavalier was 75% Crisdig bred.
I think he was BOB.

1979, entered and exhibited at Crufts with my first Cavalier, the homebred,Reeberrich Daisy Gambol ( probably unplaced in class).
This was the first year the show was in it’s new home at Earl’s Court, London W.
I travelled to the show on London underground ( as did many exhibitors).


My last Crufts with Cavaliers. I think I had 4 entered, Reeberrich Rest Assured, Reeberrich Feather Wait (1 CC & 1 reserve CC), Reeberrich Woldsman, Tweedworth Persuasion of Reeberrich ( 1CC).
Ceased dog showing.

Attended as spectator to watch Mrs Petronelle Kitson judge ETTs, and had a 5 month Quinoa show puppy at home (Pinstripe).

From then on…..qualified every exhibit I showed across 7 breeds.
BOB’s won in English Toy Terriers & Lowchen.

By the end of the 80’s I was the chief writer for the Kennel Club ‘s Kennel Gazette. Crufts had now outgrown Earl’s Court and the Kennel Club investigated moving to the NEC Birmingham, Midlands.
I was offered a contract of employment by the Kennel Club, a PAID position, to undertake the position of Press Liaison Officer ( jokingly referenced as the PLO!)


I was called on board to attend the Horse of the Year show, as the Kennel Club wanted to add glitz and glamour to Crufts, and we went on a spying mission ( incognito, and under instruction NOT to mention we were KC staff nor the word CRUFTS!).
Rose Smart, Vanessa Gibson, Brian Leonard, the 3 key pivotal KC staff back then, and I took up our seats amongst the crowd.
First shock, was the deafening brass brand frequently playing. Next the spotlight following the horses, who all seemed unphased by both.

And so in 1991 Crufts moved to the NEC, with brass band and spotlights following our recommendation that they be incorporated !! ( yes, blame me if you don’t like them!)

I continued as PLO for another 3 years, but only on the KC agreeing I could still exhibit too.

The year I won BOB with Ch Reeberrich Scarlett, caused mumbling in a certain quarter of the breed, as someone tried to spread a nasty rumour that as PLO and ‘badged’ up, I must be having access to Judges behind the scenes and to the dog papers.
Little did the foolish person know, that my dealings were not with the home grown, nor even particularly, with specialist dog papers. My main remit was with global news, New York Times, Le Monde, Time magazine, Guardian, Independent, The Times and various World TV media.
I had also what was considered the sacred task of ferrying the BIS winners to radio, TV and press interviews, including, of course, BBC World service News and Blue Peter.

Crufts lasted 10 days each year for me.
Eventually, after a couple more years, I stepped down.

I continued to exhibit for a few years usually Lowchen as the main string.


My last Crufts entry, where I won the dog reserve CC with Reeberrich The End Result, on his debut with me,and bitch CC with Kadaz My Lady Cagney Reeberrich ( co owned Parton/Baldwin/Taylor).

I attended Crufts only one more time, circa
2009, to see Ch Reeberrich Xian’s son, Jafeicia pick up his 3rd and qualifying CC, and to win the veteran class with Ch Reeberrich Velvett.

I have never attended Crufts since, but I never thought back in 1977, that Crufts would become so embroidered into my life, and on such a multi faceted level.

By Johnny Richardson (Reeberich)

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