Early Dog Shows, Part I

The love-hate relationship that exists between the kennel clubs and large segments of the dog fancy community is certainly not new.

By | Posted: Thu Jun 23 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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In the United States, the Westminster Breeding Association acted as part of the show committee for the famous 1876 Centennial Dog Show at Fairmont Park, Philadelphia. The following year they incorporated as the Westminster Kennel Club and organized their first of many successful shows in New York City. By 1877, the club had formulated its own show rules, which were published in The New York Times prior to the next show.

The AKC was officially founded at a meeting on Oct. 22, during the weekend of the Westminster club's eighth annual show, in 1884.

The Kennel Club in England, founded in 1873 by members of Crystal Palace show committee, preceded the creation of the American Kennel Club. The Crystal Palace shows were universally admired for their efficient management. However, quite a few other English dog clubs had also presented successful shows for years. Their sudden subordination to a self-elected group of former colleagues created understandable resentment. This was most evident among the members of the Birmingham club, who had already orchestrated 30 independent shows without Kennel Club rules or interference.

The newly established kennel clubs had high hopes of reforming the dog world, believing that organizational efficiency and straightforward regulations would make quick work of problems that had plagued dog shows for decades. The Kennel Club immediately set about formulating rules for dog shows, modeled on the rules of the Jockey Club.

Up to that time, registration of dogs had been optional, and even registered names could easily be changed for many years. The famous Pointer Sensation was registered and shown as 'Don' for several years in England before being exported to America in 1876. It was not until 1888 that the AKC implemented a compulsory registration for all Westminster entries. Even this was not strictly enforced for many years thereafter.

Kennel Club Rule #I required every dog to be registered before it could be exhibited. This included mandatory identification of entrants by name, date of birth, parentage, ownership, and physical description. This measure was supposed to alleviate problems of incomplete records and erroneous show awards, and stop the popular practice of dog switching. "This was absolutely necessary in order to establish as far as possible the identity of a dog and to prevent its being shown in classes for which it was not eligible. Up to that time, it was not uncommon for one dog to be exhibited under several names, even under the names of several owners," according to The Book of the Dog.

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