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While some turn out in nose-to-tail waterproofs, others arrive wrapped in blankets, with one sporting a snood; DOG SHOW TURNS INTO CATWALK FOR 27,000 ANIMALS EXPECTED AT CRUFTS.

Byline: CERI WILLIAMS newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

THE annual Crufts dog show turned into something of a catwalk contest yesterday as pampered pets arrived in raincoats, their paws clad in winter boots. More than 27,000 animals are expected to descend on Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre for the annual show - with many donning the latest in canine wet-weather fashion.

While some turned out in nose-to-tail waterproofs, others arrived wrapped in blankets and in one case, even sporting a snood.

Owners left nothing to chance, employing a range of novel methods to ensure their immaculately-groomed animals arrived at the competition without a potentially devastating dip in a puddle.

Dominico Traversri opted to hoist Afghan dog Louis onto his shoulders in a fireman's lift, while another pet was wheeled into the event in a cage.

The Kennel Club estimates around 145,000 people will visit the four-day celebration which includes contests to assess agility, heel work and other disciplines.

A record 2,131 dogs from 41 overseas countries will travel to Birmingham for the annual show, including entrants from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, none of which have been represented at Crufts before.

A total of 13 new breeds will be making their debut at the event, which has attracted more than 20,500 dogs to its breed-judging, gamekeepers' classes and obedience championships.

Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: "The Kennel Club and Crufts committee wish to thank all of those taking part in Crufts 2013 for their support.

"The fact that dog owners continue to come in their thousands to celebrate their dogs on the world's most famous dog stage is testament to what a special place Crufts holds in the hearts of dog lovers throughout the world."

Among the main attractions at the 2013 show is the return of the Crufts Factor competition, the Friends for Life award, and Sunday's decision on the prestigious Best in Show title.

Ms Kisko added: "Crufts really is a fantastic event. One of my favourite competitions is Friends for Life - each year we hear amazing stories of how dogs have helped people pull through illnesses, given those with disabilities a new lease of life or worked with search teams to rescue those in need."

This year's Friends for Life contenders include a Birmingham-based police dog which has been involved in more than 285 arrests and once sniffed out a PS10,000 cache of stolen power tools.

CRUFTS: THE FACTS | More than 27,000 dogs and their owners will descend on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) for this year's Crufts dog show.

Crufts was founded in the Victorian era by Charles Cruft - with the inaugural show attracting 2,437 entries to the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington in 1891.

Best-in-Show was first awarded in 1928 - to a greyhound called Primley Sceptre, while Crufts was first televised in 1950.

The globally-renowned Best-in-Show prize has been won by 42 different breeds.

The English Cocker Spaniel has won the most Best-in-Show titles, with seven triumphs. Irish Setters and Welsh Terriers have each won on four occasions.

A total of 13 breeds are competing at the show for the first time this year - the Basset Bleu de Gascogne, Bavarian Mountain Dog, Beauceron, Bergamasco, Catalan Sheepdog, Cirneco Dell'Etna, Eurasier, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Korean Jindo, Lagotto Romagnolo, Mexican Hairless, Slovakian Rough-Haired Pointer and the Swedish Lapphund.

Originally known as Cruft's, the dog show became Crufts in 1974 when a rebranding exercise deemed the apostrophe surplus to requirements.

Crufts takes up more than 25 acres of the NEC near Birmingham, equivalent to the area of around 12 football pitches.

Exhibitors at Crufts have raised PS135,500 over the past decade for the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which distributes money to rehoming charities and funds research into diseases affecting dogs.

The final night of this year's event is to be broadcast for the first time on Channel 4, while the remainder of the four-day show is being screened on More4.

The show's arena programme is also being streamed live on YouTube - with a free Crufts catch-up service also available on the video-sharing site for the first time.

CAPTION(S):

Caroline Sheppard, from Kings Lynn, with Irish wolfhounds Bliss and Whisper and, right, a cirneco dell'Etna at Crufts yesterday

Eyes on the prize - Basset hound Larry after coming third in class at Crufts 2013 at the NEC, Birmingham
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 8, 2013
Words:726
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