Birmingham Dog Show Society
The history & future of a historic society.
The National Dog Show has been organised by the Birmingham Dog Show Society since 1859. In the 21st century this old Society is just as determined to keep up with modern day needs as it was when exhibition of dogs was a new sport.
Newcastle upon Tyne was the scene of the first organised dog show in June 1859, prior to which competitions of various sorts had been held in pubs and clubs up and down the country. The Birmingham show held in November 1859 was organised by Mr Richard Brailsford, gamekeeper. An organising committee of eminent gentlemen and sportsmen ensured the show, held in one of the galleries of the Horse and Carriage Repository, Birmingham was a successful event for the 80 or so dogs entered in the 14 classes.
Inspired by the popularity of this show the committee continued to make this an annual event and some of the gentlemen involved to became the founder members of the Kennel Club some 14 years later.
Modern day exhibitors expect very high standards at dog shows – large rings, good layout and facilities. In the early days sawdust was the norm for the floor, the dogs were paraded between the benches and held by stewards while being judged. Lady exhibitors complained if there was too much wet floorcovering because of their flowing skirts; the exhibits were often despatched by rail.
In 1859 Pointers and Setters were the only breeds on show and there were 3 judges. Nowadays nearly 200 breeds will be judged, and Challenge Certificates will be on offer for every breed that has them. (For historical reasons the National is a representative show which entitles the Management Committee to elect a member of the Kennel Club Show Executive Committee and to have Challenge Certificates for all breeds as at Crufts and the Welsh and Scottish Kennel Clubs).
The National has been held at a number of venues over the years. The late 1980’s saw a move from the National Agricultural Centre to Perry Park Birmingham where the innovative ‘in and out’ rings under marquees were first used and now commonly seen at a number of major dog shows. After a succession of shows on this site, a move was made to Arbury Hall, Warwickshire, a lovely venue let down by the weather. Two good shows were then held at the NEC where an ‘Activity Ring’ was a new venture in which many breeds had an opportunity to show off their capabilities and historic origins. Therapy dogs were introduced to the public there and displays of heelwork to music entertained visitors and exhibitors alike. In 2002 the Society moved to the Bingley Hall, Stafford which it is hoped will be its home in the years to come.
Since 2002 the Society has used all the available ring space in the halls combining this with large outside marquees. Each year the committee, ever mindful of the needs of the exhibitors, manipulate the space to suit the entries with large rings, aisles between the benches, an attractive Stakes and Best in Show ring, and lots and lots of completely free car parking.
A younger group of Committee members originally from the Young Kennel Club are now included as part of the management team which should ensure that the future of this historic society is safe for the exhibitors of the future to enjoy.
The committee are also fortunate to have the support of a large band of willing stewards who regularly fulfill the administrative requirements to assist the judges.