The Wars and Crufts

The Wars and Crufts

Crufts has been disrupted by two wars in Britain; firstly, in the years 1918, 1919 and 1920, during and after World War One, and then during World War Two between 1940 and 1947. Although World War One ran from 1914 to 1918, Charles Cruft managed to keep the show going most of the time, even when many other big Championship shows were not operating. Prior to the war he has a somewhat uneasy relationship with the canine community, but he gained a great deal of popularity and respect for
continuing with the show as long as possible. He did this
at great risk of serious financial loss!

One of the reasons holding the show was considered risky is because the venue, the Agricultural Hall in Islington, was a large, prominent building with a glass roof (it still is – it’s now the Business Design Centre in Upper Street, Islington) and was therefore a prime target for Zeppelin bombing raids. Happily, it was never targeted.

Agricultural Hall

In 1917, things got even tougher for dogs and dog showing, debates were held in Parliament about the possible extravagance and expense of keeping non-working dogs in a time of war. Rail travel was also restricted and became 50% more expensive. Crufts show had just 2500 entries in 1917, the lowest number since the show began in 1891.  Charles Cruft was also faced with a shortage of labour to work at the show, a shortage of trade stands and a smaller crowd due to people’s reluctance to visit a building that might be a bomb target. In 1918, Charles Cruft finally had to cancel the show as the Agricultural Hall was requisitioned by the military as a storage depot, and the show sadly did not return until 1921.

When the show returned in 1921, it introduced some special classes called the “Earl Haig Classes”, especially for entrants, male and female, who had served in the war, either in the military or as war workers in offices and factories. In the shows held before the war, anti-German sentiment saw the cancellation of classes for Dachshunds, but this had lessened enough by 1921 that not only were Dachshunds back, but there was some excitement about the introduction of classes for the breed then known as the Alsatian Wolf Dog, also now known as the German Shepherd. This breed underwent rocketing popularity in the following years.


Charles Cruft died in 1938 and the 1939 show was run by his widow Emma. It was the last Crufts show to be run by a member of the Cruft family. It was also the last time the show would be held at its long-time home, the Agricultural Hall.

From 1940 onwards, the show was cancelled due to World War Two and didn’t resume until 1948. When the show resumed, it was with a new owner, The Kennel Club.  In 1942, Emma Cruft decided that she would not be able to carry on with the show herself and sold it to the Kennel Club. Afterwards, she sometimes complained that she had sold it too cheaply; however, it must be borne in mind that the Kennel Club took a great risk in buying the rights to the show right in the middle of a war with no guarantee that dog showing as we know it would ever resume again. Along with the name of the show, Emma Cruft insisted the Kennel Club buy everything that went with it in terms of goods and equipment, including the boards that made up the walls of the rings, the cash boxes and even the brown coats worn by the staff at the show. When the show resumed under Kennel Club management, it had a new home at Olympia and a record breaking entry of 9412. Emma Cruft presented the Best in Show award and this was the last time a member of the family had any formal role at Crufts.


Emma Crufts

Before the war, the Kennel Club had its own very prestigious flagship championship show The Kennel Club Show, which was something of a rival to Crufts. However, upon acquiring the rights to Crufts, the Kennel Club retired the show they had held under their own name and Crufts became the Kennel Club’s flagship event. It was a compromise between the two great shows – the Kennel Club were the managers, but the Crufts name was so powerful and so popular, that it was retained as the name of the Kennel Club’s premier event.