The Globalization of Dog Shows

From At Large: The Canine Melting Pot, Dogs in Review November 2010

Dogs in Review


One reason I’d love to live to be a hundred is that it would be so interesting to see how the world of dogs will develop over the next few decades. Knowing how this sport has evolved just in my lifetime it’s fascinating to imagine what the future may hold. I’m not exactly predicting dog shows on Mars, but there’s no doubt we’ll see some pretty big changes. 

One thing I’m sure of is that purebred dogs and dog shows will become an increasingly global activity. This development has already gone much further than anyone could have imagined just 10 or 20 years ago, and to me the international aspects are among the most fascinating sides of purebred dogs. Even now, if you find yourself in a foreign country, chances are if you’re interested in dogs you will be able to find someone local who, figuratively at least, speaks the same language you do, has the same interest and most likely knows (or knows of) some of the same people and dogs.

Basically dog shows are an invention of the Victorian age, a result of the tremendous economic and social progress made in Great Britain during the second half of the 1800s that created an upper and middle class capable of supporting this interesting new occupation. Dog shows soon spread to other countries, including the US, but regular communication between kennel clubs and dog people in different parts of the world didn’t become commonplace until well into the 1900s. Even then, for a long time it seemed that purebred dogs were very much an Anglo-Saxon affair, with an exchange of judges, and sometimes dogs, primarily between Great Britain and the former colonies in the United States and Canada, sometimes Australia and South Africa.

One reason the rest of the world didn’t appear to be as involved is, of course, that due to the slow and irregular communications in those days, most people were simply unaware there was already considerable dog show and breeding activity in many other countries. The European continent and Scandinavia in particular have a long and impressive history in purebred dogs (some of them are, in fact, ahead of us in America in many ways), although most “outside” people were hardly aware of this until fairly recently.

With political change and the speed of the Internet an increasing number of countries are now actively becoming major players in purebred dogs.The fall of the Soviet Union resulted in both Eastern Europe and Russia developing an interest in dog shows that can only be described as frenetic. Asia has come a long way since the 1970s, when Japan started importing American dogs en masse: who would then have thought that some of the top show dogs in the US would be Japanese imports? China, long a non-player in dogs, is slowly waking up and will most likely be a major power in the sport within a decade or so. (I had the pleasure of interviewing a young man from Beijing, Fan Yu, for this issue and hope you will find his story as interesting as I did.)

That leaves Latin America, which in recent years has produced an amazing number of top handlers and now also top dogs in the US. They come from all over, but for the special feature of this international issue we are focusing on Brazil. Did you know there were dog shows in Brazil as early as in the 1920s? Or that groups of top US dogs flew to compete at Brazilian dog shows in the 1950s? Probably not — but you can read all about it, and about the present-day top names in Brazil, in this issue.

In the old days the US used to be termed a melting pot of people. Today, the whole world really has become a melting pot of international dogs and dog fanciers, and I for one find it very exciting.

Read on, and enjoy…

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