It is more than 150 years since Messrs Shorthose & Pape sponsored their exhibition of Pointers and Setters on the 28th and 29th of June 1859, which is now recognised as the first ever dog show. In November of the same year Birmingham staged its first ‘Exhibition of Sporting Dogs’ with around 80 dogs entered in its 14 classes.

With expanding horizons the gentlemen of Birmingham formed themselves into the ‘Birmingham Dog Show Society’ before the 1860 National Exhibition of Sporting and Other Dogs, held over two days in December, which included a class for “Sheepdogs, Colleys, Yard or Keepers’ dogs”. Again the show was a huge success, attracting the unheard of entry of 267 dogs, of which five were Collies or Sheepdogs. The Illustrated London News report, dated 15th December 1860, included the following extract on the quality of the Sheepdog entry:

“ — Considering how well the Leicestershire and Warwickshire Sheepdogs muster at Sparkenhoe Club each September, we did expect to see their class better filled; but England has only a moderate champion; and a wiry-haired Scotch lass, with a face intelligent enough to know a Southdown from a Leicester, and all the crossbred ewes and wethers into the bargain, walked off with the £2 to Hurley, Warwickshire. — ”


The Kennel Club’s Championship Show at Crystal Palace October 1928 — The cramped conditions being typical of shows of the period when all exhibits were expected to remain throughout the show’s duration which could last for up to five consecutive days. (Since 1948 The Kennel Club’s Show has been known as Cruft’s)

With the exception of the photograph of  Darlington Dog Show all other images on this page courtesy of ‘The Rough Collie Archive’

Above:  Harrison Weir’s illustration of exhibits at the Birmingham Dog Show Society’s ‘National Exhibition of Sporting and Other Dogs’ — December 3rd & 4th 1860, which appeared on the front cover of  The Illustrated London News 15th December 1860.

Opportunities to exhibit Sheepdogs were not numerous in the early days, making advancement initially slow, however The Kennel Club’s show in January 1887 mustered an entry of 132 Sheepdogs, which was the highest entry for any breed or breed type, and Rough Collie entry levels have remained high ever since. Much has changed in the almost 150 years since Collies were first shown. No longer do show organisers favour the cattle markets, drill or village halls, with there cramped conditions, poor lighting and frankly almost unsanitary facilities, so popular until as late as the 1950s and early 60s. Nor are the dogs expected to spend the entire show, which could last several days, confined to their bench with the twin exceptions of brief periods for exercise or whilst actually in the ring being judged.

Below — One of the earliest all tented outdoor shows in the United Kingdom was Blackpool, & District Canine Society’s first post-war Show held at the Oval, Stanley Park over three days in June 1948. Blackpool, always an innovative show society, had been the first to schedule breeds on different days thereby removing the need for all exhibits to remain throughout the period of the show.


The above image of Darlington Dog Show at Newby Hall, Near Ripon illustrates the more relaxed atmosphere and spacious surrounding of a modern Championship Show.

Modern indoor shows are much more likely to be staged in spacious indoor equestrian arenas, sports or exhibition centres, while the larger outdoor shows resemble tented villages with their lavishly decorated undercover main ring complete with tiered seating for important guests, extensive outdoor rings for breed judging, tented benching areas and rings suitable for wet weather judging, plus shopping malls where the dog owner can satisfy every conceivable canine need. The atmosphere further improved by the freedom exhibitors enjoy to come and go as they please now that the enforced removal embargo has been removed at all but a few of today’s shows. All of which allows exhibitors and spectators of all ages to enjoy the company of their dogs in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere amongst like minded associates.

Related internal links

The Rough Collie Origin