History of the Kennel Club

Kennel Club Building London © The Kennel Club

Where it all started

The Kennel Club was founded on 4th April 1873 by S.E. Shirley and twelve other gentlemen. They wanted to have a consistent set of rules for governing the popular new activities of dog showing and field trials. It was the first national Kennel Club in the world. The Kennel Club's first home was a three-room flat at 2 Albert Mansions, Victoria Street, London and since then, we have moved house ten times. 

Victorian dog culture

The Victorian love of both dogs and hobbies meant that dog showing and activities became very popular in the 19th Century. The first conformation Dog Show was held in the Town Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1859 and the next 14 years saw explosive growth in this new and fashionable hobby. The first organised Field Trial took place at Southill in 1865 and this sport also gained a large following. Whilst Field Trials were very much for the country gent, Dog Shows were an urban activity, accessible to people of all classes and popular both with exhibitors and spectators. 

The need for a Kennel Club

The founders of the Kennel Club wanted to ensure that all Dog Shows and Field Trials were run fairly and honestly and with the welfare of the dogs in mind so they set up the Kennel Club to govern these events nationwide. In 1874, the first Kennel Club Stud Book was published. It listed the results of all Dog Shows and Field Trials since 1859 and included sets of rules for running Dog Shows and Field Trials. A Kennel Club Stud Book has been published every year since and provides a record of results for all Championship Dog Shows, Field Trials and other dog activities, such as Obedience and Agility. 

Another important task for the newly-formed Kennel Club to undertake was to have a register of dogs so they could be identified properly. In 1880, the first monthly register of dog names was printed in the very first issue of the Kennel Gazette. These registration records ensured that each dog could be uniquely identified and, over the years, have provided the source of pedigree information for every dog on the Kennel Club's breed registers. Nowadays, over 200,000 dogs are registered with the Kennel Club each year. 

Dog health and welfare

As well as ensuring that dog shows and other events were properly managed, the Kennel Club was also concerned with the health of dogs. Of the ten rules for running a dog show published in the very first Stud Book, two are concerned with health, stating that a veterinary inspector should be present at shows with over 200 entries and that dogs must be withdrawn from the show if they have any contagious disease. H.R.H The Prince of Wales (later H.M. Edward VII) was the Kennel Club's first patron and was a staunch supporter of the movement to prevent the cropping of dogs' ears. 

Since 1949, the Kennel Club has been investing in veterinary and scientific research projects to ensure the improved health and welfare of dogs. Modern health testing began to be developed in conjunction with the BVA in the 1960s and now the Kennel Club manages testing schemes and publishes test results for a whole range of inherited conditions.

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, founded in 1985, gives numerous donations to projects such as canine rescue and dogs for the disabled, and supports research into canine diseases. 

In 2004 the Kennel Club created an educational resource at the Animal Health Trust to aid education of breeders and owners on the genetic health of dogs. The Animal Health Trust now hosts the Kennel Club Genetics Centre and the Kennel Club Cancer Centre.

Dog showing

As dog showing became more and more popular, the Kennel Club needed to ensure that the number of shows held was kept under control and that high standards could be maintained. So, in 1900 a system of show licences was developed with each show management undertaking a guarantee to hold the show under strict Kennel Club rules

In 1939 the Kennel Club acquired the world-famous Crufts dog show (founded 1891) following the death of its founder, Charles Cruft. Since that time, Crufts has been the Kennel Club's flagship event and is the biggest dog show in the world.  Nowadays, the Kennel Club licences over 4,000 dog shows and events every year. 

Dog activities

The very first sport recognised by the Kennel Club was the sport of Field Trials which tests the skills of working gundogs. Other working dogs also got to show off their skills and be rewarded at competition with the development of the disciplines of Working Trials (1920s), Obedience (1950s) and Agility (1970s) all of which are governed by the Kennel Club. Since the 1990s, both Flyball and Heelwork to Music have become hugely popular with the British public and the new disciplines of Cani-Cross and Rally are gaining a dedicated following. 

Dogs in society

Although Kennel Club was originally concerned just with pure-bred dogs, dog shows and trials, the Kennel Club now represents the interests of all responsible dog owners to ensure that dogs are welcome throughout society.  In 1988, the Kennel Club published the Canine Code and in 1992 the Good Citizen Dog Scheme was set up to promote responsible dog ownership, to enhance our relationship with our pets and to make the community aware of the benefits associated with dog ownership.  Nationwide, the Companion Dog Club provides fun and competition for all dogs and dog owners, and, since 2000, the national Scruffs competition has celebrated cross-breed dogs. 

The Young Kennel Club was established in 1985 to help young dog lovers aged between 6-24 years learn new skills, build confidence and make new friends. Today, the YKC makes sure that our future dog owners, exhibitors, trainers and judges are ready to take on the challenge of making sure that all dogs get to live happy, healthy lives with responsible owners

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