A Welsh springer spaniel has been crowned overall winner of the BASC gamekeepers’ classes on Gundog Day at Crufts 2023.
Why you should enter Crufts 2023
For some, the thought of entering the BASC gamekeepers’ classes at the biggest dog show on Earth may be a daunting one. But here, Crufts regular and upcoming gamekeepers’ classes judge Brian Twigger explains why it’s worth making the trip.
There isn’t an atmosphere like it. The excitement as you walk from the car park to the NEC and then to your assigned spot, knowing you are about to take part at Crufts. Crufts, known the world over, the biggest dog show on earth.
Walking to your designated wooden space first thing in the morning, you encounter all kinds of dogs and all kinds of owners. And then you get to our part of the show, the gamekeepers’ rings. A little haven in a sea of show dogs where we get to show the world what our working dogs can do. A safe space full of welcoming hosts and fellow working dog owners and handlers, it’s a place to catch up at the end of a busy season, to meet likeminded people and to learn something new.
I would describe the air around the rings as one of a calm kind of chaos. A contradiction of course, but to elaborate, there’s lots going on and you have to be on your toes, but you can also have the space take it all in and absorb what’s going on around you.
The Northesk Memorial Trophy
Once you’re in the rings, doing your thing, I’ve found you’re focused on the job in hand and time passes quickly.
If you’re lucky enough to be one of the winners of the gamekeepers’ classes and go into the main arena at the end of the day to compete for the Northesk Memorial Trophy, the excitement is palpable.
The view from a winner
I’ve been one of those fortunate few to do the trek from the BASC rings to the holding area behind the main arena. That brisk stroll, usually headed up by BASC’s head of game and wildlife management Glynn Evans, with a team of other staff and volunteers bringing up the rear, feels like a bit of a victory parade as the pack of winning dogs and their people make their way to the last part of the competition. The buzz on the way there and during the wait behind the main arena is like nothing else. That feeling is enhanced when you and your dog step out from behind the heavy black curtains onto the iconic green baize made famous by TV coverage over the years.
If you happen to win the Northesk Memorial Trophy, which I have three times now – in 2020, 2013 and 2007 – the feeling is out of this world. My most recent victory was with my curly coated retriever, Twister, in 2020, the same year I retired as a gamekeeper, and the feeling is amazing. I don’t think I will ever beat it.
If you’re undecided about taking part, I’d say give it a go. If nothing else, it’s a chance to have great day out with your dog at the end of a busy season’s work.
What I would really like to see is some of the older ‘keepers attending – those that I’d call the ‘old guard’. The knowledge and expertise that they have and can pass down to the next generations is immeasurable and Crufts is the perfect place to impart some of that.
The gamekeepers’ classes are deeply rooted in the history of Crufts and it is still a perfect place for networking. I’m a traditionalist and I love seeing ‘keepers turning up in tweeds and sharing their knowledge with the younger competitors and visitors. They are really proud to represent their profession, whether they are retired or current ‘keepers. They are the public face of gamekeepers for the day and it adds to the whole, wonderful atmosphere of the event.
Postal entries close on 9 January 2023, and you can enter online until midnight 23 January 2023.