General view of the bench show in the Hippodrome, on Thursday, May 10. 1877

Dog showing first began in the early to mid-19th century and was considered an “add-on” to the then more popular poultry shows. Dog breeders and owners at these first shows were able to display their dogs for the purpose of sale to farmers and hunters. These dogs would enable them to carry out their work or sport more effectively.
The initial dog shows were typically limited to gun dogs such as Pointers and Setters, as they were the dogs predominantly being used for supporting game hunting – a popular sport at the time. The shows were solely for the purpose of identifying the best specimens for tracking, flushing and setting game.
To assist with the identification of the best specimens of each breed, standards by which the dogs were judged were developed and were based on the purpose for each breed. These standards are still in existence today and are still used as the criteria for judging at conformation shows.
Later, as the popularity of showing grew, more breeds were being displayed. These were still predominantly for the purpose of identifying dogs that were the best examples for undertaking their working purpose and started to include working dogs, such as shepherds, and of course, hounds, such as the Beagle.
As breeders began to see the value of shows as a means of displaying their stock, they began to present the dogs in a better light, cleaning and grooming them and showing them at their best.
Today’s shows are full of pageantry, grooming and presentation but the initial purpose of the dog show – to identify those of the breed that best conform to its purpose – still remains the focus of dog conformation shows today.