AMONG some 6,000 dogs shown at Crufts tomorrow (Thursday), dozens will be from Huntingdonshire. Vying for the silverware will be an assortment of the district s finest dogs, from dachshunds and St Bernards, through to chows and terriers. Two of the chows

Michelle Longman and her dogs

AMONG some 6,000 dogs shown at Crufts tomorrow (Thursday), dozens will be from Huntingdonshire.

Vying for the silverware will be an assortment of the district's finest dogs, from dachshunds and St Bernards, through to chows and terriers.

Two of the chows are being shown by Gillian Claxton, from Somersham, who, like her sister, Diana Phillips, from Ramsey, has been a judge at the show. They both also breed chows.

Diana said: "I am not showing this year because my dog has just had a litter of puppies but last year Dolly (full name Mactyke's American Idol at Chanoyu) won her class as a red chow female."

CHOW WOW: Csardas

The prize: "She won a red rosette and a piece of cardboard." Miss Phillips pointed out that people enter their animals for Crufts purely "for the prestige and for the fun". She added that this was the only show where the cardboard badge was diamond-shaped.

The most anyone can win is £175 and that will go to the owner of the dog which wins best in show... as well as two or three other classes. Best in show actually has a cash prize of only £100.

And you have to remember that all entrants for Crufts have to have previously won shows at championship level and paid £20 to enter Crufts. Then there is the expense of getting the dog to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. It is not a cheap day out.

The show is over four days and entrants are not allowed to leave until 4pm on the day of their appearance. "It's so they can be viewed by the general public," said Miss Phillips. "People complained when it was 6pm, but I remember the days when it was 8pm, no matter how far across the country you had come."

Smoothie with owner, Gillian Claxton.

Miss Phillips, in her 70s, added: "I have had dogs all my life, mother used to breed them. Chows are my favourite. They are so different from other dogs. If you want a dog to do exactly as you say, then don't have a chow. They are not obedient dogs. They are intelligent and they question everything. It's like children, if they question everything all the time, they are probably intelligent. They have loads and loads of character and they never forget you - and the puppies are just little balls of fluff."

Her sister, Gillian, will be showing two chows on Sunday, one of which is a Canadian, American and - as of this week - a UK champion. Called Mi Paos Csardas or Csardas for short, the dog is two and owned by a Canadian, Paul Odenkirchen.

Her other dog is a rare breed Towsushet Cream Smoothie - known as Smoothie and the only cream smoothie in the UK.

Spare a thought for Michelle Longman, from Hilton, who will be taking eight dogs to Crufts, one foxhound and seven hamiltons. Last year foxhound Harambee Mascot at Kilcavan, aged 22 months, won best puppy in breed at Crufts.

Three of her hamiltons are named after books: Kilcavan at What Katie Did Next, Kilcavan at Anne of Green Gables and Kilcavan at Just William (or Katie, Annie and William.)

Last year Kilcavan at Sir Lancelot was top puppy in breed in the UK.

Ruth Gibson, a member of Godmanchester Dog Training Club, is preparing her two St Bernards. The bitch, aged four, is named Wardana Little Miss Ruffian (pet name Gucci) and the dog is 21 months, Poolsway Yogi Bear (Yogi). This is their first time at Crufts.

Tony Johnson, from Warboys, is showing four dogs, two long-haired dachshunds and two Tibetan terriers, as well as a Nova Scotia retriever for a friend.

Mr Johnson, 64, also a previous winner, said he had been going to Crufts for 30 years. "Because I'm mad," he said. "I don't like it that much. It's noisy and horrible. I don't like Crufts but everybody who is anybody all over the world will be there."

INFORMATION: See www.crufts.org.uk for ticket prices and times.