Winter in India is a busy time for dog
enthusiasts and “professional” breeders. Each week thousands travel to compete
in dog shows. The breeders spend great sums in importing pedigreed dogs, hiring
professional handlers from abroad, and flying these dogs to shows across India.
The average person may consider a dog show to be a glorified beauty pageant for dogs, and on the whole a quirky and rather superfluous affair. Dig a little deeper and it becomes fairly evident that, like most sub-cultures, dog shows in India have a rich and long history; the first show was held in India in 1896 and flourished under the patronage of the British colonial elite (including Lords Minto and Irwin) and subsequently the Indian aristocracy (the Maharajas of Jind and Patiala) which led to the modern dog shows in India under the Kennel Club of India.
For participants today, it’s a highly competitive game with their reputation and aspirations on the line. There is usually no prize money to be had but breeding a placed dog can lead to big financial returns and many people aspire to be at the top of the dog show world in India.
As a child growing up in the 1980s, I would often go to these dog shows with my parents, who would travel across north India competing their dogs with those of others. They would rarely, if ever, win anything and of course there was no money to be made from this then. As I grew older, I stopped going to these shows and those childhood winters faded into memory.
In 2013, I came across a large cache of old family photographs, some from the 1970s and 1980s which had my parents at various dogs shows. So in November 2013, I attended my first dog show in 20 years, out of mixture of curiosity and nostalgia; my effort to reconcile my memories with what was going in the world of dog shows today.
These photographs are from my ongoing series “Best in Show” that is part of a larger body of work that I call “The Indian Dog Show Project” and will also contain old photographs from my family photo archives and more.
Labrador Retriever, Mumbai Dog Show, January 2015.
Judge, Jaipur Dog Show, January 2014.
German Shepherds and Rottweilers, Dehradun Dog Show, December 2014.
Lhasa Apso, Kanpur Dog Show, November 2013.
Toy Poodle and Labrador Retriever, Delhi Dog Show, January 2015.
Giant Poodle, Chennai Dog Show, September 2014.
Labrador Retriever and Pug, Ludhiana Dog Show, November 2014.
Labrador Retrievers, Delhi Dog Show, January 2015.
French Bulldog, Bareilly Dog Show, November 2013.
Afghan Hound and Giant Poodle, Dehradun Dog Show, December 2014.
Staffordshire Terrier, Ludhiana Dog Show, November 2013.
Great Dane, Gurgaon Dog Show, October 2014.