Dog whose tail ‘never stops wagging’ scoops top prize at Crufts 2023

Orca with her trophy Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A prized pooch who “never stops wagging” her tail has been crowned best in show at the 2023 Crufts show.

Four-year-old Orca beat more than 19,000 dogs from around the world over the last four days to claim the show’s top honour on Sunday at the NEC in Birmingham.

She is a lagotto romagnolo and it's the first ever win at Crufts for a dog of that breed.

According to dog welfare and training body The Kennel Club, the breed is “lively and affectionate” with a “unique talent” for truffle hunting thanks to its strong sense of smell.

Orca’s handler, Javier Gonzalez Mendikote from Croatia, drove 25 hours to get to the dog show, and said: “I have worked for the last 20 years to achieve something like this in my life.

“So I think it’s really special and even more… with Orca.”

The audience heard that she “never stops wagging” her tail.

Asked what he thinks the response will be like back home, Mr Mendikote said: “I’m sure we will have a huge party.”

Orca with handler Javier Gonzalez Mendikote Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

The handler added that he believes the win is “really important” for the breed, which is becoming more popular in the UK and the US.

One of Orca’s owners, Ante Lucin, said: “We know she is a little superstar but this is beyond all expectations. I was crying too much watching from the seats, it was very emotional.

“Orca is everything you could ever want in a dog, she is happy and healthy – and as everybody saw, her tail never stops wagging.”

Orca during the show Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

On its website, The Kennel Club says “lagotto” is an Italian dialect word for “curly coated duck retriever” and Romagne was the district in northern Italy where the breed was developed.

Orca was the winner of the gundog group earlier in the show, a category that evaluates dogs originally trained to find live game.

Crufts show manager Vanessa McAlpine said: “Tonight’s final has been a fantastic way to end another triumphant year for Crufts.

“Congratulations to Orca who helped end this year’s competition on a real high, taking the coveted best in show award alongside her handler, Javier. The pair are very deserving winners and it was clear to see their strong relationship together in the ring.”

An old English sheepdog known as Blondie, who earlier won the pastoral group, was named reserve dog.

An Irish wolfhound called Paris, owned by The Real Thing lead singer Chris Amoo, won the Channel 4 people’s vote.

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