A four–year-old Lagotto Romagnolo was crowned Best in Show at the 2023 Crufts dog show – the first-ever such win for the breed.

Orca beat more than 19,000 dogs from around the world to claim the show’s top honour on Sunday at the NEC in Birmingham. Here is what we know about her and the other winners.

Who won Crufts 2023?

Orca, a dog who “never stops wagging” her tail, won the Best in Show at the competition which was held from 9 to 12 March.

Her handler, Javier Gonzalez Mendikote from Croatia, drove 25 hours to get to the dog show.

Mr Mendikote 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.”

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

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: “This is the first Lagotto Romagnolo to win at Crufts, so this is so great for the breed. 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 was also winner of the gundog group – dogs originally trained to find live game.

What do we know about the winning breed?

According to The Kennel Club, the Lagotto Romagnolo is “lively and affectionate” with a “unique talent” for truffle hunting thanks to its strong sense of smell.

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

It adds on its website: “However, the reclamation and draining of the marshes in the early 20th century brought the departure of the ducks and so there was less demand for this retrieving breed.”

The breed’s “acute scenting powers” have been used in truffle hunting and this is now its primary use in its native land.

It recognised by the Italian Kennel Club in 1991 and is a relative newcomer to the UK, where it has shown its retrieving skills in gundog working tests.

The Lagotto Romagnolo breed needs about two hours of exercise a day and has a lifespan of about 12 years.

Handler Matteo Autolitano and Old English Sheepdog named Blondie pose after winning the 2nd place at the best in show competition, on the final day of the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, Britain, March 12, 2023. REUTERS/Molly Darlington
Blondie, an old English sheepdog, was named reserve Best in Show (Photo: Molly Darlington/Reuters)

What else happened in the show?

The reserve Best in Show was won by Blondie, an old English sheepdog, who was handled, bred and co-owned by Matteo Autolitano from Italy.

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

Crufts show manager Vanessa McAlpine said the final had been “a fantastic way to end another triumphant year for Crufts”.

She added: “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.”

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