Dogs run deep at Goodwood. The first recorded major hunt gamboled along these green hilltops in 1739. Spaniels (it’s always been spaniels) peer out from the many oil paintings that line the halls. The kennels on the estate were designed by renowned architect James Wyatt, usually tasked with cathedrals, stately homes, and Oxford colleges. (In the end, he went for a combination of all three.) Even the famed after-race party at Glorious Goodwood is houndish at heart—they call it the Doghouse, and it’s liable to make you as sick as a dog the next day, when done right.
But dogs will soon run wild here, too. “The idea of 10,000 of them descending on us is a little daunting, yes,” says Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 11th Duke of Richmond and steward of the 12,000-acre Goodwood pile in West Sussex. We are speaking in the final days before Goodwoof, the estate’s inaugural canine carnival, which will slot, next weekend, into an already bustling summer roster—a raucous social season that includes the Goodwood Revival (fast cars and tweed); the Festival of Speed (fast cars and aviators); and the Qatar Goodwood Festival (fast horses and Hermès ties).
Then there’s the impressive golf course, and the lovely cricket pitch (“one of the earliest”), and the farm, and the concert venue, and the annual summer ball, and the airfield … Not a day goes by down here without the roar of an engine or the pop of a champagne cork or the thunder of hooves. Does the duke really need to add several thousand dogs into the mix as well?, I wonder.
“We’ve got to try new things—it’s sort of what we do,” he says. “This promotes the kennels and the great dog story of the estate. We’ve got great stories around horses, around cricket, and around motor racing, with its great heritage here,” says the duke. And “because the whole connection with dogs has been there since the beginning … it seems an obvious one to add.” That, paired with the fact that “enthusiasm for dogs is so high at the moment [following the pandemic],” the duke did not “want to get left behind.”
“The idea of 10,000 of them descending on us is a little daunting, yes.”
There’s little danger of that. Unlike the stuffy, anoraked world of Crufts—the ancient British dog show where snooty breeders coo over lineage, gait, and length of whiskers—the roster at Goodwoof will be distinctly forward-facing and eclectic. “Yes, there are things like flyball, and canicross, where you do cross-country running with your dogs,” says the duke. “But the things that make us stand out are the rather more unusual things … the slightly madder stuff.”
Like the “Barkitecture” competition—a lively challenge to design and build the world’s most cutting-edge doghouse, all on a budget of $310. “We approached some great architects from around the world, all of whom have brilliantly signed up for it,” the duke says. “Norman Foster’s doing one; Jony Ive and Marc Newson are doing one; Hopkins Architects are doing one; Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have done one.” And to round it off, the kennels are to be auctioned off by Bonhams on May 29, with all the proceeds benefiting the animal-welfare charity Dogs Trust.
Then there’s the “Barkour” event. (The estate has always been handy with a pun.) “That’s the gravity-defying, jumping-around stuff that you can do with your dog—and we’ve got some of Tom Cruise’s guys to help us do that,” says the duke. “And there’s a literary corner, which is all about dog literature—Hugh Bonneville’s going to read us a story, I think.” There will even be “dog yoga, dog Pilates, and dog Reiki,” the duke tells me.
Meanwhile, 5 Hertford Street—that Mayfair aristo den, where owner Robin Birley’s own blue whippets stalk the chintz—is putting on a very smart bar. “And we’ve got Taittinger there. It’ll all be done up in orange and white,” the duke says. “It’ll all look very beautiful.”
The English—and English aristocrats in particular—have always loved their dogs above absolutely everything else. And now they finally have an event equal to this irrational, eccentric joy. “This is the antithesis of the usual dog show in a way—because it’s not a dog show,” says the duke. “Think of it more like the Chelsea Flower Show, but for dogs,” he says. “Because really it is meant to be fun.” Who let the dogs out? Why, it has to be the 11th Duke of Richmond.
Joseph Bullmore is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL and the editor of Gentleman’s Journal in London