DOGS and their owners descended upon the Basingstoke area for what was probably the country's first truffle-hunting competition.

The tournament, held at the Old Basing home of Marion Dean, who trains dogs to sniff out the highly-prized fungal delicacies, attracted 30 competitors and much media attention.

Truffles are underground fungi, and while those in France and Italy are considered more valuable, even those in the UK can fetch up to £200 per kilogramme.

Watched by judges from the Winchester City Dog Club, the hounds had to search for hidden truffles in two events.

The first tested their speed and the other their sensitivity in sniffing out the valuable treats.

Gavin Young, head chef at Forbury's Restaurant and Wine Bar, in Reading, cooked truffle-based dishes for onlookers, including white bream with a truffle veloute.

Mrs Dean, of Newnham Lane, said the inaugural competition was a success.

She said: "We were thrilled with the way it went. I had more compliments than I have ever had in my life.

"It was amazing how everybody asked for their name to be put down for next year."

She said she got the idea for the competition when visiting Italy and France, where truffle competitions are common.

The competition was open to any breed of dog, and the field included many that had been trained by Mrs Dean, including the winner, Bramble, a black labrador owned by James Fever from Wiltshire.

The owner's prize was a truffle-in-resin paperweight.

Carol Adams, of Minstead Close, Tadley, was the first to start in the competition, leading her cesky terrier Bess around the aptitude ring.

The 64-year-old said: "I was quite nervous, but once I got out there I was okay. Bess has only been doing this for a fortnight and it was only recently that I found out that we had truffles in this country."

For more information about training dogs to sniff out truffles, visit