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The Next Extinct Breed?

The Otterhound, GCH CH White River's He's A Keeper!

Wandering around the Internet, I stumbled across an article on extinct dog breeds. Now, in our world of politically correct syntax, some would argue that dog breeds cannot become extinct because they are not naturally occurring subspecies of the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). Nonetheless, all serious dog folk know that most of our breeds were derived from earlier breeds that no longer exist. While we can acknowledge the contribution to modern breeds made by the English White Terrier or the Chinese Haupa, no person alive today has ever seen one. I am concerned about those breeds which are here today and may be gone tomorrow.

The United Kingdom’s Kennel Club refers to these breeds as “vulnerable.” The Kennel Club gives special consideration to protecting its native breeds. In 2011 these were the 10 most vulnerable native breeds in the U.K. and their 2011 registrations.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier, 98
Lancashire Heeler, 98
English Toy Terrier (Black), 95
Smooth Collie, 75
Glen of Imaal Terrier, 67
Sealyham Terrier, 63
Curly-Coated Retriever, 62
Sussex Spaniel, 52
Field Spaniel, 46
Skye Terrier, 44
Otterhound, 38

Eight of these breeds are recognized by AKC. While AKC no longer publishes raw registration statistics, these breeds have equally dismal registrations in the U.S. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) blames the public’s fascination with celebrity and its obsession with “exotic” breeds for the downturn in registrations, noting that Paris Hilton was responsible for the 25-percent increase in Chihuahuas registered. I’m not sure Americans would think of Chihuahuas as exotic. However, being the numbers nerd that I am, I do find it meaningful that the 24 native breeds on the Kennel Club’s vulnerable breeds list had a total of 3,000 registrations last year, while the Chihuahua had 6,000 alone.

I think scapegoating the American Hilton is another example of the BBC ignoring its own homegrown problem, the British animal rights movement. Five of the above were bred for hunting, a pursuit denied to most British residents. What really shocked me was that the Kennel Club has recently added the English Setter to its list of vulnerable breeds. The quintessential British bird dog had only 234 registrations in 2011, a third of what it had a decade before. I think the term “vulnerable” is typical British understatement. I prefer the term “endangered.” I would like to see these breeds given the same consideration that the purebred-dog-hating animal rights lobby accords the snail darter and the spotted owl.

Just think, you could be going through your photos with your kids or grandkids in a few years and they’ll say, “What kind of dog is that?” and you’ll say, “That’s an Otterhound. They’re extinct now.” And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.
  • Sandy Mesmer August 29, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    I agree that we are in danger of losing some of these breeds. However I would love to also see an article about breeds that were thought to be in decent shape registration wise but have plummeted over the last several years. An example is my own breed Silky Terriers who were ranked in the 60s 20 years ago but are now in the 90s. There are more Standard Schnauzers registered in the US than Silky Terriers.

  • Helen Howard August 29, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    I own Field Spaniels and Irish Water Spaniels…the latter was on the “endangered” list until recently I believe. Its fairly scary to know that the country from which your breed came, seems to be so glib about some of the “reasons” their population is in decline.
    Fields are a lovely, loving, and intelligent companion animal as well as a natural hunter, requiring very little orientation to get the job done. Additionally, we have some extremely nice examples of our breed in this country and Canada. What is the level of registrations required to be removed from the “List”..?
    Interesting article-thank you.

  • Mike Macbeth August 30, 2013 at 5:16 AM

    I have spend my adult life doing what I can to promote and perpetuate my beloved Dandie Dinmont Terriers. When I took over from my mother (who had bred them since the mid 1950’s), I would travel to Britain and sit at the feet of my three mentors who had 150 years of experience between them. They willingly helped a young enthusiastic breeder. I remember sitting up until 1:00 a.m. with the great Phyllis Salisbury who had pedigree records going back for years before the Kennel Club existed, tracing the bloodlines of one of my dogs back for dozens of generations.

    I am the receptacle of the words and wisdom and experience of those three great mentors, and any success I have had with my Dandies is due to their generosity. But today, no one wishes to be mentored.

    I have every book written on the Dandie, a huge collection of antiques and paintings, and most important of all, I have my dogs, dogs who are recognizable by their unique look and style (dare I say “type”?) What will become of them? I have spent years trying to perpetuate the breed, trying to breed beautiful, healthy, unique dogs. But there is no one to take over.

    The situation is the same in Britain .. the breeders are all older, we lose more and more every year. And no one is coming up to replace them.

    So I am not optimistic about the future of the Dandie Dinmont, one of the oldest, hardiest, and most unique Terriers .. and I am not optimistic about the Otterhound either ..

    Is it the end of an era? If so, it is a tragedy.

  • Doug Hill September 5, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Recently, I was asked to speak to a group at our local library about my Giant Schnauzers. I chose, instead, to use this opportunity to talk to this group about the future of working dogs, in general, in the 21st century. Dogs that were once and integral part of everyday work and life, and now, for many, are jobless.
    My discussion ended on a positive note, however. I had recently was asked to scribe a herding trial that was conducted on a farm whose livestock was primarily raised to be herded by dogs. Goats, sheep, cattle and ducks were all being raised to facilitate training and competition for dogs. While this is on a small scale, when famiiy farms start subsidizing their income by creating an environment to “work” dogs, every one benefits: the dogs, the people and the ducks.
    It is also apparent to me that many of our major cities need the hunting and ferreting skills of the “endangered” breeds, doing exactly what they were bred to do originally, kill vermin.
    Perhaps my vision of young folks raising and training ratters (good ratters with pedigrees and purpose) in Manhattan for pocket cash is a bit whacky but I think it is why many of these breeds existed in the first place and may be their salvation in the end. What’s old is new again.
    Doug Hill
    President, Giant Schnauzer Club of America

  • Becky Bucata
    Becky Bucata August 15, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Perhaps instead of the BBC pointing the finger at the public for a love of “exotic” breeds, or some clueless American heiress, they should take a look in the mirror. After all, it was their Pro-Animal Rights, Anti-Breeder, Anti-Purebred Dog documentary “Purebred Dogs Exposed” filled with distortion and outright fabrication that led to the Kennel Club’s knee-jerk reaction that has caused the sharp decline in breeding of purebred dogs in the UK. People that live in glass houses really should avoid throwing stones.

    Meanwhile, dedicated breeders across the globe will struggle to prevent these endangered breeds from disappearing.

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