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
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.