Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

Dog Breeds Vulnerable to Extinction in the United States

10 dog breeds account for half of AKC registrations while others near extinction

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English Foxhounds

In a previous article I talked about the list of "vulnerable dog breeds" which is posted by the British Kennel Club (see here). This list includes those breeds of dogs for which the annual registration number is less than 300. The British Kennel Club worries that breeds with such low registration statistics may be in danger of disappearing. In that article I noted that the Queen's Pembroke Welsh Corgis were among those listed as vulnerable. A number of people protested that Corgis are not nearing extinction in the United States since they rank 24th in the most recent list of registrations provided by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Obviously there are geographic differences in the popularity of dog breeds. On the basis of such considerations, some other people asked me if the AKC also kept a list of dog breeds which appear to be nearing extinction in America, and if so, could I provide it.

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Unfortunately the AKC does not keep a list of vulnerable breeds, and for reasons known only to that organization they have lately decided to no longer post the actual breed registration numbers. However, even without the computer hacking skills of someone like Edward Snowden, I managed to find a friendly "spy" in the AKC who provided me with a recent set of registration numbers. Upon looking at that data I found some real surprises.

Of the total number of dogs that are registered by the AKC more than half are accounted for by just 10 breeds. They are the:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Beagle
  • English Bulldog
  • Boxer
  • Dachshund
  • Poodle
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier

According to my calculations the 50 rarest breeds (those that have the lowest registration numbers) in the AKC, account for only 1.2 percent of all of all of the dogs in the American Kennel Club Registry. To give you an idea of what that means let's suppose that we gathered together 1000 dogs, all of which were purebred, and all of which were registered in the AKC. In that group of 1000 dogs just 12 AKC registered dogs would come from any of the 50 breeds listed here.

  • Spinoni Italiani
  • Bluetick Coonhound
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Redbone Coonhound
  • Australian Terrier
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Briard
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • Irish Terrier
  • Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeen
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Field Spaniel
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Plott
  • Black Russian Terrier
  • Affenpinscher
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • German Pinscher
  • Greyhound
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Scottish Deerhound
  • Swedish Vallhund
  • American Water Spaniel
  • Kuvasz
  • Pulik
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • Lowchen
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Polish Lowland Sheepdog
  • Irish Red and White Setter
  • Ibizan Hound
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Beauceron
  • Komondor
  • Sussex Spaniel
  • Pharaoh Hound
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Finnish Spitz
  • Norwegian Buhund
  • Skye Terrier
  • Otterhound
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Canaan Dog
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Harrier
  • American Foxhound
  • English Foxhound

In effect then, this list of dog breeds might be considered to be the American Kennel Club's equivalent of the British Kennel Club's list of vulnerable dog breeds.

Some of the breeds that appear on this listing have low numbers because they have only recently been recognized by the AKC. This includes breeds like the Irish Red and White Setter or Black Russian Terrier, and it is possible that such "new breeds" may yet grow in popularity. However some of the dogs listed here are venerable breeds with long histories, such as American Foxhounds, English Foxhounds and Otterhounds. These are teetering on the edge of extinction because of laws that restrict or ban the hunting of foxes or otters with dogs. Some others of these older breeds, like the Sealyham Terrier, Field Spaniel and Curly Coated Retriever, have simply fallen in popularity for reasons which are not clear.

There are obviously historical trends and changes in tastes and preferences for various dog breeds. For example, when the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884 it recognized only nine dog breeds. They were the:

  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • Gordon Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Pointer
  • Sussex Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel (The American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel were registered as the same dog breed until 1946)

None of these breeds is now represented in the top 10 most popular breeds according to the most current registration statistics. In addition, three of these nine founding breeds — the Clumber Spaniel, Irish Water Spaniel and the Sussex Spaniel — now have AKC registration numbers which are so low that it suggests that they may be in danger of ultimately becoming extinct.

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: The Wisdom of Dogs; Do Dogs Dream? Born to Bark; The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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