980 GOING, GOING, ALMOST GONE - breeds under threat

GOING, GOING, ALMOST GONE! Breeds under Threat
by   David Hancock

In 2016, the Kennel Club listed 20 breeds of dog, registered with them, as being 'vulnerable', that is, at risk of being lost to us in the foreseeable future. They list a further 7 breeds as being under threat but fielding more numbers newly registered each year. Both lists make depressing reading for they feature a number of native breeds once treasured but now abandoned. Human fickleness is behind this problem - with the annual introduction of exotic breeds from faraway places and, conversely, the 'fashion of the day' syndrome contributing hugely. It is foolish to bring in Korean Jindos, Mexican Hairless Dogs and Canaan Dogs from Israel not only when our own minor spaniel breeds like the Field and the Sussex are fading fast but when such casually-introduced breeds do not prosper here. Do we truly need too another 4,000 French Bulldogs and another 10,000 Pugs each year when our Skye and Sealyham Terriers are fast disappearing? Our two Corgi breeds together only attract under 500 registrations a year but as small companion dogs have so much to offer.

It is irresponsible of the KC to allow the importation and subsequent registration of sighthound breeds like the Azawakh and the Sloughi when our own ancient Scottish breed, the Deerhound is struggling. In the past they have recognised the Pharaoh Hound and the Ibizan Hound, with only 4 of the former and 15 of the latter breed being registered in 2015. Introductions by enthusiasts have temporary appeal for those seeking the unusual but actually punishes our own breeds. As our Manchester and Norwich Terriers slowly disappear, and when the Dandie Dinmont Terrier and the Kerry Blue badly need support, why promote the Australian and the Cesky Terriers? The fading numbers of the Irish and Welsh Terriers are a worry; the Miniature Bull Terrier and the English Toy Terrier (Black and Tan) could soon be lost to us too.

A century or so ago, we lost the English White Terrier and the English Water Spaniel from the KC lists altogether, (although the KC does recognise the American Water Spaniel!); we also failed to recognise old pastoral breeds, like the Smithfield Sheepdog of England, Welsh breeds like the Hillman, Old Welsh Grey and Black and Tan Sheepdog and Irish breeds like the Galway Sheepdog and the Glenwherry Collie. It is understandable for sporting hound-breeds like the Welsh Foxhound, the Fell Hound and the Trail Hound not to be recognised  - they belong in their own sporting communities. The Harrier was once listed as a breed by the KC but has the protection of the packs. Only 8 Foxhounds were registered with the KC in 2015 but is not exactly in short supply away from the show ring. The Bloodhound can muster only 70-odd registrations a year with the KC but the packs can provide reinforcements - if allowed (forbidden in the recent past). The Otterhound has become a victim of changes in the law and, as a distinct breed, may well go, with only 34 being registered in 2015. The Staghound has had a change in role and is unrecognised by the KC who are content to promote a similar breed, the Hamiltonstovare from Sweden. Kennel Club recognition and promotion really does matter! 

In the gundog ranks, it is sad to see the admirable Curly-coated Retriever unfavoured (only around 80 a year) when the Labrador Retriever is threatened by
over-popularity (well over 30,000 each year). Over 3,000 gundogs from Germany are registered each year, whilst the attractive Welsh Springer Spaniel and the long-established English Setter go on to the 'at watch' list. Do our native breeds not matter to us? We register more Italian gundogs each year than six of our native gundog breeds combined! It does seem weird to recognise foreign breeds like the Segugio Italiano, the Portuguese Podengo and the Cirneco dell'Etna from Sicily in tiny numbers, whilst not encouraging improved stock like the Working Clumber Spaniel at home. Emergent terrier breeds like the Sporting Lucas, the Plummer and the Fell and Patterdale Terriers of Northern England, as well as the English Deerhound, have to go to overseas kennel clubs like America's UKC so that their Breed Standard can be established. The KC is still fixated by pure-breeding yet still recognise the Eurasier, intentionally created from two separate breeds entirely on a human whim. How does that benefit long-established breeds that are struggling to gain support from the KC?

The KC too makes much of its desire to improve the health of dogs whilst registering stock bred to an unhealthy design, like the show ring Bulldog. Bulldog fanciers appalled by the harm done to the breed by the show ring fanciers have commendably bred their own types, like the Victorian Bulldog, the Sussex Bulldog and the Dorset Bulldog. I have judged such dogs and been really impressed by their soundness and type - many are much more like the famous Bulldog models-of-the-breed Rosa and Crib! Why not step towards such well-intentioned breeders and rebuild this breed, almost destroyed under KC patronage? Seven thousand Bulldogs are registered annually but far too many should never be bred from, as they are structurally unsound. The Bulldog may not be on the vulnerable breeds list because of numbers but this breed is 'at risk' from its own bad breeding, condoned for far too long by the KC. Do Breed Clubs run the breeds or does the parent body have no say in breed condition or irresponsible breeding? The show Basset Hound could come under this 'at risk to its own breeders' list! The Hunting or English Basset Hound enthusiasts shame the show fanciers but get no credit from the KC for breeding a much better Basset Hound. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was similarly created because one influential King Charles Spaniel breeder realised that his breed was being ruined. In 2015, less than 150 King Charles Spaniels (now a vulnerable breed) were registered against well over 4,000 Cavaliers; that is exactly what should be attempted with the Bulldog and the Basset Hound - the recognition of a better dog!

In the past, the KC has permitted the use of Springer blood to revitalise the Field Spaniel and Greyhound blood to relaunch the Scottish Deerhound. Why not now save the Bulldog, the Basset Hound and the Mastiff by bringing in fresh blood from other breeds? In Australia the blend of a fine racing Greyhound and a sound Mastiff has produced outstanding offspring already imported into Holland to improve Irish Wolfhound stock there. That is how to handle breeds threatened not just by unpopularity but by imposed malformation by breeders, backed by misguided Breed Clubs. The giant gap between those who use dogs and those who just show them must be reduced - by the KC, who could so easily establish breeding advisors, supported by geneticists, to ensure the soundness of anatomy and the reduction of inheritable defects in so doing. Every foreign breed coming into the UK has valuable genes but pure-breeding, as a basic philosophy, denies its use - something our distant ancestors would have found more than odd.      

I admire many foreign breeds and will always welcome sound canine stock to the UK. German breeds like their shepherd dog and pointers are established here on sheer merit, although the show ring has tried hard to spoil the former. But every country should avoid importing breeds based on temporary enthusiasm and transient interest. Here in 2015, breeds registered with the KC such as the Small Munsterlander, the American Water Spaniel, the Canadian Eskimo Dog, the Greenland Dog, the Pyrenean Mastiff, the Hungarian Kuvasz, the Swedish Lapphund, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, the Segugio Italiano and the Sloughi had no registrations at all. How have these breeds benefitted from KC recognition? But, for dramatically different reasons, how has the breed of Pug gained by the importation of over a thousand from Eastern Europe into the UK in recent years? I have seen several with flat faces causing distressing breathing problems, weepy eyes inhibiting sight, bent front legs and straight stifles detracting from sound movement and quite appalling dentition. They were registered with our KC and were bred from! If only the craze for Pugs could shift to a frenzy for our vulnerable, and twice as healthy, native breeds!