As dog lovers and owners, the vast majority of us value the sheer diversity of dogs, and enjoy seeing dogs from all of the many different breeds kept in the UK when out and about. But some of our very special native dog breeds actually run the risk of dying out entirely, as year by year, demand for these dogs falls and fewer and fewer puppies are born to dogs of the breed. The UK Kennel Club classes a dog as a “vulnerable UK native breed” if the breed originated in the UK or Ireland, and is declining in numbers to the point that just 300 or fewer puppies of the breed are born each year. Dogs from a range of breed grouping are under threat, and run the risk of ultimate extinction within the UK entirely over the coming decades if their numbers are not increased.
In this article, we will introduce you to the vulnerable UK native dog breeds within the Pastoral, Toy, and Working groupings.
The Smooth Collie is a shorthaired version of the better-known Rough Collie (the “Lassie” dog), which originated in Scotland. Traditionally used for herding and shepherding work, the Smooth Collie rose in popularity under Queen Victoria’s reign, when she selected some Smooth Collies for addition to her own kennels after a visit to Scotland. Consequently, interest in and demand for the Smooth Collie grew, and the breed became a popular pet dog across much of the UK, as well as a working dog in its native Scotland. However, the Smooth Collie’s numbers have been on a gradual decline since the middle of the 20th century, with the rising popularity of the Border Collie and Rough Collie leading to a fall in their numbers. In 2011, just 75 Smooth Collie puppies were registered with the UK Kennel Club.
The Lancashire Heeler is a small, compact and short-legged dog that was developed for droving and herding cattle. They are intelligent, alert and active little dogs that require plenty of exercise and can become easily bored! They are particularly renowned for being strong for their size, and can carry or drag objects as large and heavy as themselves with ease. They are also hardy and relatively long-lived for a small pedigree dog, living on average for around 12-15 years or even longer.
The Kennel Club classes the Lancashire Heeler as a vulnerable UK native breed, as just 98 Lancashire Heeler puppies were registered with The Kennel Club in2011.
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is the less common of the two Corgi variants, and has not enjoyed the same popularity outside of Wales as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. With the Pembroke Welsh Corgi being the dog of choice of HM Queen Elizabeth II, this is somewhat understandable, as Royal ownership tends to raise interest with the general public of their breeds of choice. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi makes an excellent pet and companion, although the Corgi was bred to be a working dog and to assist with the herding of livestock. In 2011, The Kennel Club registered just 108 new puppies of the breed.
The King Charles Spaniel should not be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and is sometimes referred to as the English Toy Spaniel for clarity. Although the breed is thought to have had its origins in the Middle East, the King Charles Spaniel is classed as a native UK breed, having been bred and developed within the UK since at least the 1600’s. The King Charles Spaniel makes an excellent lapdog and pet, and the King Charles Spaniel is not considered to be at heightened risk of developing syringomyelia, unlike the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. During 2011, just 180 new King Charles Spaniel puppies were born and registered.
The English Toy Terrier is a small, compact terrier with a black and tan body pattern similar to that of the Doberman Pinscher. Thought to be closely related to the Manchester Terrier, The English Toy Terrier is extremely nimble and quick on its feet, and is lauded for its superior ratting skills. The English Toy Terrier has a very distinctive running gait, likened to the appearance of the extended trot of horses and ponies. In 2011, just 95 new English Toy Terrier births were registered, and the UK Kennel Club is making a concerted effort to raise the profile of the breed and increase their numbers.
The only dog from within the Working group to make the vulnerable list is the Mastiff or English Mastiff, a larger than life dog with an impressive appearance and calm temperament. Despite their fearsome bark and rather imposing size, they are friendly, trustworthy and loyal. The male Mastiff weighs on average 250lb, with the largest registered dog of the breed reaching over 340lb. The Mastiff is considered to be the world’s largest dog breed based on mass.
The Mastiff’s breed registration numbers year on year generally hover around the 300 mark, meaning that the Mastiff is a regular visitor to the vulnerable breeds list due to their declining numbers.