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British dogs decline in favour of ‘exotic’ breeds

BRITISH DOGS may have had their day, according to a report published last week which found an alarming decline in the popularity of traditional breeds.

Dogs such as the Old English sheepdog, King Charles Spaniel and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, favoured by the Queen, face an uncertain future as they are supplanted as man's best friend by foreign breeds.

Registration figures from the Kennel Club, reported in the latest edition of Country Life, but published in OUR DOGS some weeks ago, show that of the 60 native breeds on its books, two thirds have been in decline over the past 10 years.

The Yorkshire terrier has emerged as the biggest casualty in Britain's new-found obsession with foreign dogs, with registrations falling to 4,222 last year, almost a 70 per cent drop since in the ten years 1993.

Close behind are the Old English sheepdog (63 per cent), the Sealyham Terrier (61 per cent), the Pembroke Welsh Corgi (59 per cent) and the Rough Collie (58 per cent).

Registrations for Skye terriers dropped by 50 per cent, King Charles Spaniels by 43 per cent and English setters by 44 per cent.

Slightly rarer British breeds with fewer than 100 registrations last year included the Otterhound (54), the Curly-coated Retriever (79), the Sussex spaniel (82), the Smooth Collie (85) and the Manchester Terrier (86).

Taking their places on sofas across the country are breeds such as the Bolognese, the Nova Scotia duck Tolling Retriever, the Segugio Italiano and the Japanese Akita, according to Phil Buckley, of the Kennel Club.

Asked why native dogs were falling out of favour, he said that British animal lovers were enticed by the exotic names of foreign dogs.

They were also influenced by popular Hollywood films and by the pets chosen by celebrities, including Geri Halliwell, the singer, who is frequently photographed with her Shih Tzu dog.

"After 101 Dalmatians we were inundated with inquiries from people wanting to buy a Dalmatian," said Mr Buckley. "It was the same after the film Turner and Hooch starring Tom Hanks. All of a sudden everybody wanted a Dogue de Bordeaux for a pet."

While acknowledging that British dogs were declining in popularity, he said it was "out of the question" that any breed would become extinct. "We would not allow it to happen," he said.

"If it got to the stage where we were seriously concerned by falling numbers we would talk to breeders to see how what we could do to protect our breeds."

He also pointed out that three of the five most popular dogs last year were British, including the Cocker Spaniel which came third with 13,417 registrations and the English Springer spaniel which came fourth (12,431). The Labrador Retriever topped the list with 35,996 registrations, while the German Shepherd came in second position (14,177) and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier came fifth (10,711).

Fans of the Bulldog, the staunch symbol of the British, need not worry. There were 1,936 registrations last year, less than a one per cent fall over 10 years.