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Foreign breeds thrive thanks to pet passports

NOW THAT the Pets Travel Scheme has been running for four years, it has triggered such a rush by dog-lovers to import new breeds that some pundits believe within ten years continental breeds could dominate British dog shows. The Kennel Club is being ‘inundated’ with requests from breeders to register new varieties. One of them, the Pyrenean Mastiff, will make its debut at Crufts next week.

According to The Times on Monday of this week, three-year-old Sophie, or Victoria De La Tajadera Del Tio Roy with Zalute, as she is known competitively, is the first Pyrenean Mastiff in the country. Her owner, Mary Dunk, from Coventry, has persuaded the Kennel Club to recognise the breed with an official pedigree club. But under KC rules, any new breed club must have a membership of ten, however, before breed standards will be set, thus making it likely to be a two to three year wait before a Pyrenean Mastiff can compete at Crufts.

Mrs Dunk is a breeder of champion Pyrenean Mountain Dogs but has always been keen to breed the Pyrenean Mastiff, pictured right.


It looks like a St Bernard, hardly ever barks and is very good with children. The breed originated in Spain, where it was used by shepherds to move their flocks from the plains below the Pyrenees to graze in the high mountain valleys.

It was not until four years ago, however, when the Government allowed dogs to enter the country under the PETS scheme without spending six months in quarantine, provided that they were microchipped and vaccinated against rabies, that Mrs Dunk could realise her ambition.

She identified the best breeder in Spain as Rafael Malo Alcrudo, from near Madrid. Mrs Dunk said: "I went to the best in the world because I wanted to make sure we would be breeding from top pedigree stock."

After three visits to Spain she bought Sophie in pup and now has three young mastiffs. Mrs Dunk has kept one, Zuera, which she hopes will become a champion show dog.

She said: "Hundreds of people have stopped me to ask about the dogs. The Mastiffs are more sedate. They are also very gentle and light on their feet. Luckily Rafael trained Sophie to obey English commands, so we got on well from the start."

Mrs Dunk said that the project had cost about £4,000 in trips to Spain and stud fees. She believes that mastiff puppies will sell in Britain for £900 to £1,000.

The Times goes onto speculate that the next breeds to be given official recognition by the Kennel Club will be the Azawakh, the Eurasier and the Portuguese Podengo.

The Azawakh originates in Africa and was developed for speed and staying power in an intensely hot climate. It resembles a Saluki. The Eurasier was developed in the 1960s in Europe and Asia and is a cross between a Chow and a Spitz. It is an elegant dog, intelligent and good with children. The Portuguese Podengo is a hunting hound that is hardy, adaptable and happy. It is a popular urban pet in Portugal and thrives in all weathers.

A Kennel Club spokesman said that it recognised 201 out of 500 canine breeds in the world, but he expected this to change significantly.

"Since the advent of the pet travel scheme in 2000, more than 50,000 dogs have travelled to and from the UK, so it’s no real surprise that some owners are now importing new breeds and requesting them to be registered."

He said that the trend was likely to continue because the British were recognised worldwide for their excellent dog breeding skills and people frequently approached British dog breeders for advice.

Other breeds registered with the Kennel Club since the PETS came in are the Lagotto Romagnolo, the Havanese, the Canadian Eskimo Dog, the Bolognese and the Cirnecco dell’Etna.

But before the popular press starts a scare campaign about a mass influx of foreign asylum-seeker-like breeds, readers can content themselves with knowing that some old British favourites are still top dogs in the UK:

 1 Labrador Retriever
 2 German shepherd dog
 3 Cocker spaniel
 4 English springer spaniel
 5 Staffordshire bull terrier
 6 Golden retriever
 7 Cavalier King Charles spaniel
 8 West Highland White terrier
 9 Boxer
10 Border terrier

The PETS scheme was introduced for dogs and cats travelling from certain European countries on 28 February 2000. The Scheme was extended to Cyprus, Malta and certain ‘Long Haul’ countries and territories, including Japan and Australia on 31 January 2001. Bahrain joined on 1 May 2002. Mainland USA and Canada joined on 11 December 2002