x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Some British dog breeds face extinction as fickle owners follow fashion

Celebrities' choices of dogs, and even the queen's penchant for corgis, are leading to fears that some native British breeds are on the verge of extinction.

An otterhound competes in a dog show. Only 38 otterhound births were registered across the whole of Britain last year. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo
An otterhound competes in a dog show. Only 38 otterhound births were registered across the whole of Britain last year. Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

LONDON // Celebrities' choices of dogs, and even the queen's penchant for corgis, are leading to fears that some native British breeds are on the verge of extinction.

Statistics released this week by the Kennel Club, the ruling body for breed specifications and registrations in the UK, show that dogs such as the English setter, King Charles spaniel, deerhound and Skye terrier are in danger of disappearing.

In particular, the otterhound population has now reached critical levels. There are only three breeders left in the UK and, during 2011, only 38 puppies were registered across the whole of the country. Worldwide, some 600 otterhounds are believed to exist, though few are considered to be suitable for breeding.

Meanwhile, the tiny Chihuahua - the much-photographed favourite of the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Paris Hilton - has gone from strength to strength with some 6,000 puppies registered with the Kennel Club in 2011.

Last year's royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton also appears to have led to a surge in popularity of Welsh corgis, the queen's favourite dog. Registrations of the breed leapt a huge 134 per cent on the 2010 figure.

"Celebrities, popular culture and fashion play a big part in today's society and, unfortunately, dogs are not immune from our fickle tastes," said Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club.

"This, unfortunately, is reflected in the growing number of exotic breeds seen coming into our breed rescue societies, as people realise that they can't give them the exercise, grooming or other care that they need."

What nobody has been able to explain, though, is why the Siberian husky has become so popular. The Kennel Club says its numbers have trebled over the past decade.

Breeds are added to the club's endangered list when annual registrations fall below 300. The English setter joined a list of 25 others for the first time this month, though most concern continues to centre on the otterhound.

Pam Marston-Pollock, the chair of the UK Otterhound Club, said that owners of the large, rough-coated breed were getting so concerned at the narrowness of the gene pool that enthusiasts had held a meeting recently to discuss "outcrossing" with another breed.

"As far as the show world is concerned, we don't have many younger people involved with the breed," she told BBC News. "The established breeders who have been around for 30 years are either dying off or aren't keeping as many hounds.

"It's a sign of the times, generally, that keeping substantially sized hounds is quite expensive."

dsapsted@thenational.ae