According to recent registration numbers leaked from the American Kennel Club, over half of new purebred dog registrations every year come from just 10 breeds. The list includes beloved favorites like the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, and Yorkshire Terrier.
Everyone loves Labs and Boxers, but what about the breeds at the other end of the spectrum? Which breeds see dwindling registration numbers every year? AKC data can show us which breeds had exceptionally low registration numbers — often less than 100 in the world.
The UK Kennel Club is a little more thorough. One of its missions is to preserve breeds from Great Britain and Ireland that are in danger of disappearing. By sharing the registration numbers for little-known breeds each year, it hopes to encourage dog lovers and breeders to keep the rare genotypes alive.
This article is packed with adorable pictures of 12 of the rarest dog breeds still in existence. Each of these breeds is in danger of vanishing within a generation, but for now, they’re still here to warm our hearts.
1. Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Dandies are one of the rarest terrier breeds. These extremely cuddly balls of fur were once working dogs, hunting rodents with proud determination. Nowadays, they’re more likely to appear as family pets, looking a bit like a cross between a Dachshund and a bathmat.
Globally popular terriers like the Yorkie are well-known today because they were exported from the UK before the war years. Dandies weren’t so lucky. Food rationing during the First and Second World Wars forced breeders to stop mating them.
These energetic, fun-loving hunters have always been rare. Due to the Otterhound’s unique skill set — hunting in packs to drive river otters away from stocked fishing holes — lords and their gamekeepers wanted to keep them a guarded secret.
In 1978, when the UK government made it illegal to hunt otters, the Otterhound fell out of fashion. Today, we mainly know the breed through a few litters that immigrated to America. There are currently about as many Otterhounds in the world as there are Whooping Cranes.
3. Skye Terrier
The endlessly lovable Skye Terrier mixes the squat stature of a terrier with the shaggy coat of an Old English Sheepdog. Bred as an exterminator, the Skye became a companion animal of English and Scottish nobility.
Skyes have inspired as many British legends as they’ve got hairs. Mary, Queen of Scots, was said to have brought one to her execution. A Skye named Greyfriars Bobby spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave in Edinburgh. Queen Victoria famously loved them and popularized a variety with pointed ears.
In the modern age, they’ve fallen by the wayside as new designer breeds take over. However, Skye lovers are working hard to stage a comeback.
The Chinook, a tough, level-headed working breed, is a favorite among rural New Englanders. They’re famous for their love of children and their ability to master almost any job.
In 1965, they were the rarest breed in the world (according to no less an authority than the Guinness Book of World Records). While their defenders have managed to stabilize the world’s Chinook population, they still rank in the bottom 10 breeds according to AKC.
5. German Pinscher
In 2003, the German Pinscher was named Endangered Dog of the Year by the organizers of National Purebred Dog Day. This breed, whose members are often mistaken for Dobermans, has a similar tale of woe to many others: the World Wars ravaged Germany and choked off new litters.
For roughly ten years (1949 to 1958), not a single German Pinscher was whelped. The breed was functionally extinct until Werner Jung smuggled several other Pinscher types out of Soviet-controlled East Germany, and used them to breed a litter of German Pinscher puppies. Almost all German Pinschers today are descended from Jung’s first litter.
The mournful Bloodhound is one of the world’s most recognizable breeds. Its sad eyes and drooping ears practically coined the term “hangdog.” Famous for starring in Disney movies like Lady and the Tramp and The Fox and the Hound, Bloodhounds are extraordinary trackers, but not hunters — once they’ve found their quarry, they more often than not try to play with it.
This gentleness makes them ideal family pets, but the Bloodhound’s popularity is on the wane. According to the UK Kennel Club, only 88 purebreds were registered in 2017.
7. Scottish Deerhound
The good-natured, long-legged Deerhounds are as Scottish as bagpipes and caber tossing. Their origins are lost in the mists of time, but some say they were brought to Scotland by the Phoenicians 1,000 years before Hadrian’s Wall.
Since then, the Scottish Deerhound has remained surprisingly unchanged. Advocates are attempting to preserve the breed as a kind of living history museum.
8. Glen of Imaal Terrier
If you love Terriers but would find a Yorkie too much of a diva for your tastes, the down-to-earth Glen of Imaal Terrier might be the breed for you. Hailing from the remote Irish region of the same name, these pooches — called “Glens” by their admirers — might remind you of the sturdy dogs from beloved children’s books about farm life.
Like many other Terriers, Glens suffered during wartime rationing, and the UK Kennel Club now considers them at risk of extinction.
9. Curly-Coated Retriever
Labradors and Goldens get all the glory in the Retriever world, but these highly intelligent gun dogs shouldn’t be counted out. The Curly-Coated Retrievers are known for their tightly-packed curls, proud demeanors, and high energy levels, making them good pets for a big family of runners and hikers.
10. Sussex Spaniel
When most people first meet a Sussex Spaniel, the dog can seem like a slow-paced couch potato. That’s why it’s so surprising that they need about two hours of exercise every day. Bred as bird dogs — a job that gave them plenty of chances to run — Sussex Spaniel registrations have declined along with the popularity of hunting in the UK.
11. Pembrokeshire Welsh Corgi
Much like Queen Victoria’s patronage couldn’t save the Skye Terrier’s numbers from decline, Queen Elizabeth II’s famous love for Pembrokeshire Corgis hasn’t done much for their registration worldwide. Despite being both the Queen’s favorite dog and the internet’s, only about 300 purebreds are left in Britain.
12. Smooth Collie
The Smooth Collie is a little-known short-haired cousin of the more famous Rough and Border Collies. Collies, as a whole, have seen their popularity drop in recent years, possibly because of their reputation as one of the loudest-barking breeds.
Though these breeds are rare right now, there’s always hope. After the communist revolution in China decimated the country’s imperial companion dogs, only 12 Shih Tzus remained in the world. Due to the tireless work of dog lovers, Shih Tzus now appear on the AKC’s annual top 10 list.
If you adopt a rare purebred, prepare to serve as its ambassador. Be patient with people who think your pup is a different breed. They’ve probably never seen a Dandie or a Glen of Imaal before.
If you love a rare type of dog, you might even be responsible for a rebound in its popularity. Entering your pooch in a dog show can be a treat — they’ll get plenty of attention standing out from the endless sea of Beagles.
Featured Image Credit: Huckleberry14, Shutterstock