HMV dog breed 'on brink of extinction'

The famous HMV trademark features what is thought to be a Smooth Fox Terrier - HMV
The famous HMV trademark features what is thought to be a Smooth Fox Terrier - HMV

The HMV dog is on the brink of extinction after suffering a 97 per cent collapse in annual puppy births, official figures show.

Nipper, the HMV dog, lived in the late 19th century and is believed to have been a Smooth Fox Terrier which data shows is the breed to suffer the biggest swing in its fortunes in the 150-year history of the Kennel Club.

The breed has seen a 97 per cent decline in annual birth registrations since its heyday in 1926, the most of any breed.

Nipper was a model dog with a penchant for nipping at the heels of visitors and the small dog featured in a painting called “His Master’s Voice” in the 1890s.

Nipper, staring into a large gramophone, became synonymous with the 20th century music industry and is now perhaps best known as the logo of HMV.

Nipper was born in 1884 and died in 1895 and his use in advertising after his death may have been partly responsible for the increasing popularity of the Smooth Fox Terrier in the early 20th century as the breed briefly became the most popular dog in the UK in the 1900s.

There were just 90 Smooth Fox Terrier puppies registered in 2022 - John McKeen/Getty Images
There were just 90 Smooth Fox Terrier puppies registered in 2022 - John McKeen/Getty Images

Official registrations reached their peak for the breed in 1926 when 2,840 puppies were registered by the Kennel Club in a single year.

However, due to an increase in popularity of other breeds and few high-profile celebrity advocates of the Smooth Fox Terrier their numbers plummeted in the second half of the 20th century, with this trend continuing into the early 21st century.

There were just 90 Smooth Fox Terrier puppies registered in 2022, Kennel Club figures show, a dramatic 97 per cent decline from the breed’s zenith of almost a century ago.

The HMV breed was the sixth most popular breed from 1925-1929 and its cousin, the Wire Fox Terrier, reigned as top dog for much of the 1920s until 1934 when it was overtaken by the Cocker Spaniel, further indicating how in vogue terriers were in the early 20th century.

The Smooth Fox Terrier remained in the top ten until 1945 but annual numbers steadily declined, reaching their lowest figure of 82 pup births registered in 2017.

But despite its recent woes, the legacy of Nipper will live on at Crufts next week with 61 Smooth Fox Terriers set to compete for best in show.

Bill Lambert, a spokesperson for Crufts and the Kennel Club, told The Telegraph: “The Fox Terrier (Smooth) is an ancient British breed and - due to the low numbers of puppies being born - is considered vulnerable in the UK, though it was once, at the start of the 20th century, the most popular breed in England.

‘Fearless, smart little dogs’

“The breed has a wonderful character with an expressive face and friendly character, but we recognise that the public is more easily influenced by the dogs that they commonly see on social media, with many other breeds getting overlooked or even forgotten.

“Like many terriers, Fox Terriers tend to be fearless, smart little dogs, but they are also affectionate with their owners, and can make a great fit for many who look beyond the obvious and popular choices.

“We hope Crufts helps to raise their profile. We have such a rich diversity of breeds, but if people don’t look beyond the most popular choices then there is a real danger we could lose them forever.”

The Sealyham Terrier, much like the Smooth Fox Terrier, was wildly popular in the inter-war period but has since fallen out of favour with Britons.

Records show that at the prime of the Sealyham’s popularity there were 2,617 puppies born in 1925. However, in 2022 there were just 138 puppies registered, a 95 per cent decline.

Both these classically British breeds are now classed as vulnerable by the Kennel Club, with concern over their long-term viability.

The breed with the third most extreme decline in fortunes since its heyday is the Old English Sheepdog, the Dulux dog breed, which has suffered a 94 per cent decline in popularity since its popularity peaked in 1979.

However, with 333 puppy registrations in 2022 it is not considered to be vulnerable but is instead “at watch” as the Kennel Club closely monitors its status.

PROFILE - Nipper, the HMV dog

Nipper was a dog born in Bristol in the mid-1880s and owned by Mark Henry Barraud before passing into the ownership of his brothers Philip and Francis upon Mark’s death in 1887, when Nipper was just three.

There is some uncertainty as to his breed, with early accounts stating he was a Smooth Fox Terrier, but others claiming he was a mongrel, and even some stating Nipper was a Jack Russell.

He got his name from his tendency to nip at the back of the legs of visitors. He died in 1895 and was buried at Clarence Street in Kingston upon Thames. The site is now home to a bank, with a plaque inside the branch commemorating the dog that lies underneath.

Nipper shot to fame posthumously when his last owner, Francis Barraud, painted Nipper next to a gramophone in 1898.

In 1898 Francis Barraud repainted Nipper with a brass gramophone of a Berliner disc design - PA
In 1898 Francis Barraud repainted Nipper with a brass gramophone of a Berliner disc design - PA

The original painting had a black gramophone and was a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. In 1898 Francis repainted the work with a brass gramophone of a Berliner disc design and sold the work in 1899 for £100 and it was registered as a trademark in 1900 and used to help sell record gramophones.

Nipper’s “His Master’s Voice” trademark was acquired by the Radio Corporation of America in 1929 and was the first appearance of a RCA dog “mascot”.

Nipper’s likeness went on to become an advertising heavyweight throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

The trademark is not used so often now but remains a mainstay of both HMV and RCA. In 1990, Nipper got a “son”, called Chipper, a puppy who resembles him.