Lassie and Snowy breeds on Kennel Club's 'at watch' list for first time

A collie, a breed that is now far less popular with dog owners
The breeds famed as Lassie and Snowy have been placed on the “at watch” list by the Kennel Club for the first time - Omica Photography / 500px/500px

The breeds famed as Lassie and Snowy have been placed on the “at watch” list by the Kennel Club for the first time as their popularity with owners in the UK plummets.

Official data show that just 431 rough collies and 378 wire fox terriers were born and registered in 2023, which falls below the 450 threshold for being an “at watch” breed.

Rough collies have declined around 95 per cent since the breed’s heyday in 1979, four years after the TV show ended, when more than 8,000 puppies were born in the UK.

Snowy, and the wire fox terrier, have seen a similar decline since their peak in 1947, which was in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and at the height of mania for Herge’s “Adventures of Tintin”.

Any of the 222 Kennel Club breeds that record less than 450 births in a calendar year are put on this list, and any with less than 300 are considered “vulnerable”.

Iconic British breeds from the 20th century are experiencing an unprecedented fall in popularity with modern owners with other famed dogs on the decline.

Everyone wants a dachshund at the moment
Everyone wants a dachshund at the moment - Vsevolod Vlasenko/Moment RF

Notable other breeds on the watchlist include the cairn terrier, which counts Toto from the Wizard of Oz as its most famous member; the Dulux mascot, the Old English sheepdog; and the Scottish terrier, a dog so synonymous with British identity it is immortalised as a Monopoly piece and an emblem for Radley handbags and Walker’s shortbread.

There were 437 Totos registered last year, data show, which is more than the 359 Dulux dogs and 406 Scotties. In the late 1930s, only the cocker spaniel and the wire fox terrier were more popular than the Scottish terrier.

The Bedlington terrier, bullmastiff, Norfolk terrier, Parson Russell terrier, pointer and Welsh terrier are the other breeds on the watch list.

More breeds than ever before are now either at watch or vulnerable, the Kennel Club said, despite there being a record number of dogs in the country. There were just 27 vulnerable breeds a decade ago, with there now being 35 classed as vulnerable and 11 others at watch.

A majority of owners are now focusing on a small number of popular and trendy breeds, driven by celebrity endorsements and social media, which is seeing a smaller number of breeds account for a larger proportion of pet dogs.

Dachshunds and Bernese mountain dogs are among the breeds seeing the biggest surge in popularity this year, as they become the latest darlings of online influencers.

Bernese mountain dogs have seen a 24 per cent increase in popularity compared to 2022, more than any other breed, followed by dachshunds at 20 per cent, English setters at 18 per cent, Yorkie’s at 14 per cent and the Jack Russell terrier, a favourite of the King and Queen, also up 14 per cent.

Bernese mountain dogs are among the breeds seeing a huge surge in popularity
Bernese mountain dogs are among the breeds seeing a huge surge in popularity - Andrew Hingston/Moment RF

Bill Lambert, a Kennel Club spokesperson, said that just 10 breeds now account for “the vast majority of dogs that you will meet” in Britain.

“People often opt for the well-known choices and simply forget to dig a little deeper, with the worrying knock-on effect that not only are some of our most iconic breeds in decline, but also that people might not be getting the perfect match for them,” he said.

“The difficulty is, of course, that opportunities to meet less popular breeds of dogs are limited.”

A “discover dogs” zone at Crufts, which starts on March 7 in Birmingham, hopes to combat this by introducing people to breeds they may not have encountered before.

“Visitors can talk to experts and meet any of the 222 breeds, from the most popular to vulnerable breeds, and a huge variety in between, including breeds that are new to the UK’s shores and those that yodel instead of bark,” Mr Lambert added.

“We want people to enjoy lifelong relationships with their four-legged friends and urge potential dog owners to do their research, to meet the huge variety of breeds, and to use the information and resources we provide at Crufts and online, to really understand which breed and which breeder is right for them.”