Snowy the dog took on all manner of adversity throughout The Adventures of Tintin, but the plucky wire fox terrier is now facing its biggest threat yet: extinction.
The traditional British breed, made famous by Herge’s books, has seen a 94 per cent decline in numbers since its height in 1947, data show.
Fewer than 300 of the dogs have been registered by the Kennel Club so far in 2023, a far cry from its peak of more than 8,000 annual registrations in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The antics of Herge’s quiffed hero Tintin and his canine comrade drove interest in the breed in the UK which saw the wire fox terrier claim top spot in the popularity rankings in 1947.
It was a staple breed for British society for decades with Queen Victoria and King Edward VII believed to have been owners. However, the recent decline has come as foreign, toy and novelty dogs are preferred and trends shift rapidly, often driven by social media.
Bill Lambert, a spokesperson for the Kennel Club, warned there was a “real danger” the terrier could be lost forever as so far in 2023 there have been just 281 registered with the Kennel Club, 78 fewer than this time last year.
The 21 per cent year-on-year decline is part of a rapid fall from grace with the breed shrinking by 30 per cent in the last five years.
However, despite an alarming drop, the breed is still performing better than many others.
The Kennel Club has 27 breeds in its terrier category and there are only seven with higher registrations in 2022 than the wire fox terrier.
The airedale terrier (537), border terrier (4,494), bull terrier (1,855), cairn terrier (492), Scottish terrier (584), Staffordshire bull terrier (6,561) and West Highland white terrier (1,403) had higher births.
However, some terrier breeds are in dire straits with fewer than 100 registrations last year, with the rarest being the Australian terrier at just 33.
The cesky terrier (43), the smooth fox terrier (90), and the sky terrier (71) are also in a parlous state.
The smooth fox terrier, the silky-furred cousin of snowy, had an inter-war peak that preceded that of its wiry brethren.
Growing list of vulnerable dogs
Figures show that the smooth fox terrier is the dog breed to see the biggest fall in popularity relative to its own peak.
The breed — which shot to fame thanks to Nipper, the HMV dog — suffered an unprecedented 97 per cent drop in registrations in 2022 from its all-time high in 1926.
Mr Lambert said: “There were just 27 vulnerable dog breeds a decade ago.
“There are now another eight breeds either vulnerable or at risk, with the wire fox terrier sadly looking likely to join this growing list.
“We have such a rich diversity of breeds, so we urge the British public to find out more about the lesser-known breeds, especially those who are at risk of disappearing.
“Crufts, taking place in March, will have a dedicated Discover Dogs zone, and we really want to encourage potential puppy owners to come along and not only discover more about over 200 breeds, including those that are vulnerable, but also talk to experts to find out if they are right for them.”