Old English Sheepdog back from the brink as Britain sees a resurgence of endangered breeds in 2021

  • The iconic Old English Sheepdog comes off The Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable breeds
  • New data released by the dog welfare organisation shows a resurgence amongst some of Britain’s most endangered breeds
  • Organisers hope that Crufts, taking place in a fortnight, will help to raise the profile of forgotten breeds and introduce the public to lesser-known British and Irish breeds

The Old English Sheepdog, one of Britain’s most recognisable breeds, saw a boost in popularity last year according to Crufts organisers, The Kennel Club, having been listed as ‘vulnerable’ for the first time in 2020. Following an increase of 66 per cent in puppy registrations in 2021, the breed, known to many as the ‘Dulux dog’, has been taken off the organisation’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list.

Since 2009, the Old English Sheepdog had been on The Kennel Club’s ‘At Watch’ list, which monitors breeds with between 300-450 puppy registrations a year, moving to the Vulnerable Native Breeds list in 2020 – devised for those British and Irish native breeds which have fallen below 300 annual puppy registrations and could be at risk of disappearing from our streets and parks.

There is further good news for many of Britain’s most endangered breeds, with the Bearded Collie and Miniature Bull Terrier also moving from Vulnerable to ‘At Watch’, and six breeds being removed from the ‘At Watch’ list altogether due to higher numbers of puppies in 2021. A total of 22 vulnerable breeds saw a popularity boost over the last year, with an overall increase of 44 per cent – higher than the national average of 39 per cent – suggesting that puppy buyers are starting to look beyond the popular and well-known choices when choosing a breed to fit their lifestyle.

In particular, 11 breeds that were classed as ‘vulnerable’ in 2020 saw a significant surge in registrations, far exceeding the national average, including the Skye Terrier, which nearly tripled its numbers in 2021 and the English Setter saw its popularity more than double. Both breeds had previously reached record low numbers in 2020.

There are now 29 Vulnerable Native Breeds in total, with four ‘At Watch’ breeds, compared to 32 Vulnerable Breeds in 2020 and seven ‘At Watch’ in 2020. In a rare opportunity, Britain’s vulnerable and at watch breeds will take the spotlight at Crufts in March, where they will have their own dedicated competition in the Resorts World Arena at the NEC and they will be meeting the public in the dedicated Discover Dogs zone.

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club said: “We are delighted to see that so many of our vulnerable native breeds saw a boost in popularity over the past year, indicating that many puppy buyers were resisting the urge to go for the most obvious and fashionable choices and instead using lockdown to properly research the full range of breeds and select the best fit for their lifestyle. We have such a wide variety of pedigree breeds in this country, each with completely different characteristics, so it is encouraging to see so much diversity amongst those that are increasing in popularity, from the large English Setter to the small Skye Terrier, and of course the iconic Old English Sheepdog.

“However, despite the positive signs, we know that too many people still buy a puppy on impulse or with minimal research, with too many dogs sadly abandoned because their owner didn’t understand what ownership of that breed would entail and many breeds still sadly at risk of being forgotten. We would strongly encourage those looking to get a puppy to come to Crufts in March, where we have a dedicated Discover Dogs Zone where people can have the rare opportunity to meet around 200 different breeds, including these vulnerable breeds first hand, and talk to experts about what they are like to live with.”

Crufts 2022 is taking place from 10 – 13 March at the NEC in Birmingham. More information and tickets for the event are available on The Crufts website.

More information about vulnerable breeds and The Kennel Club’s campaign to save them can be found on The Kennel Club website.