- One of Britain’s most iconic breeds could be at risk of extinction as its numbers tumble to historic lows
- Meanwhile it’s bad news for many other British breeds, with more declared vulnerable than ever before
- Organisers hope that Crufts will raise the profile of ‘disappearing dogs’ and urges puppy buyers to consider all 222 breeds to find the right one for them
The Rough Collie, one of Britain’s most recognisable breeds, faces an uncertain future following a steep decline in the breed’s popularity to record their lowest numbers in over 75 years. The breed is now close to being classed as ‘at risk’ by The Kennel Club, which monitors breeds with declining numbers in the UK.
The breed is best known for the iconic titular role of Lassie, which began as a novel in the 1940s, and led to a raft of eponymous films, television series, radio programs, animation and comic books. The character is also one of very few animals to have been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
At the height of the breed’s popularity in 1979, four years after the long-running television series had ended, there were over 8,000 annual puppy registrations, placing them in the top 10 breeds in the UK. However it was a very different story last year, with less than 500 Rough Collie puppies births, a 25 per cent decrease since 2021, and a steep 94 per cent decline since their heyday.
This is the lowest recorded number for the breed since the 1940s, and if the decline continues, they will be placed on The Kennel Club’s ‘At Watch’ list, which monitors breeds with between 300-450 puppy registrations a year. Those with less than 300 puppy births annually are recorded on the organisation’s Vulnerable Native Breed list – devised to highlight those British and Irish native breeds which could be at risk of disappearing from our streets and parks.
Carole Smedley, Chairperson of the Rough Collie Breed Council who has owned the breed for over 50 years, said: “We are very concerned to see this wonderful and majestic breed fall in popularity. I’ve spent my life surrounded by Rough Collies who have enjoyed long, healthy lives and I can confirm their friendly, happy temperament, but each year their popularity is decreasing. Of course, no breed will suit everyone, but for the right owner, who can provide the right space and environment, they have so much love to give and they adore children.
“It is such a shame that some of our most native historic and recognisable breeds are continuing to drop in popularity, and we hope that more people will become aware of the range of breeds out there and responsibly select the right one for them.”
In 2022, there were more vulnerable breeds recorded than ever before, as both the shaggy-coated Bearded Collie and the distinctive Miniature Bull Terrier were placed on the list after seeing their numbers tumble, while the Bedlington Terrier, Bullmastiff, Irish Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, and Parson Russell Terrier were added to the ‘At Watch List’. There are now 34 vulnerable native breeds, and a further eight classed as ‘At Watch’.
It is a similarly worrying outlook for a number of other previously popular British breeds, including the Yorkshire Terrier, once the number one breed in the UK during the 1970s but has since seen its popularity wane, recording just 495 puppy births last year. The Kennel Club’s campaign to Save the Forgotten Breeds aims to remind people about the large number of British and Irish native breeds, particularly those that are seeing a decline in numbers and face a real danger of disappearing altogether. The campaign has previously seen breeds such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi bounce back from the brink of extinction.
Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club said: “The Rough Collie is such a historic and recognisable breed and it’s troubling to see that their numbers are dwindling. Whilst they do require a lot of grooming and plenty of space, for the right owners they can be lovable family companions.
“We really encourage the public to come to Crufts in March, where they can meet all 222 breeds, including the Rough Collie. We have a dedicated Discover Dogs Zone, where potential puppy owners can not only discover more about the breeds, including those that are vulnerable and At Watch, but also talk to experts to find out if they are right for them.
“We urge the British public to find out more about the lesser-known breeds, especially those who are at risk of disappearing. 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, leaving puppy owners with less choice, and therefore are unlikely to find their perfect match in the future.”
Crufts 2023 is taking place from 9-12 March at the NEC in Birmingham. More information and tickets for the event are available at 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.