Is it game over for beloved British breed?

Is it game over for beloved British breed | The Kennel Club

The ‘Monopoly token’ Scottish Terrier records lowest ever numbers, as more native breeds than ever enter ‘At Watch’ list

The iconic Scottish Terrier, a beloved British breed and recognisable mascot for a wealth of well-known brands, is facing a worrying future after recording their lowest numbers since records began, placing them on The Kennel Club’s ‘At Watch’ list.

The small and distinctive dog recorded just 406 puppy births in 2023, a staggering drop since its heyday in the mid-1930s through to the early 1940s where the breed was the third most popular breed in the country, and later peaking in 1947 where there were over 5,800 puppies registered – more than 10 times that of modern times.

The breed has a long history of being associated with both British and international brands, including Radley London, Walkers shortbread, Monopoly, as well as the character Jock, from the Disney animated feature film, Lady and the Tramp. They even have links to royalty, having been reported to be Queen Victoria’s preferred breed.

These low numbers mean that, for the second time in their history, the Terrier breed has been added to 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.

Three other British breeds have entered the ‘At Watch’ list for the first time – the Pointer, Rough Collie and Wire Fox Terrier, while the Cairn Terrier has also rejoined the list, meaning there are now more breeds classed as ‘At Watch’ and ‘Vulnerable’ than ever before.

There was good news however for other British breeds who saw a surge in popularity last year, including the English Setter, which saw an increase of 18%, the Yorkshire Terrier (14%) and the Jack Russell Terrier (14%), which is the favoured breed of King Charles and Queen Camilla. Yet, the breed that saw the most significant increase originates from the continent, the Bernese Mountain Dog, which saw its numbers rise by nearly a quarter in 2023.

Despite their dwindling numbers, the Scottish Terrier has won Best in Show at Crufts twice, nearly a century apart – in 1929, and 2015. There will be 108 vying for the top dog title at the event this year, which takes place next month, while both the Pointer and Rough Collie have more than 200 dogs set to compete, placing them both in the top 15 breed entries at Crufts 2024.

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club, said: “The Scottish Terrier has been such an iconic and recognisable breed in the UK for decades, and means so much to so many different people, so these latest figures are really worrying.

“We are lucky to have an amazing 222 breeds of dog in this country, each with unique personalities and characteristics, but the vast majority of dogs that you will meet come from within the top ten breeds alone. 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.

“The difficulty is, of course, that opportunities to meet less popular breeds of dogs are limited, which is why we have a unique Discover Dogs zone at Crufts, in a few weeks’ time – where 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.

"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."

Crufts 2024 is taking place from 7-10 March at the NEC in Birmingham, and will see over 24,000 dogs competing and over 220 breeds showcased, from the popular Labrador to the unusual Otterhound. More information and tickets for the event are available at Crufts website.

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