8 Dog Breeds On The Brink Of Extinction. Is There Anything We Can Do To Save Them?
These rare dog breeds are in danger of disappearing forever. As mainstream breeds dominate as household pets and in dog shows, these lesser-known breeds, and their stories, face the risk of fading away unnoticed.
1. The Otterhound
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
The Otterhound, a breed known for its playful and gentle nature, is teetering on the brink of extinction, with its numbers dwindling alarmingly over the past few decades. Originally bred to hunt otters—a practice banned in Britain four decades ago—these “clown-like” dogs are now even rarer than the giant panda. In a stark revelation, only 24 puppies were registered with the British Kennel Club last year, and globally, there are fewer than 1,000 Otterhounds, with a mere 300 residing in Britain. The Otterhound Club in the UK is now making fervent appeals to potential dog owners to consider adopting this breed to safeguard its future.
Historically, Otterhounds have been associated with royalty, with figures like King John of England and Elizabeth I utilizing these hounds for otter hunting in the 12th century and later, respectively. The breed, often referred to as the “Amiable Hound,” peaked in popularity in the mid-19th century and was often considered a working-class dog, aiding in ridding village ponds of otters that fed on fish.
However, the breed has been in decline since otter hunting was banned in 1978, a measure taken when Otterhounds were blamed for a decrease in otter populations. However, it was later discovered that the real culprits were nitrates and poisons from the land seeping into rivers, not the dogs. The Otterhound, once a vibrant part of hunting traditions, now faces a precarious future, with enthusiasts and breeders rallying to prevent its slide into oblivion.
- Otterhound – The Kennel Club The Kennel Club provides information about the Otterhound breed, its characteristics, and care requirements, and also discusses the breed’s history and current status.
- The Otterhound Club of America, Inc. This club is recognized by the American Kennel Club as the official parent club of the Otterhound in the United States. They aim to promote, protect, and improve the breed through various activities and educational efforts.
- Otterhound Club of America Reproduction Bank Inc. This organization focuses on collecting, storing, and distributing reproductive material (currently frozen semen) from Otterhounds to assist in breeding efforts.
2. New Guinea Singing Dog
Country of Origin: New Guinea
The New Guinea Singing Dog, known for its unique vocalizations, is a wild dog breed native to the highlands of New Guinea. These dogs have a remarkable ability to produce a wide range of sounds, including howls that modulate in pitch, creating a singing-like quality, which is not found in other dog breeds.
The breed is considered to be one of the rarest and oldest canines in the world. It’s believed that they have lived in isolation for nearly 6,000 years, which has allowed them to develop characteristics distinct from other dog breeds.
The decline in the popularity and numbers of the New Guinea Singing Dog is attributed to several factors. Firstly, their natural habitat in the high-altitude regions of New Guinea has been increasingly encroached upon by human activities, such as mining and agriculture, leading to habitat destruction.
Secondly, due to their isolation and limited population, there is a lack of genetic diversity among the New Guinea Singing Dogs, making them susceptible to various health issues. Furthermore, their wild and independent nature makes them less suitable as pets compared to other domesticated dog breeds, limiting their popularity among dog owners.
In terms of statistics, the exact number of New Guinea Singing Dogs in the wild is unknown due to their elusive nature and remote habitat. However, it’s estimated that there are only around 200 or so New Guinea Singing Dogs in captivity, primarily in conservation centers and zoos. In a surprising turn, a population of dogs resembling the New Guinea Singing Dog was discovered in the wild in Papua, Indonesia, in 2016, sparking hope that the breed may still exist in its natural habitat. However, conservationists and researchers continue to express concern about the breed’s sustainability and genetic health due to its limited numbers and isolated populations.
- New Guinea Singing Dog Club of America: This club is dedicated to promoting interest and education in the ownership of New Guinea Singing Dogs. They aim to advance the interests of the breed and encourage responsible ownership and breeding practices.
- New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society (NGSDCS): The NGSDCS was founded in 1996 and became an official Section 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization in 2001. They aim to conserve and preserve New Guinea Singing Dogs. They also have a Facebook page where you can stay updated with their activities and initiatives.
3. Sussex Spaniel
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
The Sussex Spaniel, a breed known for its distinctive appearance and amiable temperament, is facing a concerning decline in popularity and numbers. With its compact, low-set body and rich, golden-liver coat, the Sussex Spaniel has been a cherished companion and a proficient gun dog since its development in the late 1700s or early 1800s in East Sussex, England.
Originally bred by Augustus Fuller, a shooting estate landowner, the breed was widely admired in the 19th century. However, the Sussex Spaniel has encountered numerous challenges throughout its history, including a drastic drop in numbers during wartime periods. By the end of World War II, the breed’s population had dwindled to a mere seven.
In 2022, only 44 Sussex Spaniels were registered, placing them among the breeds most at risk of extinction in the UK. The breed’s decline can be attributed to various factors, including the prohibition of breeding during wartime and the subsequent prioritization of other breeds post-war.
The Sussex Spaniel Association has been actively involved in efforts to preserve and revitalize the breed. In 2019, the association revealed plans to ask the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to adopt a pair of puppies in a bid to raise the breed’s profile. Sheila Appleby, the association’s vice president, expressed concerns about being “swamped by ‘designer’ crossbreeds” and emphasized the need to promote and protect the Sussex Spaniel.
The breed was identified by the Kennel Club in 2004 as a vulnerable British breed, and despite a brief resurgence in 2013 due to dedicated breeders, the Sussex Spaniel continues to face the threat of extinction if proactive measures are not sustained.
- Sussex Spaniel Club of America This club, founded in 1981, is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Sussex Spaniel. It acts as the official National Breed Club and provides resources, information, and support for breed enthusiasts in the United States.
- Sussex Spaniel Club of America – Facebook Group This private Facebook group provides a platform for Sussex Spaniel enthusiasts to connect, share experiences, and stay updated on breed-related news and activities.
- Sussex Spaniel Association (UK) Formed in 1924, the Sussex Spaniel Association in the United Kingdom is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the breed, providing resources and support for owners, breeders, and enthusiasts.
4. English Foxhound
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
The English Foxhound, a breed deeply rooted in British hunting history, is facing a precarious future with alarmingly low registration numbers. Known for its strong hunting instincts, keen sense of smell, and sociable nature, the English Foxhound has been a staple in traditional British foxhunting for over 200 years.
Initially developed as a cross between a Greyhound, Fox Terrier, and Bulldog, the breed was designed to have the speed, hunting ability, and determination necessary to chase and kill foxes as part of a hunt. While they are known to be friendly towards people and other dogs, their high-strung and protective nature, especially towards their pack, has been noted.
In 2022, only one English Foxhound puppy was registered, marking it as the first born in the UK in at least the last five years. This stark statistic places the breed in a critical position, teetering on the brink of extinction in the country. The decline of the English Foxhound, and similarly, other hunting breeds, may be attributed to several factors, including changes in hunting practices, legislation, and shifts in lifestyle and living conditions.
Larger hunting dogs may be losing popularity due to their requirements for active lifestyles and high prey drive, especially in more urbanized environments where smaller breeds or those requiring less exercise might be favored. The challenge moving forward involves raising awareness about the breed, promoting responsible breeding practices, and perhaps, reimagining the role of the English Foxhound in contemporary society to ensure its survival.
The English Foxhound is not only facing a critical situation in the UK but also in the United States. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the English Foxhound has been listed as the least registered breed, placing it at the bottom of their popularity list. This position reflects a similar trend in both countries, indicating a broader, international decline in the breed’s popularity and raising further concerns about its future viability.
- English Foxhound Club of America This club aims to encourage and promote quality in the breeding of pure-bred English Foxhounds and to bring their natural qualities to perfection. They also aim to protect and advance the interests of the breed by encouraging sportsmanlike competition at dog shows.
- English Foxhound Club of America – AKC Recognized by the American Kennel Club, this club provides resources and support for English Foxhound owners and breeders in the United States. They also provide breeder referral contacts and are dedicated to the promotion of the breed.
- United Kennel Club (UKC) – English Foxhound The UKC provides breed standards for the English Foxhound and recognizes them for their development in the 13th century in Great Britain for the purpose of trailing the red fox during a mounted hunt.
5. Norwegian Lundehund
Country of Origin: Norway
The Norwegian Lundehund, a breed with a rich history and unique physical characteristics, is currently facing a precarious situation regarding its population and preservation. Originating from Norway, this breed was specifically developed to hunt puffins on steep cliffs and through narrow cave passages, which explains its incredibly flexible anatomy and extra toes on each foot.
The Lundehund can bend its head backward to touch the spine, close its ear canals at will to protect against debris, and has at least six fully developed toes on each foot to navigate the treacherous terrains where puffins nest. These unique characteristics made them exceptional puffin hunters, but with changes in hunting practices and the introduction of new technologies, their specialized skills became less in demand.
According to 2022 registration statistics from the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Norwegian Lundehund is #198 of #199 dogs, almost the bottom of the list in popularity. The breed faced near-extinction in the 1930s and 1960s due to disease outbreaks and a lack of necessity for puffin hunting. Every Lundehund today descends from four related dogs that survived the 1960s, creating a significant genetic bottleneck.
Current Lundehunds face challenges such as low fertility and a digestive disorder called intestinal lymphangiectasia. To combat the lack of genetic diversity and associated health issues, Norway’s Lundehund club, along with other national groups, initiated an outcross project, breeding females from three other spitz breeds to Lundehund males, then crossing ensuing generations back to Lundehunds. The breed has also found a new purpose in modern times, being used at an airport in northern Norway to locate and remove seagull nests to prevent bird strikes on aircraft, showcasing their adaptability and resilience.
- Norwegian Lundehund Association of America (NLAA) The NLAA is recognized by the American Kennel Club as the Parent Club in the United States. It aims to protect and promote the Norwegian Lundehund, providing resources, information, and support for breed enthusiasts.
- Norwegian Lundehund Association of America – Facebook Group This Facebook group provides a platform for friends and members of the NLAA to connect, share experiences, and stay updated on breed-related news and activities.
- Rescue – Norwegian Lundehund Association of America The NLAA is dedicated to all Lundehunds in the US and provides resources and support for rescue initiatives, ensuring the well-being of the breed.
Region of Origin: North Africa
The Sloughi, also referred to as the Arabian Greyhound or the African Sighthound, is a breed renowned for its elegance, grace, and remarkable hunting skills, with a history that spans thousands of years. Originating from North Africa, particularly in regions like Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia, the Sloughi has been a treasured hunting companion, particularly among the nomadic Berber tribes.
The breed was utilized to hunt various game, including gazelles, jackals, hares, wild boar, and rabbits, thanks to its powerful, lean, and agile body, keen eyesight, and incredible speed and endurance. The Sloughi also served as a guardian for the tents and livestock of its nomadic owners.
However, the Sloughi has encountered significant challenges, particularly during World War II, when its numbers declined dramatically due to the conflict and a concurrent rabies epidemic. Post-war, efforts were initiated to revive and preserve the breed, with enthusiasts in Europe and the United States playing pivotal roles in rebuilding the Sloughi population and promoting its recognition by international kennel clubs.
The breed is endangered by changing times and lifestyles, as it is illegal to hunt game of any kind with Sloughis in Morocco, where they can currently be used only on fox, fennec, jackals, and wild boar. In the west, the Sloughi is treasured as a beloved family pet, known for its gentle and affectionate nature, as well as its loyalty and devotion to its owners.
- American Sloughi Association Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as the National Parent Club for the Sloughi in the United States, this association aims to promote the breed, provide resources, and support responsible breeding and ownership. They also organize events and provide information about the breed’s history and characteristics.
- American Sloughi Association – Facebook Page This Facebook page provides a platform for Sloughi enthusiasts to connect, share experiences, and stay updated on breed-related news and activities. It also acts as a social platform to raise awareness and promote the breed.
- The Sloughi Club of America, Inc. This club provides information about the Sloughi and aims to promote and protect the breed. They offer resources for potential owners and breeders and work towards the conservation and ethical breeding of the Sloughi.
- Sloughi – Breed Standards – United Kennel Club (UKC) The UKC provides breed standards for the Sloughi and recognizes them for their development in North Africa. They provide information about the breed’s characteristics and standards.
Country of Origin: Turkey
The Catalburun, also known as the Turkish Pointer, is an incredibly rare and distinct breed, most recognizable for its split or bifid nose. This breed is native to Turkey and is particularly rare, even in its home country. The Catalburun is known for its remarkable hunting abilities, particularly in terms of pointing and tracking, thanks to its keen sense of smell. This breed is not only a skilled hunter but also known to be intelligent and devoted to its family, showcasing a blend of working capabilities and companionable qualities.
As per some sources, it is estimated that there are only around 200 Catalburuns in existence today, making it one of the rarest dog breeds in the world. The breed’s incredibly limited population certainly places it at risk, and focused efforts would be required to preserve and potentially increase its numbers. The rarity of the Catalburun can be attributed to its limited geographic location and the lack of widespread recognition outside of Turkey. Ensuring the survival and vitality of such a rare breed necessitates dedicated breeding programs, efforts to maintain genetic health, and initiatives to raise awareness about the breed on a global scale.
Tarsus çatalburun – Wikipedia Wikipedia provides an overview of the breed, its characteristics, and its history, including its use as a detection dog for narcotics and search and rescue.
Country of Origin: Holland
The Stabyhoun, also known as the Stabij, is a rare dog breed that originated in Friesland, a province in the Netherlands. This breed is recognized for its versatile skills, being a proficient hunter, farm dog, and a delightful family companion.
The breed is characterized by its slightly wavy, soft, and silky coat, which is commonly black and white, although brown and white Stabys are also found, particularly in the Netherlands. The breed is known for its obedient, docile, and friendly temperament, making it a well-rounded dog that can adapt to various roles and environments.
Despite its admirable qualities, the Stabyhoun is considered one of the rarest dog breeds in the world. The breed’s history is not fully documented, but it is known to have been used primarily for fox and bird hunting in the 19th century, particularly by farmers who needed a multi-purpose dog that could serve as a hunter, farm dog, and family companion. In the 1940s, the Wetterhoun breed was often crossed with the Stabyhoun to create a larger working dog, which is still a capable rescue dog today.
The rarity of the breed, even in its country of origin, indicates that it may be at risk and that concerted efforts may be required to preserve its lineage and prevent it from becoming extinct. Ensuring the survival of such a rare breed necessitates dedicated breeding programs, public education about the breed, and initiatives to maintain its genetic health and diversity.
- Stabyhoun – American Kennel Club (AKC) The AKC provides comprehensive information about the Stabyhoun, including its history, standard, and care requirements. It also provides resources for potential owners and breeders.
- Stabyhoun UK Stabyhoun UK provides information about the breed, its characteristics, and care requirements, and also discusses the breed’s history and current status in the United Kingdom. They also provide resources for potential owners and breeders.
Is There Anything We Can Do To Save Them?
These stories, each a unique blend of history, culture, and companionship, highlight the silent struggle faced by numerous dog breeds around the world. As we celebrate our furry friends, let us also remember those that are quietly fading away, and acknowledge the dedicated individuals and groups fighting to preserve their legacy.
Safeguarding the future of these rare dog breeds necessitates a collective and concerted effort from breed enthusiasts, breeders, canine organizations, and the general public.
Initiating and supporting responsible breeding programs is paramount to maintaining genetic diversity and ensuring the health and vitality of these breeds.
Additionally, raising public awareness about these breeds, their history, and their current predicament is crucial to garnering support and fostering responsible ownership. Engaging in and supporting conservation efforts, such as participating in breed clubs, and involving these breeds in dog shows and competitions, can also elevate their visibility and viability. Finally, potential dog owners might consider choosing one of these rare breeds as their next companion, thereby directly contributing to the preservation of its lineage.
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