Give British Breeds a Dog's Chance of Survival

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A CAMPAIGN to save many British dog breeds from the threat of extinction is being conducted by leading breeders and experts.

Without urgent action dogs such as the Skye terrier, immortalised in the story of Greyfriars Bobby, may be eclipsed by fashionable foreign breeds, such as the shih tzu and Lhasa Apso. Other breeds in need of help are the Sealyham terrier, the smooth collie, the field spaniel and the Welsh Cardigan corgi.

The British and Irish Dog Breeds Preservation Trust held a “crisis meeting” of about 100 breeders yesterday to lead a fightback for the underdogs. Three years ago the Kennel Club issued a list of native breeds considered most at risk but experts now want to draw up a “red list”.

Paul Keevil, a member of the Kennel Club vulnerable breeds committee, said that some dogs had gone out of fashion. “What we’ve got to do is to make these native breeds cool.”

He has owned Dandie Dinmont terriers for 20 years. “It looks safe as a breed with 149 registrations last year. But that is only because breeders were shocked that there were just 80 registrations in 2004 and stepped up breeding.”

The Skye terrier is the most at risk of extinction — although a Disney film about Greyfriars Bobby may help its rescue. Last year there were only 30 registrations of the breed by the Kennel Club.

Sue Breeze, who owns 11 Skyes and has bred them for 26 years at her home near Burton upon Trent, said: “If we can’t persuade young breeders to rear Skyes, I think the breed will disappear from Britain within 40 years.”

Experts hope to revive other terrier breeds, such as the Manchester, which had a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria for rat-catching, and the Norwich. The Sealyham was the most popular dog in London in the 1930s but had 58 registrations last year.

Mr Keevil is doubtful that many large traditional sporting dogs can have a renaissance. Without a specific purpose, such as drag-hunting, these dogs are simply too difficult for many owners to keep.

Breeds at risk

Skye Terrier; Glen of Imaal terrier; otterhound; Sealyham terrier; smooth collie; Sussex spaniel; curly-coated retriever; field spaniel; Welsh corgi (Cardigan); English toy terrier (black and tan); bloodhound; Irish water spaniel; Irish red & white setter; Norwich terrier; Manchester terrier; Dandie Dinmont terrier; Lancashire heeler; Clumber spaniel; King Charles spaniel; smooth fox terrier; deerhound; Irish terrier; Kerry blue terrier; Gordon setter; soft-coated wheaten terrier; Welsh terrier; Lakeland terrier