Sussex breed of dog faces extinction

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A TOP dog breed - the Sussex spaniel - is at risk of extinction as people turn their backs on native breeds for more ‘fashionable’ dogs.

Also at risk is the English setter - along with 23 other breeds - revealed this week by The Kennel Club.

Officials say the breeds have become less popular because of the ‘celebrity’ impact on breed popularity with a 25 per cent increase in the Chihuahua.

The Kennel Club is now warning people not to buy exotic breeds that they do not understand.

But it’s good news for the Corgi - the popularity of last year’s royal wedding has helped to make the once endangered breed more popular.

In decline, however, is one of Britain’s oldest native dog breeds, the English Setter, which is now at risk of extinction for the first time.

The breed only numbered 234 registrations last year, according to Kennel Club registration statistics, a 33 per cent decline on 2010.

There has been a decline of almost two thirds in the number of English Setters today, compared to ten years ago The English Setter joins another 24 breeds on the Kennel Club’s Native Vulnerable Breeds list. A breed is deemed to be at risk of extinction when it numbers less than 300 puppy registrations in a year.

The Irish Terrier returned to the list after just tipping 300 registrations in 2010, but the breed declined by 22 per cent this year.

The Sussex spaniel, which is also at risk, is a favourite of Jeremy Hackett, founder of Hacket clothing and his own dogs have been seen acccompanying models in Hackett advertising.

Jeremy himself is a patron of the Sussex Spaniel Breed Club. As Crufts approaches, the Kennel Club is urging people not to shun our historic native breeds in favour of more exotic dogs that they fail to understand and for which they are unable to offer the right lifestyle.

Last year, around 3,000 dogs were registered, across all 25 Vulnerable Breeds, compared to 1,940 Siberian Huskies. People are also favouring celebrity dog breeds such as the Chihuahua, owned by the likes of Paris Hilton, over old British favourites. More than 6,000 long and short coated Chihuahuas were registered by the Kennel Club in 2011, up by more than a quarter on 2010. Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Celebrities, popular culture and fashion play a big part in today’s society and unfortunately, dogs are not immune from our fickle tastes.

“The latest victim is the English Setter, a wonderful and loyal breed, while the number of Siberian Huskies have more than trebled in this county in the last 10 years.

“This unfortunately is reflected in the growing number of exotic breeds seen coming in to our breed rescue societies, as people realise that they can’t give them the exercise, grooming or other care that they need.

“With Crufts coming up we want people to find out about the diverse range of dogs out there, that suit different types of people.

“There are around 200 breeds in the event’s Discover Dogs area, where people can find out about the advantages of each, judging for themselves what breed is best for them rather than via a reality TV star.”    The impact of celebrity may have had a positive effect on at least one native vulnerable breed, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, whose registrations shot up by 134 per cent in 2011.

It is thought that the ‘Royal Wedding effect’ and the breed’s close relation to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, owned by the Queen, may have had an impact.

Caroline Kisko added: “There has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. We can only surmise that the increased interest in the royal family last year may have made people more aware of the Queen’s favourite dog, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and had a knock on effect on the Cardigan Welsh Corgi as well.

“We urge people to do their research before they buy but the breed is alert, loyal, non aggressive and can make a great companion.” Crufts is being held at the NEC in Birmingham from the March 8 - 11.