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Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK

By Jane Bertin, Journalist specialized in animal welfare. Updated: September 7, 2022
Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK

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While imported dog breeds such as the Alaskan Husky, the Chihuahua or the Afghan Hound grow in popularity in the UK, some native breeds are at risk of disappearing. Although the pet industry also has fashions and fads, this is not the only reason these native UK breeds are endangered. Many British breeds were bred to be working dogs and require plenty of exercise and specific care. Without this need for work, many have lacked the support to maintain them.

In this AnimalWised article, we'll provide the updated list of Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the United Kingdom, also known simply as Vulnerable Native Breeds. We look at the reasons for these breeds being vulnerable and look at the history of UK breeding.

You may also be interested in: Why are Giraffes a Vulnerable Species?

Why are native breeds vulnerable?

In 2006, The Kennel Club launched its first list of Vulnerable Native Breeds of the United Kingdom. This is the official dog registration organization of the UK. Compiled with other institutions, the KC recorded the British breeds that only has 300 puppies or less registered that year. The list of Vulnerable Native Breeds is updated every year, and includes different levels of endangerment. The UK list also includes vulnerable dog breeds in Ireland.

The majority of these breeds are types of Terrier dogs, a type of breed which has a long history in the British Isles. The purpose of the list is designed to help maintain the lineages of these breeds before they disappear altogether. It is something which is common among dog show organizations such as Crufts as it helps to maintain the variability of breeds.

Reasons for dog breeds being vulnerable

As we have alluded to in the introduction, part of the reason for the existence of the Vulnerable Native Breeds list in the United Kingdom is due to fashion. While it can be hard to pinpoint exactly why, some breeds simply become more popular. With a finite amount of homes to provide for these dogs, the growing number of more recent breeds means that some are simply no longer bred as much.

More importantly is the use of many of these dogs as working dogs. The United Kingdom once relied much more heavily on its own agriculture industry and dogs were more often used for working and sport purposes. Technology and changes in practices have meant that farming and other industries no longer require such reliance on dogs for work. Similarly, sporting dogs are not as common as they once where thanks to a drop in popularity.

Whether the promotion of these breeds should result in maintaining their lineage is up for debate. While the tradition of breeding has led to many beautiful and wonderful canine individuals, it also promotes limited bloodlines and the harm this can cause to dogs. There are also many dogs in the shelter system which do not have homes and are overlooked for not being purebred dogs.

As a note, this updated 2022 list of endangered native UK breeds uses statistics from the most recent registration surveys from 2021.

1. Bloodhound

In previous years the number of Bloodhound puppies registered in the UK were growing slowly. In 2021, this number took a sharp drop to only 19, making them one of the most vulnerable native breeds.

These large dogs are scent hounds. Bloodhounds were originally bred to hunt large prey, but nowadays they're known for being one both of the best breeds of police dogs and also one of the laziest dog breeds. Despite their large size, Bloodhounds are gentle and stable. While they are excellent and loyal pets, you must take into account that the Bloodhound is one of the dog breeds with the shortest lifespans.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 1. Bloodhound

2. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Although they were previously considered ‘at watch’, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is back on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list at only 227 registrations in 2021. This is down from as high as 433 ten years prior in 2011. While a boost in popularity had resulted in higher numbers, it appears they are now trending downward.

Wile they are a playful and family-orientated dog, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier also requires lots of attention and training. Without it, they can develop behavioral problems. They will even out with sufficient exercise and attention.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 2. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

3. Collie (Smooth)

The Collie group includes different Scottish breeds, famous for being the most intelligent dogs in the world. Despite their popularity, the Smooth Collie is in the Vulnerable Native Breeds list at only 90 puppies registered in 2021. This is a little higher than previous years, but not significantly.

Smooth Collies are extremely smart and sociable, meaning they are very easy to train. They love children, and they are excellent herders and therapy dogs. If you adopt a Smooth Collie you will need to devote time to physical exercise, but you'll have the time of your life.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 3. Collie (Smooth)

4. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a small and quite adorable Scottish breed. While they have seen some growth, only 124 Dandie Dinmont Terrier puppies were registered in 2021.

Dandie Dinmont Terriers look quite peculiar, with a long body and a particularly fluffy tuft of hair on their head. They are docile and friendly, but they won't back down from a challenge, be it chasing a pigeon or digging a surprisingly large hole.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 4. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

5. Deerhound

The Scottish Deerhound is a large and majestic sighthound breed of ancient origins. Historians believe that Deerhounds were bred to hunt deer even before Roman times. Despite such rich heritage, this breed has suffered continued decline with only 198 registrations in 2021, down from 5 years prior.

Despite their somewhat ominous look, Scottish Deerhounds are among the gentlest dog breeds in the world. They can adapt to living in a flat as long as they have regular access to off-leash outdoor spaces to exercise and explore. If you adopt a Deerhound, you should consider giving them a Scottish name for dogs.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 5. Deerhound

6. English Setter

The English Setter was added to the Vulnerable Native Breeds list in 2015, when only 289 puppies were registered. This increased a little to 293 in 2021. They are recognizable by their spotted or mottled white coat and their long, duster-like tail.

English Setters are hard-working and energetic dogs. They love having something to do and learn new things. They are also friendly and love to be the center of attention. They may even become a bit mischievous and distracted when you're not looking.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 6. English Setter

7. English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan)

Only 101 English Toy Terrier or Black & Tan puppies were registered in 2021 and their numbers are still decreasing.

This beautiful small breed was first developed to hunt rats in blood sports, but nowadays English Toy Terriers are beloved for their affectionate and warm temperament, although they do tend to bark quite a lot.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 7. English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan)

8. Fox Terrier (Smooth)

The Fox Terrier is one of the most recognizable British breeds, and the oldest official terrier breed. However, the Smooth Fox Terrier variety is on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list with only 151 registered in 2021.

Smooth Fox Terriers can be a bit hard to handle for new owners as they have energy to spare. Once trained, they are extremely friendly. This means they are not great for first time dog owners.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 8. Fox Terrier (Smooth)

9. Glen of Imaal Terrier

The Glen of Imaal or Wicklow Terrier is a rare Irish dog breed. Only 83 Glen puppies were registered in the UK in 2021, although it seems that their numbers are growing slightly.

Glen of Imaal Terriers are recognizable because they are a dwarf breed. While relatively heavy, they are much shorter than what their head may lead you to think. Glen Terriers are alert but stable and undemanding dogs. They also have a peculiar habit of sitting on their bottoms like human beings.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 9. Glen of Imaal Terrier

10. Gordon Setter

Gordon Setters are relatively large hunting dogs notable for their black coat with beautiful spots and markings and long, floppy ears. They are a recent addition to the Vulnerable Native Breeds list. In 2021, only 244 Gordon Setter puppies were registered.

If your family has older children, you will find in a Gordon Setter. They are a loving and loyal pet that is also quite independent and very smart, perfect to play and learn for hours.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 10. Gordon Setter

11. Irish Red and White Setter

Only 46 Irish Red and White Setter puppies were registered in the UK in 2021. This breed already almost disappeared until about the 1980s and current trends suggest this may still happen.

If you have access to open off-leash spaces, the Irish Red and White Setter is the perfect dog for you. This dog enjoys running free and can keep themselves entertained, while still being affectionate and gentle. If you have children, they will adore their new friend and the dog will love them right back.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 11. Irish Red and White Setter

12. King Charles Spaniel

It may seem surprising that such a famous breed as the King Charles Spaniel is in the Vulnerable Native Breeds list, but their numbers are falling. Only 91 puppies were registered in 2021. While their numbers decrease, the popularity of the healthier Cavalier King Charles Spaniel grows.

King Charles Spaniels are small and not meant to do much physical exercise, so if you have a quiet lifestyle and want an affectionate lapdog you will love this breed.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 12. King Charles Spaniel

13. Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry or Irish Blue Terrier is a rare Irish breed. Only 156 puppies were registered in 2021, but this is higher than some previous years. The term ‘blue’ in their name refers to the beautiful shades in their gray curly coat, although Kerry Blue Terriers are black when they are puppies.

Kerry Blue Terriers require training and regular physical exercise, and they are beloved for their peculiar - almost humorous - personality and overall high spirits. If you want an eccentric yet clever dog, a Kerry Blue Terrier is the perfect choice.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 13. Kerry Blue Terrier

14. Lakeland Terrier

The Lakeland Terrier is a native British breed. They were first bred in the Lake District. There were 174 Lakeland Terrier puppies registered in 2021. Although we hope this breed gets more recognition in the future, their numbers seem to be fairly stable.

You can catch a Lakeland Terrier's attention by giving them plenty of exercise and playing with them. If you do, you'll discover how quickly they can learn. Lakeland Terriers are independent and smart, perfect for people with similar temperaments.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 14. Lakeland Terrier

15. Lancashire Heeler

Another disappearing vulnerable native breed of the United Kingdom is the Lancashire Heeler. While their numbers have risen slightly, only 114 individuals were registered in 2021.

Lancashire Heelers have long bodies, but they do not reach more than 30 cm (12") tall. Don't let their size fool you, though. Lancashire Heelers were bred to be working dogs and they are energetic, alert and very strong.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 15. Lancashire Heeler

16. Manchester Terrier

Like the Black & Tan English Toy Terrier, the Manchester Terrier was bred to hunt rats in Northern England. Their numbers were growing slightly, but 155 new puppies in 2021 means they are becoming an increasingly endangered native dog breed in the UK.

Manchester Terriers are elegant. They have a smooth and dark short coat and a sharp appearance similar to that of the Doberman Pinscher. There are standard and toy varieties.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 16. Manchester Terrier

17. Mastiff

The English Mastiff, like most other Mastiffs, is a large molosser dog with impressive folds in their muzzle and a black mask. Despite being an old and beloved breed, there were only 100 Mastiff puppies registered in the UK in 2021.

If you can give an English Mastiff the right diet and exercise while watching for potential bone conditions or gastric torsion you will enjoy a gentle, dignified, slow-paced and even-tempered pet that gets along with children.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 17. Mastiff

18. Norwich Terrier

There were only 140 Norwich Terrier puppies registered in the UK in 2021, down from previous years. This adorable small breed deserves to be lifted out of the Vulnerable Native Breeds list.

Although Norwich Terriers are among the smallest of their group, they are brave and sturdy and have surprisingly large appetites. While they are wary of strangers, Norwich Terriers are not aggressive and love to spend time with their families, especially if there are children around.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 18. Norwich Terrier

19. Otterhound

Only 42 Otterhound puppies were registered in 2021, one of the lowest numbers in the Vulnerable Native Breeds list. It is a true shame, because the Otterhound is an ancient and dignified scent hound that should be better-known all around the world.

Otterhounds are curious and friendly dogs with excellent noses and a rough and peculiar coat that can come in many colors. Otterhounds are currently the most endangered British dog breed.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 19. Otterhound

20. Retriever (Curly Coated)

While the Labrador and the Golden Retrievers are immensely popular around the world, only 62 Curly Coated retrievers were registered in the UK in 2021. This is around the same amount as 5 years prior. You can learn more about the different types of retriever dogs in our related article.

The woolly Curly Coated Retriever is a very smart and warm dog that loves to discover new and fun things and be entertained. Curly Coated Retrievers get bored easily, so you need to be sure you are able to care for them sufficiently.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 20. Retriever (Curly Coated)

21. Sealyham Terrier

Sealyham Terriers were very popular in the early 20th Century, but in 2021 only 184 puppies were registered. They are notable for the tuft of hair over their eyes, like bangs. They don't reach more than 30 cm (14") tall at the withers.

If you want a peculiar, hard-working dog that is loyal to their family but can still be left alone, the Sealyham Terrier is the British breed for you.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 21. Sealyham Terrier

22. Skye Terrier

The Skye Terrier is a dog on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list that has grown somewhat in popularity. Although only 43 Skye Terrier puppies were registered in 2015, this has risen to 75 in 2021. These dogs are particularly associated with Scottish heritage as one of the most famous dogs in Scotland, Greyfriars Bobby, was a Skye Terrier.

Skye Terriers are plucky and loyal dogs who enjoy going for walks but prefer living with their families, who should keep them well-groomed.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 22. Skye Terrier

23. Spaniels

Besides the King Charles Spaniel, a lapdog, there are different Spaniel breeds that used to be bred as working dogs but that have started to disappear from the British Isles. The spaniels in the Vulnerable Native Breeds list are the following:

  • Clumber Spaniel: 285 registered puppies in 2021.
  • Field Spaniel: 45 registered puppies in 2021.
  • Irish Water Spaniel: 116 registered puppies in 2021.
  • Sussex Spaniel: 30 registered puppies in 2021.

In the picture below you can see a Clumber Spaniel.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 23. Spaniels

24. Welsh Corgi (Cardigan)

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was raised out of the Vulnerable Native Breeds list in 2015, following a growth of interest in Queen Elizabeth II's dogs. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is still on the list, as only 123 puppies were registered in 2021. While their popularity was growing, their numbers seem to have evened out.

Although short and adorable-looking, Cardigan Welsh Corgis are are strong and responsible herding dogs, able to learn all sorts of obedience and agility commands. They will guard their family loyally, and are a great choice for a pet.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 24. Welsh Corgi (Cardigan)

25. Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound looks a bit similar to the Scottish Deerhound, although they're even larger. Originally bred to hunt wolves and guard homes, their purpose has been lost to the point that this native Irish breed only had 198 registered in 2021, a number which is significantly down from previous years.

Irish Wolfhounds can seem imposing, but they are very intelligent and reserved dogs that will not make much noise. If you want a proud and loyal dog that can develop a strong bond with you or your older children, take a chance on the Irish Wolfhound - you won't be disappointed.

26. Welsh Springer Spaniel

While they had previously been on the ‘at watch’ list, the Welsh Springer Spaniel has suffered a population decrease which resultes in their reinstatement to the Vulnerable Native Breeds list in the United Kingdom. While this number is up on the previous year, they still only registered 271 puppies in 2021.

Also known as the Welsh Cocker Spaniel, this breed is a working dog which needs plenty of exercise. In saying this, we also need to be careful of over-working them as they are prone to issues such as hip dysplasia. Proper diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs and other nutritional considerations can go a long way in preventing these issues.

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - 26. Welsh Springer Spaniel

Vulnerable Native Breeds: At Watch

While some breeds have gone down in registration numbers, the Miniature Bull Terrier has graduated from being on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list and is now considered ‘at watch’. Although registrations are above 300, this means their populations are being monitored in case they return to the Vulnerable British dog species list. As of 2022, the following are also on the at watch list:

  • Bearded Collie
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • Old English Sheepdog

The newest addition to the ‘at watch’ list is the Old English Sheepdog, while breeds such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi have left both lists altogether. In the picture below you can see a Miniature Bull Terrier.

Have you ever had one of the dogs in the list of Vulnerable Native Breeds of the UK? What was your experience like? What is your favorite native British breed? Tell us all in the comments section!

Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK - Vulnerable Native Breeds: At Watch

If you want to read similar articles to Vulnerable Native Dog Breeds in the UK, we recommend you visit our Endangered animals category.

Bibliography
  • TKC. (2022). Vulnerable Breeds List. Retrieved from:
    https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/getting-a-dog/are-you-ready/vulnerable-native-breeds/

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Laura Webb
Never knew “vulnerable” breeds existed! Wow! So interesting. Didn’t know “animalwised.com” ever existed. Found out only because our beloved “Dewey” recently passed (flat-coated retriever). I’m somewhat interested in the retrievers. Didn’t mean to go on & on. Keep up the good work!
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Laura,

What kind sentiment, it is much appreciated and we are glad we can help! We are sorry to hear about poor Dewey. If you are going to adopt a dog into your family again, we hope we may be able to provide some help through the information in our articles.
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