Britons fall back in love with large dogs

 Britons fall back in love with large dogs

Britons have fallen back in love with large dogs, figures show, with families finding they have more space after moving out of towns and cities during the pandemic.

The breed to have enjoyed the biggest growth in popularity last year was the Pyrenean mountain dog, which in adult form typically weighs between 121 and 165lb (55 and 75kg).

Those unfamiliar with the breed might imagine a polar bear with the fluffiness of an Angora rabbit and the temperament of Jeeves the butler.

The number of Pyrenean mountain dog puppies to be registered with the Kennel Club last year was, at approximately 160, relatively small – but it constituted a 130 per cent increase from 2020.

Boris sitting on Susan’s lap

Credit: Jamie Lorriman

Of the ten breeds whose popularity increased the most, six were classified as “large”.

They included the English setter – a vulnerable native breed that benefited from an 109 per cent increase in registrations – as well as the giant schnauzer, the chow chow and the akita.

In ninth place in this ranking was the old English sheepdog, which until recently was principally seen in Dulux advertisements. With a 66 per cent increase in popularity, this breed has not only won many admirers; it has lost its status as a vulnerable breed.

The figures were released by the Kennel Club, which organises Crufts. Bill Lambert, a spokesperson for Crufts, suggested that the resurgence of big dogs might be connected with the lockdown trend of moving out of the city and into the countryside, where ample green space suits larger pets.

Mr Lambert said: “We are delighted to see that some of our more vulnerable native breeds, like the much-loved Old English Sheepdog and historic English Setter, saw some of the biggest boosts in popularity over the past year.”

The most popular breeds overall were a familiar group. Labradors are Britain’s most popular dog, followed by the French bulldog, the cocker spaniel, the bulldog and the miniature smooth-haired dachshund.

Return of Crufts

Crufts 2022 begins on Thursday, and it will be the first iteration of “the world’s biggest dog show” – a term referring to the number of dogs rather than their mass – since 2020.

The show will feature a first appearance since 1898 of the harrier, which is an ancient, medium-sized British scenthound whose name is thought to derive its name from its traditional prey: the hare. Nineteen harriers will compete for the “Best in Show” award.

They will have to best a field that includes another Pyrenean: the smooth-faced Pyrenean sheepdog.

It is a small breed of herding dog that was recognised by the Kennel Club only last year. Although it is closely-related to the long-haired Pyrenean sheepdog, it is differentiated by its softer, shorter coat.

This year is the first in which those vying for “Best in Show” will include a smooth-faced Pyrenean sheepdog, of which two will compete.

Also among the debutants will be the Hungarian pumi, a small but lively breed of sheepdog with a lively fluffy coat and prominent ears.

Also at the show will be Aleksandra Wasowska, 26, who will be exhibiting two of her five poodles. That duo is Breagh and Pilvi, a pair of white standard poodles who have faced significant misfortune in their lives. Breagh was abused by her previous owners and Pilvi was rehomed because she was so anxious.

Today, though, they are working gun dogs, and are central to Mrs Wasowska’s aim of proving to the public that poodles “are more than poncy show dogs.”

Poodles, she explained, are bred to hunt ducks, and have been unfairly maligned. Far from being effete stylisings, their pom pom-like cuffs are there to protect their lower legs and paws from cold water.

Their upper legs are shaved, said Ms Wasowska, to give the poodles good mobility despite their fur’s density, which helps keep them warm and dry.

Breagh initially draws “funny looks” at shoots, Ms Wasowska said, but her work wins her respect. “Poodles are very smart and can do absolutely anything.”

Crufts will continue to March 13 and will take place at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.


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