BIRMINGHAM • Eclipsed by the race for so-called designer dogs, some famous British breeds now face extinction, warned the world's biggest dog show Crufts as it kicked off its annual showpiece event.
Native breeds are being squeezed out by handbag-sized pooches better suited to modern busy lifestyles and smaller homes, said Crufts.
It aims to raise their profiles among the 160,000 visitors expected at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, central England. The four-day event ends tomorrow.
"These breeds could effectively go extinct," said health and breeder services manager Bill Lambert at The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts and is the governing body for all matters canine in Britain.
He said larger dogs are growing less popular as lifestyles change. "It's a vicious circle - they get less popular, then people see them less and forget about them," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Kennel Club, which registers newborn puppies, saw labrador retrievers (33,856), cocker spaniels (21,854) and french bulldogs (21,470) top the charts last year.
Out of favour
These British dog breeds could die out if current trends continue:
• Skye terriers
• Dandie dinmont terriers
• Pembroke welsh corgis
• King charles spaniels
Former favourites have slipped down the charts and been classed as vulnerable British breeds, including bloodhounds (53), king charles spaniels (84) and mastiffs (102).
Skye terriers now lead the vulnerable list, with just 28 puppies registered last year. There are an estimated 600 to 800 left in Britain and only 3,000 worldwide, meaning extreme care must be taken with bloodlines to avoid inbreeding.
"They've become unfashionable. It's horrendous and awful. I wish people would get to know them," said Ms Margaret Samuel, a skye owner and enthusiast who brought along her pet Donald.
"He'll lick you to death!" she said. "They look funny and I think they have a sense of humour. They certainly have their own opinion."
Some hope that having celebrity owners will help revive the fortunes of vulnerable breeds. But even pembroke welsh Corgis - famously beloved by Queen Elizabeth II - have been added to the vulnerability watch list, with just 393 puppies registered last year.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE