In spite of an inspiring comeback from the very edge brink of extinction, the Panda Bear remains the “poster child” for extinction, a reminder of how close we came to losing a captivating animal.
By comparison, this is what 600 Otterhounds (a conservative estimate of the breed’s global population) looks like in terms of papier-mâché Panda Bears:
Sadly, Otterhounds are not alone in their vulnerability.
In its country of origin, the UK’s Kennel Club registered only 81 Norwich Terriers last year. The number of registered Smooth Collies was 77, Curly Coated Retrievers came in at 70, and only 62 Bloodhounds were officially recorded.
The numbers get worse.
In 2018, a mere 50 Skye Terriers (think Greyfriar’s Bobby) were registered. They were followed by 48 Glen of Imaal Terriers, 51 Irish Red & White Setters ( a breed older than the Irish Setter), and a shocking 34 Sussex Spaniels. Thirty four. While a few of these breeds are faring better across the proverbial pond, it’s alarming that their numbers are so low in the culture that gave birth to so many of them.
It’s not just happening in the UK. The Greenland Sled Dog is in big trouble, and if Dr. Stanley Coren is to be believed, ten breeds account for half of AKC registrations while others are heading into dangerous times.
We are unmoved. Purpose bred dogs can be repurposed. We no longer hunt Otters, but Otterhounds are descended from Bloodhounds and inherited that marvelous nose making them eminently suitable for tracking and trailing work. Glen of Imaal Terriers no longer turn rotisserie spits (thank you!), but because they are a gentler, less excitable breed than most terriers, they can be a great companion for retirees and city dwellers.
The world appreciates what conservationists have done for endangered species, but we think it’s time to include dog breeds as animals needing protection, and to that end, we applaud the preservation breeders who ensure that the next generation of sound, socialized dogs will be around for our future to meet them.