Reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works has always been an enjoyable past-time for me. In one such novel named “The hound of Baskervilles”, we are introduced to a character ‘Dr. James Mortimer’ who has a pet spaniel. The illustration of the pet spaniel intrigued me. I recognized it to be an ‘English Water Spaniel’.
On digging a little deeper, the even more interesting fact came to light. The ‘English Water Spaniel’ had long been extinct by the early 20th century. The fact that the current dog breeds which we pet, have replaced some of the older dog breeds (in terms of evolution) has since been itching my curiosity. How many more dogs can we never get to pet again? The answer lies in the following paragraphs.
Let’s start with the ‘The English Water Spaniel’.
It was very popular in hunting waterfowl and for being able to dive like a duck. It resembles a cross between a Poodle and a Springer Spaniel or a Collie with curly fur and typically in a white and liver/tan pattern. It pre-dates the Irish Water Spaniel and has found place in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Breeds like Field Spaniel, Curly Coated Retrieve rand American Water Spaniel are said to have been genetically influenced by the English Water Spaniel.
‘The English White Terrier’.
This breed was invented in the early 1860s by a few breeders who were anxious to see a new breed from a prick-eared version of the small-white-working-terriers. This lead to the development of the Rat terrier, the Sealyham terrier, the Fox terrier, the Boston Terrier and the Jack Russell terrier.
The English white terrier breed lived for about 30 years before vanishing from this world. The ‘Bull Terrier’ is considered to be the descendent of the English White Terrier-and-English Bulldog cross. The growing unpopularity among the public due to the dog’s genetic problems lead to the unfortunate declaration the English white terrier as a mere ‘distinction without a difference’ by the Kennel Club Hierarchy.
A small note on the Kennel Club before we move onto the next breed.
It aims at preserving and protecting the dog breeds of British and Irish origin. In 2003, they started the compilation of the ‘Vulnerable Breed List’. Terrier Group has found the largest number of dogs in this list. The most drastic decline in popularity of a dog breed is seen in case of the Sealyham terrier. Alfred Hitchcock, a Hollywood director, was fond of Sealyham terrier. Approximately 1084 Sealyhams registered at the time of the registration of his first Sealyham terrier in 1938. But the annual registration amounts to a meagre average of 60 dogs.
Next comes the ‘The Otter-hound’.
It was a heart-throb for centuries when they were kept in packs at the time of Henry VIII. The British ban on otter hunting was the death sentence to this breed.
A worldwide census of Otter-hounds indicated the existence of fewer than a thousand dogs. According to the interpretation of ‘The British and Irish a Dog Breeds Preservation Trust’, the census count had made the Otter-hound “twice as rare as the Giant Panda”.
‘The Toy Trawler Spaniel’.
‘The Toy Trawler Spaniel’ resembled the ‘King Charles’ Spaniel’ of the 16th century. It is considered to be a descendent of the original ‘King Charles’ Spaniel’, and an older variety of ‘Sussex spaniel’.
Originally used as a sporting dog, it later became popular as a toy dog and show-dog. It was considered extinct by early 1920’s.
‘The Paisley Terrier’
It was an extinct terrier breed from Paisley, Great Britain. Being the progenitor of today’s Yorkshire terrier, the Paisley Terrier was bred primarily as a pet and a show-dog version of the Skye terrier. It was also called the ‘Clydesdale Terrier’, named after another breeding location in the Clyde Valley.
‘The Moscow Water Dog’
The Moscow Water Dog was produced only by a state operated organization called ‘the Red Star Kennel’ which aimed at providing working dogs for the armed services.
It is also known as the Moscow Retriever, Moscow Diver, or Moskovsky Vodolaz, is a not-so-popular dog breed. This extinct dog breed is a descendent of the East European Shepherd, Newfoundland and Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd).
‘The Pembroke Corgi’
Although not extinct, but this famous dog breed is one the verge of extinction. Being Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite dog, Corgis have lived with the Royal family ever since George VI saw “Dookie” and brought her home. She was entitled ‘the matriarch of the canine dynasty’ which resides in the Buckingham palace ever since. Interestingly, the Queen has been a proud owner of more than 30 Corgis excluding the current ones “Willow” and “Holly”.
We are bound to expect that the affinity of Queen towards ‘the Pembroke Corgi’ would guarantee the popularity of Corgis. Yet it is noteworthy that being a part of the royal family does not suffice to assure the sustainability of a dog breed. The Pembroke Corgi is now on the ‘vulnerability list’ of the British Kennel Club due to a scanty 241 registrations in the year 2013.
‘The Sealyham Terrier’
Similar to the case of Corgis, the Sealyham terrier was a very famous breed whose popularity dropped drastically over time. Alfred Hitchcock, a Hollywood movie director was very fond of them.
In 1938, when Alfred had brought home his first Sealyham terrier, there were about 1084 registrations per year, but now, the registrations average to about 60 dogs a year.
We pet parents often overlook the fact that dog breeds come and go as trends and needs change. Along with the above mentioned dogs, the Spanish pointer, the Long-haired Greyhound, the Turnspit dog and the European water spaniel, are all extinct. Some of the ‘vulnerable’ breeds wait at ‘the point of no return’ and may never give us an opportunity to pet them again.