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Ireland’s native dogs are dying out including the beautiful Irish Wolfhound

They are possibly the best known Irish native dog breed but they’ve just been placed on the ‘Most Endangered’ list by the UK Kennel Club.

The Irish Wolfhound with their imposing height and gentle nature are an irresistible head turner, standing on all fours they can easily hit 3ft tall and a towering 7ft on their hind legs.

But now this magnificent giant is in danger of fading into history as litter numbers decrease year by year.

Read more: Dog attacked in is afraid to be outside

Alongside them in diminishing numbers are three other native Irish breeds, the Irish Water Spaniel Irish Red and White Setter and the sturdy Kerry Blue Terrier.

Between 2016 and 2020 they have all seen the numbers of registered dogs plummet.

The Kennel clubs fears that a number of Ireland and Britain’s native dog breeds could soon disappear altogether and the club has been tracking the vulnerable native breeds in the hope that those with declining numbers could be popularized once again.



Wolf Hound Major Robert Moore with Royal Irish Mascot Brian Boru X – Conri – Picture: Robbie Hodgson

The list of vulnerable dogs includes a number of well-loved breeds including the old English sheepdog, the bearded Collie, and the Welsh Springer Spaniel. But despite eleven being popular pets, their numbers have continued to dwindle.

In 2020 there were only 195 Irish Wolfhounds registered in the UK, 227 old English sheepdogs registered in the UK, along with 268 bearded collies, and 205 Welsh Springer Spaniels. Some dog breeds are even rarer.



A huge Irish Wolfhound float at St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast
A huge Irish Wolfhound float at St Patrick’s Day parade in Belfast

The Manchester terrier is one of the most vulnerable dog breeds in the UK, with only 155 registered in 2020. There were also only 92 Lancashire heelers registered with the Kennel Club. But the Otterhound is the most vulnerable native breed, as there were just seven registered last year down from 44 in 2019.

vulnerable breeds

Those with fewer than 300 registrations each year are added to the ‘vulnerable’ list watched by the UK Kennel Club. There is also a list of ‘at watch’ breeds which have between 300 and 450 registrations a year, which The Kennel Club also monitors.

A spokesperson for the UK The Kennel Club said: “Vulnerable native breeds are dog breeds of British and Irish origin that are considered to be vulnerable due to their declining registration numbers.

“These breeds are at risk of disappearing from our parks and streets, simply because people don’t know they exist or because they aren’t considered fashionable.



Pinak Das with his Irish Wolfhounds Toby and Jeeshu
Pinak Das with his Irish Wolfhounds Toby and Jeeshu

“Some breeds have such low numbers that they are completely unrecognizable to the public, which is a concern because it means that breeds that might be the perfect fit for people’s lifestyles are being overlooked in favor of other breeds that might not be, simply because they are not as well known.

“To give these dogs the chance they deserve, it is important that if you’re thinking about getting a dog you consider the lesser-known breeds.

“There are more than 200 breeds of dog recognized in the UK so there is a breed for everyone. We find that people tend to choose a breed from the pool of breeds they’ave heard of before, which means that the perfect breed for them and their lifestyle might be overlooked.”



Jilly Beattie couldn’t resist a cuddle with Royal Irish Regiment’s mascot Conri. Pic: Robbie Hodgson.

irish wolfhound puppy registrations

  • 2016: 256
  • 2017: 372
  • 2017 : 239
  • 2019 : 229
  • 2020: 195


The perfect spot .. the Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel puppy registrations

  • 2016: 116
  • 2017: 112
  • 2017: 106
  • 2019 : 93
  • 2020: 57


Irish Red and White Setters are on the kennel Club's endangered list
Irish Red and White Setters are on the kennel Club’s endangered list

Irish Red and White Setter puppy registrations

  • 2016: 63
  • 2017: 70
  • 2017: 51
  • 2019: 39
  • 2020: 83


A groomed Kerry Blue Terrier
A groomed Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue puppy registrations

  • 2016: 168
  • 2017: 152
  • 2017: 117
  • 2019: 108
  • 2020: 161


Irish Terriers on alert
Irish Terriers on alert

And the irish-terrier has been placed in the ‘At Watch’ list

  • 2016: 326
  • 2017: 589
  • 2017: 384
  • 2019: 338
  • 2020: 389
  • The UK’s vulnerable native breeds with the number of dogs registered in 2020



    A pug towered over by an Irish wolfhound

    The UK’s ‘at watch’ dog breeds

    • Bedlington Terrier: 364
    • Bullmastiff: 372
    • Cairn Terrier: 443
    • Irish Terrier: 389
    • Norfolk Terrier: 358
    • Parson Russel Terrier: 440
    • Welsh Terrier: 412

    Do you have a dog on these lists? Let us know in the comment section below.



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