Brits have fallen in love with big dogs again, figures show, and families are finding they have more space after moving away from towns and cities during the pandemic.
The breed that gained the most popularity last year was the Great Pyrenees, which typically weighs between 55 and 75 kg in adult form.
Those unfamiliar with the breed might picture a polar bear with the fluffiness of an Angora rabbit and the temperament of Jeeves the butler.
The number of Great Pyrenees puppies registered with the Kennel Club last year was relatively small at around 160 – but that represented a 130 per cent increase from 2020.
Of the ten breeds whose popularity grew the most, six were classified as “large”.
These included the English Setter — an endangered native breed that benefited from a 109 percent surge in registrations — as well as the Giant Schnauzer, Chow Chow and Akita.
Ninth in this ranking was the Old English Sheepdog, which until recently featured mostly in Dulux ads. With a 66 percent increase in popularity, this breed has not only gained many admirers; it has lost its status as an endangered breed.
The numbers were released by the Kennel Club, which organizes Crufts. Bill Lambert, a spokesman for Crufts, suggested the resurgence of large dogs may be related to the lockdown trend of moving out of the city to the countryside, where large green spaces are suitable for larger pets.
Mr Lambert said: “We are pleased to see that some of our more vulnerable native breeds, such as the much-loved Old English Sheepdog and historic English Setter, have seen some of the biggest increases in popularity over the past year.”
The most popular breeds were a familiar group overall. Labradors are Britain’s most popular dog, followed by the French Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog and Miniature Smooth Dachshund.
Return of Crufts
Crufts 2022 begins Thursday and is the first iteration of “the world’s largest dog show” – a term that refers to the number of dogs rather than their bulk – since 2020.
The show will feature the Harrier for the first time since 1898, an old, medium-sized British hound whose name is believed to derive from its traditional prey: the hare. Nineteen ordinations compete for the Best in Show award.
You must defeat a tile containing another Pyrenean: the smooth-faced Pyrenean Sheepdog.
It’s a small breed of herding dog that was recognized by the Kennel Club just last year. Although closely related to the long-haired Pyrenean Sheepdog, it is distinguished by its softer, shorter coat.
This year will be the first to feature the smooth-faced Pyrenean Sheepdogs competing for Best in Show, two of which will compete.
Also among the debutants will be the Hungarian Pumi, a small but lively sheepdog breed with a lively, fluffy coat and protruding ears.
Also at the show will be Aleksandra Wasowska, 26, who will be exhibiting two of her five poodles. This duo is Breagh and Pilvi, a pair of white Standard Poodles who have experienced significant misfortune in their lives. Breagh was mistreated by her previous owners and Pilvi was taken to another because she was so scared.
Today, however, they work as hunting dogs and are the focus of Ms. Wasowska’s goal of proving to the public that poodles “are more than pony show dogs.”
Poodles, she explained, are bred to hunt ducks and have been unjustly maligned. Far from being effete stylizations, their pom pom-like cuffs serve to protect their lower legs and paws from cold water.
Their thighs are shaved, Ms. Wasowska said, to give the poodles good mobility despite their thick coat, which helps keep them warm and dry.
Breagh initially draws “weird looks” on shoots, Ms Wasowska said, but her work wins her respect. “Poodles are very smart and can do absolutely anything.”
Crufts runs until March 13th and takes place at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham.
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