Some of the rarest native UK dog breeds and why you should consider getting one.

Some of the rarest native UK dog breeds and why you should consider getting one.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the most popular pedigree dog breeds in the UK and in that article we also looked at the 10 'least popular' pedigree breeds – the ones that are top of the Kennel Club’s ‘Vulnerable’ list of native breeds – according to the number of births registered last year – which are in danger of disappearing.  The top ten contains some pretty obscure breeds (and they’re also so rare we can’t find any free to use photos of them!) but just outside the top ten you will also find some of the UK's most recognisable breeds who are in danger of becoming extinct as well – so this week we’re going to take a look at some of those breeds and talk about why they need saving, as the Kennel Club explains:

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

Before we get started, here’s the top ten most vulnerable list that we shared the other week: 

The top 10 most vulnerable native dog breeds in the UK in 2020

  1. Otterhound 7 registrations in 2020
  2. Skye terrier 27 registrations in 2020
  3. Bloodhound 32 registrations in 2020
  4. Glen of Imaal Terrier 36 registrations in 2020
  5. Sussex Spaniel 44 registrations in 2020
  6. Curly Coated Retriever 55 registrations in 2020
  7. King Charles Spaniel 56 registrations in 2020
  8. Irish Water Spaniel 57 registrations in 2020
  9. Field Spaniel 69 registrations in 2020
  10. Smooth Collie 72 registrations in 2020

As you can see, most of these dogs are very rare breeds or don’t always make suitable pets – Otterhounds and Bloodhounds are bred for specific jobs. Another thing to remember when looking at this list is that there are a lot of pedigree type dogs around that just aren’t KC registered – for example most sheep farms have one or more smooth collies, they’re just not KC registered and probably don’t meet the breed standard, hence a dog that you might see around quite a lot is actually on the vulnerable list, so it could be time for collie breeders to step up and register their dogs in order to stop them from officially disappearing.

Just outside this top ten you will spot some well-known breeds that have simply fallen out of fashion, so let's take a look at some of these breeds and why they deserve a to be cherished and preserved. The main thing you’ll notice about these breeds is that (apart from the corgi) they’re all rather large dogs – so perhaps it is time we started embracing larger breeds and showing them some love before they disappear all together. 

Old English Sheepdog

The iconic ‘Dulux dog’ is on the vulnerable list with the number of registered births declining by almost 50% since 2016. Only 227 of these magnificent dogs were registered in the UK last year.

Old English Sheepdogs are large, energetic dogs, originally bred for herding, they have adapted well to domestication and make great pets. They are good natured and intelligent and love children and being part of family life. They do take a bit of grooming as they have such long fluffy coats but this shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve got some Gravitis pet grooming tools to hand! Here’s a video of Mick the Video Guy reviewing our best selling pet dryer with his Old English pup Beamish.

Irish Wolfhound

As the name suggests, this historic breed was bred to hunt wolves. Often confused with Deerhounds (see below), Wolfhounds are stockier and able to capture aggressive animals such as boar and bears – but this does not mean they are aggressive themselves. They make affectionate and loyal pets, they love children and are generally friendly towards strangers and other dogs. The main thing you need with a Wolfhound is lots of space and room to play. Last year only 195 of these beautiful dogs were registered in the UK, so if you are looking for an unusual yet easy-going pet, why not consider getting a Wolfhound? 

Wolfhound photo by Martina Vitáková on UnsplashWolfhound photo by Martina Vitáková on Unsplash


Deerhounds come in slightly shorter than Wolfhounds, with males measuring around 30-32 inches and females around 28 inches high. They are also finer and less muscular than the Wolfhound as they were originally bred for hunting deer so they look more like a very, very big hairy greyhound.

As you can imagine, deerhounds need a lot of exercise. They can be aloof but they are gentle and trustworthy and make good family pets.

Welsh Corgi (Cardigan)

The only medium-sized dog on our list is the Cardigan Corgi. What most people don’t realise is there are two kinds of Corgi and although they look similar, they are distinctly different. The breed of Corgi favoured by the Queen is of course the Pembroke Corgi, which may explain why the Cardigan Corgi doesn’t enjoy quite as much popularity.

The two breeds have totally different origins and the Cardigan Corgi predates the Pembroke Corgi by more than 2,000 years – making it one of the oldest breeds in the British Isles. Cardigans are heavier than Pembrokes and keep their tails long and they are a slightly different shape. Their coat colours are more varied they come in lots of different colours including brindle, black and white and blue merle.

Of the two types of corgi, Cardigans are more aid back and tend to assess a situation before jumping in. They make good pets and they learn quickly.

Corgi photo by Kris Møklebust on PexelsCorgi photo by Kris Møklebust on Pexels

English Mastiff

Only 104 Mastiffs were registered in the UK last year, this was down on the previous 3 years but higher than 2016 when only 102 were registered with the Kennel Club. Like the Corgi, the Mastiff is another ancient dog breed, descended from Molossus dogs which were bred for battle, 5,000 years ago.

Mastiffs are big heavy dogs and they drool - but they are very loving. They need a lot of room and a garden and may not make suitable pets for first time dog owners.

Gordon Setter 

These gorgeous dogs were originally bred to hunt game birds in the highlands of Scotland but like the rest of the setter breeds, they also make excellent family pets. Last year only 268 puppies were registered in the UK – although their numbers have increased slightly over the past few years – probably due in part to the fact that a Gordon Setter won best in show at Crufts back in 2017.

Gordon Setter photo by Mladen Borisov on UnsplashGordon Setter photo by Mladen Borisov on Unsplash

Is your dog on the Vulnerable list? The Kennel Club thinks it’s important to raise awareness of these types of dogs before they disappear completely. There are over 200 native breeds of dog recognised in the UK, something for everyone so before you choose a dog based on their fashion status or availability, consider getting something less well-known!

Main photo by Izabelly Marques on Unsplash

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