Meet the Lancashire Heeler, the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) most recently recognized dog breed. Known for its lively demeanor and trademark “smile,” this pint-sized herding breed is now ready to compete against 200 other breeds in dog shows in the United States, including the famed Westminster Kennel Club show.
Despite its small stature, the Lancashire Heeler is incredibly active and has a can-do-spirited nature. As per AP News, the AKC highlighted the Lancashire Heeler’s unique qualities in their announcement, signaling the breed’s readiness to charm audiences across the country.
Lancashire Heeler is a small but energetic breed
Patricia Blankenship, a resident of Flora, Mississippi, has been breeding Lancashire Heelers for over a decade. She says being around these “gritty” and “intelligent little dogs” is truly “enjoyable.” This is especially true since Lancashire Heelers are expected to be “courageous, happy,” and “affectionate to owner,” as per their breed standard.
Sheryl Bradbury, President of the United States Lancashire Heeler Club, describes these little dogs as “extremely versatile.” According to Bradbury, they excel in a host of activities ranging from scent work to dock diving contests.
However, she also emphasizes the importance of providing these lively canines with jobs to keep them occupied. These jobs can include a range of immersive activities like organized dog sports, walks, and games of fetch with owners. According to Bradbury, these highly energetic canines benefit from interacting with various people and other dogs.
Originating centuries ago in the United Kingdom, Lancashire Heelers are now considered “a vulnerable native breed.” Currently, they are facing a risk of extinction in their homeland. Annually, the British Kennel Club registers “an average of just 121 Lancashire Heelers.” That said, the American Kennel Club estimates the breed’s global population to stand at around 5,000.
American Kennel Club’s process for breed recognition
Established in 1884, the AKC stands as the oldest purebred dog registry in the country. Currently, it operates as a governing body for various canine competitions that embrace both mixed-breeds and purebreds. However, only the 201 officially recognized breeds contend for honors like “best in show” at prestigious events like Westminster.
For a breed to gain recognition, it must boast a minimum of 300 pedigreed dogs. Moreover, these dogs must be spread across at least 20 states. Furthermore, enthusiasts must reach a consensus on a breed standard. Recognition is voluntary, and some breed advocates may seek acknowledgment from other kennel clubs. At the same time, some may choose not to pursue it at all.
However, the inclusion or perpetuation of new breeds raises concerns among animal rights activists. Dog lovers argue that breeding dogs can lead to more puppy mills, which will reduce the number of pets adopted from shelters. What’s more, it could make health problems worse for dogs by limiting their genetic variety.
Contrarily, the AKC asserts its commitment to responsible “breeding for type and function,” contending it’s a priority to produce canines endowed with specific skills. In particular, these skills include the ability to track lost individuals. The organization also suggests there is an upside to breeding “pets with characteristics that owners can somewhat predict and prepare for.” Notably, over the last three decades, AKC has contributed an estimated $32 million to a foundation supporting research in canine health.
The Lancashire Heeler’s endearing qualities and rich history help it emerge as a worthy addition to the American Kennel Club’s esteemed tradition. Its recognition reflects not only the breed’s unique attributes but also the AKC’s commitment to celebrating the excellence of our canine companions.