Tuesday, February 12, 2008

AKC Admits Four New Breeds

The rings at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show are just a little more crowded this year.

At the 132nd iteration of the world-famous dog show, currently running at Madison Square Garden, four newly American Kennel Club-recognized dog breeds will debut on the green carpet: the Swedish Vallhund, the Beauceron, the Tibetan mastiff, and the Plotthound.

"These four breeds have been around a long time, but it just took them a little time to get recognized," said David Frei, the show's commentator. "One reason people watch the show is for diversity - this year, there are 169 breeds and varieties, which is more than you see on your daily walk to the park."

For a real Whitman's sampler of canines, you need to go abroad, where the Fédération Cynologique Internationale recognizes 335 breeds. But Frei points out that last year, Westminster was the only show in the country in which every single AKC breed and variety was entered.

Here are the newcomers:

Plotthound (Hound Group). Developed in the mountains of North Carolina by two German brothers who lent the breed their name, this big-game hunter was bred for baying boar and treeing bear. A true hunting hound, the Plott has a striking brindle coat, and is known for being intelligent, tenacious - and vocal.

Swedish Vallhund (Herding Group). This sturdily built farm dog and cattle herder has been around since the time of the Vikings. Described as a "big dog in a small body," its characteristic features are its double coat and "harness markings."

Beauceron (Herding Group). A not-so-distant relative to the longhair Briard, this French dog was bred to herd and guard large flocks of sheep, and was used during both world wars as a messenger and mine detector. Having double rear dewclaws is a requirement of the breed's AKC standard.

Tibetan mastiff (Working Group). Powerful and noble in appearance, this guardian of family and property is considered by many to be the original stock from which most large, modern working breeds descend. Medieval traveler Marco Polo described these dogs as "tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion."

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