The American Kennel Club (AKC) has released its annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S.
Here are 10 trends related to bird dog breeds that stand out. Note: Many pointing dogs are registered with the Field Dog Stud Book as opposed to the AKC.
For the 25th consecutive year, and no doubt thanks to many pheasant hunters, the Labrador retriever holds firm at the top spot. Black, yellow or chocolate, the loveable Lab has helped the breed to the longest reign as the nation’s most popular breed in AKC history.
“Goldies” are named as much for the “Golden Hour” roosters they love to chase as their fashionable coats, right? While much of the Golden retriever’s popularity - see #3 on the list - is due to its family dog status, many pheasant hunters know the thrill of hunting with this biddable breed.
A little more than a decade ago, the German shorthaired pointer stood as the 21st most popular breed in America. Today, the “GSP” – undoubtedly the top pointing breed among pheasant hunters – is a mere one spot (11) away from the top grouping. With a breed win at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the top 10 in coming years seems likely.
A decade ago, the Brittany penciled in at 30, as it did again in 2014. Already popular, this pocket pointer moved up to 27 last year and this year leapfrogged one more spot to 26. Just don’t refer to it a spaniel to any self-respecting Brittany owner (the American Kennel Club dropped the word "spaniel" from this pointing breed's name in 1982).
The Wirehaired pointing griffon (aka “the 4-wheel drive of hunting dogs”) has made huge strides over the past decade, jumping 46 spots from 112 in 2004 to 66 in 2015.
Beards are still in (see Wirehaired pointing griffon), and in a half decade, the German wirehaired pointer has crept up about a spot per year, from 74 to 68.
As far as spaniels go, English springers saw a slight uptick to 27 (from 28), English cockers continued their momentum up to 60 (as recently as 2001, English cockers were at 76), and those little brown dogs, Boykin spaniels, locked in at 121 just two years ago, have risen to 107.
While Labs and Goldens are mainstays in the top five, flat-coated retrievers (from 92 to 86) and curly-coated retrievers (from 163 to 151) prove there’s growing interest in other retriever breeds.
As recently as 2011, the AKC declared the “Year of the Setters” when four setter breeds made jumps. English setters (89 down to 96) and Gordon setters (100 down to 105) have reversed the trend this year.
The rarest of bird dog breeds? Still the Sussex spaniel, which moved up ever so slightly, from 175 to 173.
Anthony Hauck is Pheasants Forever’s director of public relations. Contact him at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.
Photo credit: Logan Hinners, Pheasants Forever