Rough collie latest breed on brink of being declared at risk as numbers decline

The Rough Collie faces an uncertain future after the breed’s popularity plummeted, recording its lowest numbers in more than 75 years.

The breed is now on the verge of being listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the Kennel Club, which oversees breeds in declining numbers in the UK.

Lassie often comes to mind when people think of the rough collie, thanks to the novel that began in the 1940s, followed by films, television series, radio programs, animation and comics.

At the peak of the breed’s popularity in 1979, there were more than 8,000 puppy registrations per year, placing them in the top 10 breeds in the United Kingdom.

I’ve spent my life surrounded by Rough Collies who have enjoyed long, healthy lives and I can attest to their friendly, happy temperament, but their popularity is waning every year

Carole Smedley, Rough Collie Breed Council

Fewer than 500 Rough Collie puppies were born last year, a 25% drop since 2021 and a steep 94% drop since their prime.

This is the lowest registered number for the breed since the 1940s, and if the decline continues, they will be placed on the Kennel Club’s “at watch” list, which monitors breeds with between 300 and 450 puppy registrations a year.

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Those with fewer than 300 pup births a year are included in the organisation’s ‘Vulnerable Native Breeds’ list – designed to highlight those British and Irish native breeds at risk of disappearing.

Carole Smedley, Chair of the Rough Collie Breed Council, said: “We are very concerned that this beautiful and majestic breed is losing popularity.

“I’ve spent my life surrounded by Rough Collies who have enjoyed long, healthy lives and I can attest to their friendly, happy temperament, but their popularity wanes each year.

“Of course, no one breed is right for everyone, but for the right owner who can provide the right space and environment, they have so much love to give and love children.

“It’s such a shame that some of our native historical and recognizable breeds continue to fall in popularity and we hope more people will become aware of the breadth of breeds and responsibly choose the right one for them.”

More endangered breeds were registered in 2022 than ever before, with both the shaggy bearded collie and the distinctive Miniature Bull Terrier making the list, along with the Bedlington Terrier, Bullmastiff, Irish Terrier, Norfolk Terrier and Parson Russell Terriers on the list were placed on the “at watch” list.

There are now 34 endangered native breeds and a further eight classified as ‘on guard’.

The Yorkshire Terrier, once the number one breed in the UK in the 1970s but has since declined in popularity, recording just 495 puppy births last year.

The Kennel Club’s campaign to save the forgotten breeds aims to remind people of the large number of British and Irish native breeds, particularly those that are seeing their numbers decline and are at real risk of disappearing altogether.

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The campaign has already seen breeds like the Pembroke Welsh Corgi come back from the brink of extinction.


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