Unloved English pointer 'could become extinct' as breed is sent to the doghouse by social media stars

Patrick Sawer
An English pointer, one of the breeds that has fallen out of favour with British dog owners - ©2019 CAG Photography Ltd

They have a reputation for being strong willed and independent, with boundless energy and a love of exercise from their breeding as gun dogs.

Even so they are also said to make great family dogs, patient with children, tolerant of other animals and remaining calm within the perpetual chaos of a family home.

But, despite so many attractive features, it appears Britain’s dog owners have fallen out of love with the English Pointer - so much so that dog welfare groups fear it could even become extinct.

Dog lovers have turned their back on the Pointer - named after the characteristic pose they assume when they catch the scent of game, their nose pointed toward the game - in favour of more fashionable Continental breeds such as the Labrador.

Small breeds have also grown in popularity because they are seen as easier to handle in a city environment, while the Pointer’s love of the outdoors has given the breed a reputation as being difficult to handle.

And with few celebrity backers, and little interest  in the breed among ‘influencers’ on social media, there is nobody to raise the Pointer’s profile and promote its positive attributes.

Indeed several historic British breeds have seen a slump in popularity compared to foreign rivals.

Natalie Waller with Jack, an English pointer who is looking for a home Credit: Charlotte Graham/CAG Photography Ltd

New figures from the Kennel Club show that new registrations of the English Pointer have gone into steep decline.

Registrations of Pointer puppy births are set to number only around 430 by the end of the year, which could see it move for the first time onto the Kennel Club’s ‘At Watch’ list. The list is for those breeds that number between 300 and 450 registrations a year, putting them at risk of disappearing in the future. 

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for the Kennel Club, said: “The English Pointer is nowhere to be seen in popular culture, is shunned by celebrities who often influence pup popularity As they were bred originally as specialist working dogs, they are energetic, strong and willful. While they can make a great pet for the right owner, who understands their traits and working instincts, they are becoming a ‘forgotten breed’ as they are just longer seen in the country’s streets and parks.

“City lifestyles can have a huge impact on this, with many small dogs more suiting urban living. Pointers really do best in the country where they are not confined inside for long periods of time.”

The Pointer’s popularity has fallen by almost half in a decade, while its continental cousin, the German Short-Haired Pointer is up 25 per cent across the same period, in part because it is regarded as more of an all-rounder suited to being a pet rather than a working dog.

At the same time the “versatile” Labrador is set to reclaim the throne as Britain’s top dog, with 36,443 registrations.

This will see it replace the previously highly fashionable French Bulldog - which can suffer from a number of health problems. The predicted Kennel Club registrations of the Labrador is predicted to be 11 per cent higher in 2019 than those of the French Bulldog.

Mr Lambert added: “Many dog owners living in the country seem to have lost all knowledge about many older, less popular dog breeds and tend to view the perfect family as containing a Labrador and nothing else.”

There has also been a fall in the registration of other previous British favourites, such as the West Highland White Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Boxer and Border Terrier.

Their numbers have fallen by over half in a decade, taking them out of the UK’s top ten.

Of the ten breeds which have risen the quickest in popularity since 2015, nine are of foreign origin - including the small European Dachshund and Pomeranian, the distinctively fluffy Chinese Chow Chow and the exotic and stylish Japanese Shiba Inu.

This compares to just one historically native breed in the top ten, the Queen’s own Welsh Corgi (Pembroke), which saw its popularity boosted by its appearance in the Netflix series The Crown, which returns to the screen on Sunday for a third series. 

There has also been a royal boost for the Sussex Spaniel, another vulnerable breed, which saw registrations rise by 56 per cent since 2018, when it was named as the most vulnerable breed in the UK with just 34 puppies registered.

It is thought the high profile of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are known to be dog lovers, has seen a rise in demand for this breed. 

However the historic Parsons Russell Terrier, made famous by award-winning silent film, The Artist, could also find itself on the Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list. Compared to the same period in 2018, this British breed has seen a 23 per cent fall in registrations so far this year. 

Additional reporting by Verity Bowman