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Labrador Tops Most Popular Dog Breed List for 29th Year in a Row

The rankings stay much the same from year to year, but in 2019, Pembroke Welsh corgis broke the top ten for the first time

A Labrador retriever, but you probably knew that already, given that this pooch is America's most popular breed (Joshua Köller via Pexels)
smithsonianmag.com

Popularity contests might seem catty, but we humans will do just about anything to promote our pooches. For the 29th year in a row, the Labrador retriever has emerged victorious as America’s number one breed, according to a list released by the American Kennel Club (AKC) on May 1.

Other sought-after canines include German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs, which nabbed spots two through five, respectively—a ranking identical to last year’s. But as the AKC notes in a statement, some preferences have shifted: 2019 marks the first year in which the Pembroke Welsh corgi broke the top ten, scooting just ahead of the dachshund. (The move also unseated the former tenth place honoree, the Yorkshire terrier, which now finds itself lurking at number 12.) In last place was the English foxhound, a stout, medium-sized dog bred for hunting.

The results were tallied based on the 1.4 million puppies registered by the AKC in 2019. Since the organization only recognizes 193 “official” purebred dogs, mixed-breed pets—including labradoodles (a Labrador crossed with a poodle), Yorkipoos (a Yorkshire terrier-poodle mix), puggles (the product of a beagle-pug union) and other cutesy portmanteaued pups—failed to make the cut. Crucially, these canines represent at least half of all pet dogs in the United States, reports Alicia Lee for CNN.

Labrador retriever
If Labrador retrievers are unseated in 2020 for the number one spot, it will break what could have been a 30-year streak as the nation's top dog. (Pixabay)

The Labrador retriever’s commanding, unwavering lead at the front of the purebred pack isn’t that surprising, Brandi Hunter, the AKC’s vice president of public relations and communications, tells CNN.

“Labs are an all-around dog,” she says. “They’re great for families that have kids, but also if you have a really active lifestyle and like to hike.”

Smart, athletic and friendly, these popular pups first appeared in the country’s top ten list in the 1970s. They’ve stayed there ever since, according to the AKC. If the breed’s popularity holds through the rest of 2020, Labs will be able to claim a three-decade streak in the number one slot.

English foxhound
An English foxhound that deserves a little more love and respect (Thowra_uk via Flickr under CC BY 2.0)

“This is a do-everything breed that needs to be with its humans,” Erin Henlon-Hall, a Labrador retriever breeder from Villa Ridge, Missouri, says in the AKC statement. “It personifies the definition of versatility—hunting, showing, family, dock diving, tracking, obedience. It’s as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.”

Still, the human-Labrador retriever bond certainly isn’t United-States specific: One of Vladimir Putin’s most famous companions was Konni, a black Lab who spent 15 years at the Russian leader’s side, attending staff meetings and greeting visiting diplomats.

The corgi’s newfound edge, on the other paw, is perhaps less intuitive. A relatively obscure breed throughout the 20th century, the waddly, tailless, fox-eared breed’s new fame as a social media star has likely driven its success, Hunter tells CNN.

Among the internet’s most recognizable corgis are the beloved pets of England’s Elizabeth II, who fell in love with the canines at a young age, around the time her father, George VI, brought home a dog named Dookie in 1933, according to Mental Floss’ Suzanne Raga. The monarch’s passion for the pups was highlighted in the television series “The Crown, winning the breed even more prime time exposure.

Non-royals, too, have championed their corgis with the help of the world wide web. Some of the squat canines, like Ralph the Corgi, have their own Instagrams, updating followers regularly with shots of their slobbery smiles. Others simply make regular appearances on their humans’ social media accounts: Stephen King’s dog, Molly, for instance, features prominently on the author’s Twitter feed. Corgis even have close ties with Amazon, which once claimed a dog named Rufus as its original mascot, honoring the beloved pooch of its former editor-in-chief and principal engineer. (The breed is also a surprisingly good dancer.)

Of course, the hype around corgis isn’t just online, Hunter tells CNN.

“They are a lot of dog in a little package,” she says. “They’re very adaptable, very smart and people tend to really fall in love with them.”

After all, with that face, how could you not?

About Katherine J. Wu
Katherine J. Wu

Katherine J. Wu is a Boston-based science journalist and Story Collider senior producer whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Undark magazine, Popular Science and more. She holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunobiology from Harvard University, and was Smithsonian magazine's 2018 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.

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