Numbers of movie legend’s collie breed plummet to record low

Alas, poor Lassie: Numbers of movie legend’s rough collie breed plummet to record low as they fall out of favour with Britain’s pet owners

  • The breed has recently fallen dramatically out of favour with British pet owners 
  • Kennel Club recorded 8,000 registrations in the year Lassie came out in 1979 
  • But in 2022, just 500 were recorded, putting the breed in a vulnerable position 

For more than 80 years, the heroic collie Lassie has been coming to the rescue of her accident-prone human companions.

But now it’s the dog itself – or rather her breed – that might need saving, as rough collies have fallen dramatically out of favour with British pet owners.

Experts fear the breed could vanish from the UK as the number of new puppies registered has plummeted 94 per cent since 1979, the year after The Magic Of Lassie film was released.

The Kennel Club recorded around 8,000 registrations that year, compared to just 500 in 2022. If that trend continues, the rough collie will be placed on the organisation’s list of vulnerable native breeds.

The decline is thought to be down to fashion trends – including the lack of celebrity owners – and the fact that more people are living in urban rented accommodation, unsuitable for larger dogs.

Lassie was created by author Eric Knight for his 1940 novel Lassie Come Home, spawning 12 films and a TV series that ran for 591 episodes over 19 years from 1954.

The Kennel Club recorded around 8,000 registrations that year, compared to just 500 of the breed in 2022

Originally bred to herd sheep in Scotland, the rough collie is not the only one of the country’s 221 breeds of pedigree dog considered at risk.

Last year, the Kennel Club recorded more vulnerable native breeds than ever before – 34 in total – with both the bearded collie and the miniature bull terrier being placed on the list.

Three out of ten dogs in the UK now come from just ten breeds, including the labrador, French bulldog and dachshund.

Kennel club spokesman Bill Lambert said: ‘The rough collie is such an historic and recognisable breed and it’s troubling to see that their numbers are dwindling.

‘We urge the British public to find out more about the lesser-known breeds, especially those who are at risk of disappearing.

‘We have such a rich diversity of breeds, but if people don’t look beyond the most popular choices then there is a real danger we could lose them forever, leaving puppy owners with less choice, and therefore are unlikely to find their perfect match in the future.’

Breeds are placed on the Kennel Club’s ‘at watch’ list if fewer than 450 puppies are registered in a year, or on to the vulnerable list if there are fewer than 300 new registrations.

Other breeds considered vulnerable include the English setter, Irish wolfhound, King Charles spaniel and the greyhound.