Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Boston Terrier - most popular AKC registered breed in 1905
In today's media driven society, what makes a breed popular? Maybe winning the Westminster Kennel Club dog show influenced decisions before moving pictures were launched in the 1920s, but it doesn’t play into the popularity equation any more. 

Gathering data for two studies, social scientists combed through 50 years of AKC registration statistics, from 1946 to 2001, looking for a pattern. What they found was no surprise.  

American Bull Terrier -  most popular un-registered breed in 1905
Breed popularity is driven by the same thing that drives most fashionable trends: When people are confronted with different choices, rather than make optimal or rational decisions (like choosing the right breed for their lifestyle), they just copy one another. That is, until a random event, like a Disney dog movie or Paris Hilton flaunting a purse with a Chihuahua in it,  causes an abrupt change and adds a new and novel choice.   Then when the dust settles, the copying continues, increasing the frequency of the novelty, and so on and so forth.
Poodle - most popular dog
for 22 years, beginning in 1960.
The researchers noted that after the 1996 release of the classic film, “101 Dalmatians,” new Dalmatian registrations increased immediately.  In 1985, 6,880 Dalmatians were registered with the AKC.  After the release of the movie, registrations peaked at 43,816. Eight  years later  registrations dropped to 1,112. 

Dalmatian - 73rd most popular breed in 2012
This means people didn't get another Dalmatian after the death of the first one.  Could the reason be that the complex, independent and intelligent Dalmatian is not the saccharine cartoon character that Disney made it out to be?  

According to the AKC's 2012 registration statistics, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed for the last 21 years. Ho Hum (editor's comment).  I wish someone kept records on mixed breed dog popularity.
American Cocker Spaniel - most popular breed
for 18 years, beginning in 1936
Harold A. Herzog, R. Alexander Bentley, and Matthew W. Hahn, Random drift and large shifts in popularity of dog  breeds, Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology Letters 271, 353-356 (2004).

Harold A. Herzog and Steven M. Elias, The effects of winning Westminster on dog breed popularity, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 225 (3), 365-367 (2004).

1 comment:

  1. I remember when cocker spaniels were popular, most people had them, including my parents. I love sport breeds, we do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities and fun to have a dog that has lots of energy.