On Jan. 1, 2024, the American Kennel Club (AKC) designated the Lancashire heeler as its newest recognized dog breed. The small but mighty dog can now appear in various dog shows, including the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, per the Associated Press.
Having overcome its status as an endangered breed on the U.K.-based The Kennel Club's list just 20 years prior, the news is poised to help the family-friendly dog in terms of adoption numbers. Here's what you need to know about the AKC's designation and what it means going forward for the Lancashire heeler.
The Lancashire heeler is the newest AKC dog breed.
The AKC's announcement of the Lancashire heeler joining its storied official dog breeds list coincided with the dawn of the new year in 2024. It became eligible on Jan. 1 to compete in dog shows under the AKC's Herding Group.
Although the breed has been fully recognized by The Kennel Club since 1981, it nevertheless needed to make its way through the AKC's various programs and classes, which over time (and with meticulous record-keeping) aided its eventual recognition among 200 other breeds.
The Lancashire heeler was initially classified in 2001 under the AKC's Foundation Stock Service (FSS) per ABC News. The FSS is a breed registry program that may one day facilitate entry into official AKC breed recognition.
With an estimated 400 Lancashire heelers in the U.S. and about 5,000 worldwide, per the AKC and Associated Press, the breed exceeds the threshold of 20 litters bred to join the Herding Group. Efforts to have the breed join the AKC's Miscellaneous Class were underway in 2017, a full ten years after the United States Lancashire Heeler Club (USLHC) was formed.
From there, dogs of the breed competed in various shows to meet the AKC's breed recognition requirements. In April 2023, the AKC announced it would allow the breed to compete in the Herding Group designation in 2024.
What to know about the Lancashire heeler.
The purebred Lancashire heeler is described by ABC News as often being mistaken by show judges and breeders as a mixed-breed dog. One member of the USLHC likened the dog to a mini Doberman and a Corgi.
With a black and tan coat reminiscent of German breeds of various sizes, it's easy to mistake the Lancashire heeler for other breeds, a fact that the USLHC believes will be remedied as more education is provided to the public over time.
Though they've been depicted in artwork as early as the ninth century, according to the UCLHC, variants in the mid-1800s began to more closely resemble the breed now known today as the Lancashire heeler.
The breed's temperament is extremely loyal, intelligent, energetic, and great for families, per the AKC. However, that doesn't necessarily mean families can rescue one from their local shelter, as breeders are highly protective — and the AKC is extremely invested — in growing the breed's numbers nationwide.
What is the Lancashire heeler's price?
That doesn't mean, however, that spending half or more of your monthly rent on a purebred dog is the ethical option. In fact, mixed-breed dogs comprise approximately 80% of shelter dogs, who are in desperate need of a forever home.