Pedigree dogs around the world

In the course of the past forty years, the number of registered (purebred) dogs has grown hugely and there is no sign of it slowing.

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France is the only country in the world where pedigree dogs must be registered in the stud book. Even if a dog is a perfect specimen of a specific breed it cannot be a pedigree dog if it is not registered in an official stud book. Sellers try to get round this by advertising Poodle-like and German shepherd-looking dogs. This clearly means that proof of a bloodline – where the dog and its parents are all registered in a stud book – is more important than the dog’s physical and behavioural traits.

Genealogical selection goes back to the end of the 19th century, representing more than 30 generations of breeding. DNA parentage testing has recently been introduced for some dog populations and this will no doubt become more widespread, which can only help improve the credibility of a bloodline and so make the selective breeding programmes of the various breed clubs more reliable.

Pedigree dogs and the world dog population

The experts regularly wonder about the world dog population. Depending on the source, that figure could be up to 3 billion (although this high estimate has never been authenticated). The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which has established links with national veterinary services, suggests it is 600 million. Knowledge of the dog population in a given country often depends on the existence of a reliable identification system (tattooing or microchip), which provides information on the dog population at any given moment with a low margin of error. In some countries (Austria, Switzerland) an obligatory annual licence has been implemented for owners. This helps control the demographic expansion of the dog population and generates substantial revenue for regional and national bodies.


The number of pedigree dogs is often easier to establish, given that each individual is registered in a stud book. More than 3.5 million pedigree puppies are born and registered in stud books worldwide every year. Bearing in mind an average life expectancy in excess of 9-10 years, the current number of pedigree dogs in the world could be estimated at more than 35 million. This would mean that pedigree dogs registered in stud books account for just over 5% of the global dog population. The table opposite gives an idea of the differences from one country to another. The proportion of pedigree dogs is highest in the Nordic countries.

The big three

Because of their diversity, the number of pedigree dogs has been growing for more than 20 years. Pedigree dogs are bred in almost 100 countries. Each of these countries has its own official national body, for example the Kennel Club in the UK, which is generally recognised by the country’s Secretary of State for Agriculture. Its job is to supervise all pedigree dog activities (shows, working trials, national and international championships) and, more importantly, to manage an official dog Stud Book.

There are three major players in the world of dog fancy:


• North America: The American Kennel Club, founded in 1882, is the world’s biggest dog federation, registering more than 900,000 puppies annually in its stud book. Its sister organisation to the north, the Canadian Kennel Club, registers on average almost 80,000 puppies a year.


• United Kingdom: Founded in 1873, the Kennel Club is the world’s oldest national dog federation and the biggest in Europe in terms of pedigrees issued annually, with a figure close to 250,000.


• Rest of the world: The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, founded in 1911 and headquartered in Thuin, Belgium, coordinates 84 national organisations that register more than 2,500,000 puppies every year. The biggest organisation in the FCI at present is the Japan Kennel Club, which registers more than 430,000 pedigree puppies annually. In continental Europe, the biggest player is the Russian Kennel Federation (200,000 puppies annually), followed by France (170,000) and Italy (130,000). The FCI recognises more breeds than either the AKC or the Kennel Club (150% and 75% more respectively). But this diversity, which has continued unabated since the 1990’s, does not explain the global growth in the number of births. Examination of the statistics of each member country shows that 20% of recognised breeds account for 80% of all registrations.

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Fédération Cynologique Internationale


The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) was created on May 22nd, 1911 with the aim to promote and protect cynology and purebred dogs. The Federation disappeared due to the World War I and in 1921, the Société Centrale Canine de France and the Société Royale Saint-Hubert re-created it. The new articles of association were adopted on April 10th, 1921 and on March 5th, 1968, the FCI got the legal personality by decree.

The FCI includes 84 members that each issue their own pedigrees and train their own judges. The FCI makes sure that the pedigrees and judges are mutually recognised by all the FCI members. The FCI keeps a list of all the judges appointed by its different members.

The FCI recognises 339 breeds. The “owner” countries of the breeds write the standard, in co-operation with the Standards and Scientific Commissions of the FCI.

Every member country conducts international shows (confirmation shows) as well as working/hunting trials and tests, races/coursing, agility and obedience contests. When a dog has been awarded a certain number of awards, it is eligible to receive the title of International Beauty, Show, Working, Agility or Obedience Champion. Finally, FCI set up the calendar of the international dog shows and events.

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Other countries

United States (AKC)/Canada
Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non Sporting, Herding

Australia/New Zealand
Toys, Terriers, Gundogs, Hounds, Working dogs, Utility, Non sporting

United Kingdom
Hound group, Gundog group, Terrier group, Utility group, Working group, Pastoral group, Toy group

United States (UKC)
Guardian dog, Scenthound, Sighthound and Pariah, Gundog, Northern breed, Herding dog, Terrier, Companion dog

The top 25 dog-loving countries

While a hundred or so countries have a national club, the top 25 countries account for 90% of all pedigree puppy registrations. While the dog population remains generally stable, pedigree dogs are gaining “market share”. With a few exceptions, the first decade of the 21st century was characterised by growth. In 2002 there were 3,064,336 registrations in these 25 countries; three years later that had risen to 3,213,539. Newcomers like China are not included, although recent growth suggests that it will be in the top 20 within a few years. The same goes for India where the Kennel Club of India, which was founded by the British in the 19th century, has seen registrations increase over the past decade.

Increasing diversity

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There have never been so many breeds to choose from as there are now, although there are differences from one federation to another. The FCI currently leads the way, with 353 different breeds. Recognition is a three-step process. The first step is regional selective breeding by a group of breeders, based on a set of morphological and behavioural criteria usually laid down in a document known as the standard. The second step is the national examination by the official body, based on a table that includes the number of individuals and lines, the results of morphological examinations, the writing of a standard based on the FCI model, the appearance of a given group and so on. Once the breed has been officially recognised in its country of origin, the national association submits an application to the FCI whose scientific or standards committee may issue a provisional acceptance ahead of full recognition. The most recent breed to be recognised by the FCI was the Cimarron from Uruguay. Several Cimarrons were shown as part of an official presentation at the FCI World Dog Show in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2005. The Berger Blanc Suisse (Switzerland), the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog (Australia) and the Mioritic (Romania) are other recent additions to the list of recognised FCI breeds.

This increasing diversity is not recognised everywhere, however. The Kennel Club in the UK recognises just short of 200 breeds, whereas the American Kennel Club recognises no more than 153, most recently the Cane Corso (Italy) and the Glen of Imaal Terrier (Ireland). This results from the use of different recognition criteria

Looking at the birth statistics in the main dog-loving countries, it has to be said that the emergence of new breeds does not necessarily lead to an increase in demand. In most leading countries, half of all registrations concern dogs of one of the twenty most popular breeds. This trend is even more marked in the United States, where half of the 920,000 puppies registered by the AKC in 2005 belonged to one of just twelve breeds. The top three were the Labrador (137,867 registrations), the Golden Retriever (48,509) and the Yorkshire Terrier (47,238).

The most popular breeds: no surprise in the upper echelons!

An analysis of the most popular breeds in twenty countries clearly shows that some dogs are loved globally, namely the Labrador, Golden retriever, Yorkshire Terrier, German Shepherd, English Cocker Spaniel, Poodle and Dachshund.

An established trend: toys and minis


While the traditional superstars like the German Shepherd, Labrador, Rottweiler, Golden Retriever and English Cocker Spaniel remain the most popular breeds, small dogs have been gaining ground over the past decade.


Apart from the breeds just mentioned, there is a clear trend towards small, lightweight dogs (often under 5kg/11 lbs), whose numbers have grown sharply over the past decade. These are the most popular breeds in certain countries.

In conclusion


Pedigree dogs have been an increasing part of our daily lives for well over twenty years now, gaining “market share” from dogs without a pedigree. While the traditional superstars like the German Shepherd, Labrador, Rottweiler, Golden Retriever and English Cocker Spaniel remain the most popular breeds, small dogs have been gaining ground over the past decade. It all started in Asia, first in Japan, then countries like the Philippines and Thailand, before leaping to other continents. Demand for toy dogs rose sharply in Latin America, especially Brazil and Argentina, and the same thing is happening in North America, especially the United States. Clearly, small breeds will continue to make headway in coming years. In Europe, a continent of contrasts, the trend is less pronounced. Minis are on the front foot in France, Spain and Italy, but their progress is scarcely perceptible in Portugal, Germany and Belgium, where most dogs weigh more than 25kg/55 lbs.

All told, these mutually recognised dog federations register almost 3.5 million pedigree puppies annually in their stud books. Even without significant growth, the proportion of pedigree dogs within the relatively stable dog population will only increase.

In France, the remarkable growth in popularity of such breeds as the French Bulldog and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the excellent performance of the Yorkshire Terrier, Shih Tzu and West Highland White Terrier, is confirmation if needed that small dogs have a good future ahead of them. The tastes of dog-lovers are changing and, as more and more people flock to the city where space and time are valuable commodities, small dogs are clearly meeting a demand.

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