-- Preserving and Protecting Our Breeds --
In describing his 1889 trip to Idaho, Theodore Roosevelt noted "a certain half melancholy feeling as I gazed on these bison, themselves part of the last remnant of a doomed and nearly vanished race. Few, indeed, are the men who now have, or evermore shall have, the chance of seeing the mightiest of American beasts." Roosevelt was prescient in his observation. By 1905, the number of bison in the United States had dropped from some 60,000,000 to a mere 1,000 in less than two centuries.
Seeing clearly that bison were on the verge of extinction, Roosevelt - by then the 26th President of the United States - decided to do something about preserving the bison for future generations. He and William Hornaday founded the American Bison Society at the Bronx Zoo to assure the bison’s survival. That effort began with 15 bison sent by train to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve to help restore the depleted bison population. Today, with some 500,000 bison in the United States, bison are no longer threatened by extinction.
American Kennel Club breeders mirror Roosevelt’s preservationist instincts. Today, there are 187 recognized breeds and varieties actively being protected and preserved by AKC breeders. In addition, there are approximately two to three additional breeds being brought into the protective fold of the AKC each year. There have been instances where, like Roosevelt’s bison, a breed was on the verge of extinction. Fortunately, AKC breeders took action to change the breed’s destiny and bring it back from the brink.
The original Lhasa Apso AKC foundation stock was based on only 21 dogs. The Chinese Shar-Pei Club was founded to establish the breed in the U.S. and save the breed from complete extinction. Today, most breeds are at the stage where their current status needs protection for the future. AKC Breeders, AKC Parent Clubs, and the American Kennel Club have worked together to pursue solutions in the best interest of the dogs. The opening of the AKC Stud Book to Native Stock Basenjis is a good example. The original request from the Basenji Club noted the following:
"Our Club and our breed are in a unique position. We have access to Basenjis living in their native land, as they have for centuries, still working with hunters using only spears and nets and their extraordinary dogs. That these dogs continue to thrive, living in a part of the world suffering the devastating effects of poverty and war speaks to their vigor and health as well as their great character. These dogs represent a living history of our ancient breed. We cannot afford to lose them."
And they didn’t. In 1990, the Stud Book was opened to include 14 Native Stock Basenjis. The Basenji standard was changed at the same time, allowing brindle color.
Without the diligence, commitment, and unwavering pursuit on behalf of the dogs by dedicated AKC breeders, the number of dog breeds the world enjoys today would be in severe decline. And the world would be diminished by that loss. Fortunately, AKC breeders will never let that happen. Their goal is to protect and preserve the type, temperament, and individual characteristics of each breed.
The most visible and engaging representation of the determination of our AKC breeders to ensure the future of their breeds is the AKC Meet the Breeds® event (now in its fourth year) that took place last weekend in New York. Some 30,000 dog-lovers came to the Javits Center to interact with 160 dog breeds, including some of the rare breeds people have only read about. The commitment of our breeders and responsible owners includes their desire to educate the public about their dogs, and about each breed’s history and unique attributes - something true preservationists innately understand.
The preservation efforts started by Roosevelt 100 years ago saved the bison from extinction. Yet of the 500,000 now in existence, only a few thousand are the pure genetic descendants of the millions that once roamed North America. The work of the AKC breeder/preservationists, however, is focused on the pure genetic descendants of the beginning of each breed. By doing so they not only preserve the history of each breed, they help preserve the role of dogs with man throughout the history of the world.
AKC breeders know exactly what Roosevelt meant when he said, "Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
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