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Over 200 breeds are officially recognized by the AKC. Recognition is a huge milestone, an achievement to be celebrated. But the road to recognition is not a straight line for every breed. A breed club—or individual—may want their breed of choice to be recognized for a number of reasons that make the (often lengthy) process worthwhile. These AKC breed recognition fun facts can help paint the bigger picture on the history of the process and the AKC as a breed registry. 

How AKC Breed Recognition Works

So how does a breed become AKC recognized? The first step is to join the Foundation Stock Service (FSS), which allows breeds aspiring for AKC recognition to maintain a studbook and participate in AKC companion events. To be eligible for FSS, the breed must be recognized by a legitimate foreign or domestic registry and have a documented history that goes back at least 40 years. Crosses of existing AKC-recognized breeds are not accepted into FSS. 

From there, a breed can advance to the Miscellaneous Class, so long as it has a minimum of 150 dogs with three-generation pedigrees in its studbook, a viable breed standard, and one club that will represent the breed as its “parent club” in the United States. Moving from Miscellaneous into one of the AKC breed groups may take some time. A breed needs 300 dogs in the studbook, 100 active club members, and 10 dogs owned by members with Certificate of Merit titles before it can happen. 

Nine Breeds Were Recognized Before the AKC Was Founded

There were nine breeds recognized in 1878 before the AKC was founded in 1884. Think of them as the first original colonies of the dog world. The breeds are the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Water Spaniel, Pointer, and Sussex Spaniel. The English Setter “Adonis” was the first dog registered with AKC, appearing in Volume 1 of the AKC Studbook, in 1878. 

The American English Coonhound Was the Fastest Recognized

The fastest dog to advance from the Miscellaneous group to full AKC recognition was the American English Coonhound. The breed took 545 days to make the move. The American English Coonhound joined the Miscellaneous group on January 1, 2010, and was fully recognized in the Hound group on June 30, 2011.

The Belgian Laekenois Took the Longest to be Recognized

On the other hand, the Belgian Laekenois spent the longest amount of time in the Miscellaneous group at 3,289 days. It entered the group on June 30, 2011 and was fully recognized in the Herding group on July 1, 2020. However, it may not be the longest time spent for a breed working toward full recognition. The Peruvian Inca Orchid has been in the Miscellaneous class since January 1, 2011, or 4,205 days (and counting). 

The Herding Group Used to be Part of the Working Group

Created in 1983, the Herding group is the most recent AKC group classification, and its breeds were previously part of the Working group. This new classification created a more specific grouping for how certain breeds were recognized. However, these dog breeds still have a job to do, and they all share an instinctual ability to control the movement of other animals. These breeds were developed to gather, herd, and protect livestock—but you may find them herding your children as well. 

The English Cocker Spaniel and Cocker Spaniel Split

In 1936, the AKC recognized the English Cocker Spaniel as a variety of Cocker Spaniel, though they were still considered the same breed. But fanciers wanted to keep the English type separate and vowed not to breed the two types together. Then, in 1946, the ECS was officially recognized as a separate breed from the Cocker Spaniel. 

Miniature American Shepherds Had Another Name First

In the 1960s, smaller Australian Shepherds in California were selectively bred to further reduce their size. The new breed developed was originally called the Miniature Australian Shepherd but was later renamed the Miniature American Shepherd. The breed received AKC recognition in 2015. The Australian Shepherd was originally recognized in 1991. 

The Ears of the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers Split the Breed

Originally, the Norwich Terrier (ears up) and Norfolk Terrier (ears down) were both considered one breed and were classified as Norwich Terriers. But over time, the difference led to the creation of two separate breeds. In 1979, the Norfolk Terrier was officially recognized by the AKC as a distinct breed. 

There are Four Belgian Herding Breeds in the U.S.

In 1981, the newly formed Belgian Shepherd Club established that there were four varieties of Belgian shepherds: the Belgian Sheepdog, the Belgian Laekenois, the Belgian Tervuren, and the Belgian Malinois. While the AKC recognizes these four varieties as separate breeds, The Kennel Club UK regards them as one breed. 

Poodles Are Classified by Their Distinct Sizes

All Poodles originated from the Standard Poodle, which was bred in Germany to retrieve ducks from the water. The Standard was bred down to the Miniature, and the Toy Poodle was first bred in America in the early 20th century as a city-dwelling companion dog. The Standard and Miniature are in the Non-Sporting group, while the Toy is in the, well, Toy group. 

Newly recognized Breeds Aren’t Split by Variety

Some breeds recognized early on in AKC history were judged together by variety. For example, Cocker Spaniels are judged by coat color: Black, Parti-Color, and ASCOB (any solid color other than black). Dachshunds are judged by coat type (Wirehaired, Smooth, Longhaired). The merry Beagle is judged by height at the shoulder (13-inch or 15-inch). If the AKC had continued to split up breeds and judge each variety separately, as we approached 200 breeds in an all-breed show, that would make for a very, very long dog show.