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The American Kennel Club recognizes over 200 dog breeds — a huge increase from the original nine breeds. The charter Sporting dogs, the Pointer; Chesapeake Bay Retriever; Clumber, Cocker, Sussex, and Irish Water Spaniels; and English, Gordon, and Irish Setters, were first admitted into the AKC registry in 1878. These 200-odd recognized breeds represent just over half of the 350 or so breeds recognized by other registries around the world.

To further complicate things, there are dozens, if not hundreds of other identifiable breeds that haven’t been formally recognized by any of the world’s international canine organizations, from the almost extinct Rampur Hound of India to the bamboo-tailed Chongqing Dog of China.

Why the separation? The answer actually has more to do with people than it does with dogs. A breed that’s officially recognized by the American Kennel Club can compete fully and at the highest levels in AKC-sanctioned dog shows. Plus, the breed has one designated national “parent club” that is the sole steward of its “standard” (the official breed description), used as a blueprint by breeders and judges alike.

As a result, it’s not enough for a breed to simply exist in order to be recognized: There must be more than a handful of them in the United States. So, for example, while the Galgo Español hunted hare in the countryside of its native Spain for millennia, there aren’t enough in the United States to even form a national club.

The First Step Toward AKC Recognition

Acknowledging that rare breeds would benefit from a running start at the complicated process of recognition, the AKC created the Foundation Stock Service, or FSS, in 1995, which allows aspiring AKC breeds to maintain a studbook and participate in AKC companion events such as agility, obedience, AKC Rally, and tracking. Currently, there are over 80 breeds in the FSS, from the critter-treeing American Leopard Hound to the sled-pulling Yakutian Laika.

Yakutian Laika sitting in green grass with trees with fall colors in the background.
The Yakutian Laika has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since August 2017.

As the first step toward AKC recognition, FSS is also the simplest: A breed club doesn’t have to exist, or there can be multiple ones. A request to enter FSS can even be made by an individual. That said, the breed in question must be recognized by a legitimate foreign or domestic registry. If not (and if the breed was developed in the United States), it must have a documented history—including pedigrees—that goes back at least 40 years.

To protect breeds that are already AKC recognized, FSS will not accept any dogs that result from crossing two AKC-registrable breeds. Nor is FSS open to breeds that are a variation of an already established breed, such as the white German Shepherd Dog, which has been recognized as the Berger Blanc Suisse by the FCI. (An exception to the rule is the Miniature American Shepherd, recognized in 2015 because the Australian Shepherd Club of America supported the formation of a new breed based on its undersized dogs.)

The Final Step Before AKC Recognition

Once a breed has gotten some steam, the next (and final) step before AKC recognition is entering the Miscellaneous class, which contains the fewest breeds between FSS and AKC-recognized breeds. Not surprisingly, the criteria at this stage becomes stricter. To move to Miscellaneous, a breed must have 150 dogs with three-generation pedigrees in its studbook, and a viable breed standard. They must also have one club that will represent the breed as its “parent club” in the United States.

“We’ve learned from experience, and the program continues to evolve based on that,” says AKC’s Vice President of Sports Services Mari-Beth O’Neill, who oversees the progress of breeds through FSS and Miscellaneous.

Conflicts between clubs are one reason why breeds that request Miscellaneous status must have a functional parent club approved by the AKC Board of Directors. They must also have documentation that its members have voted for the move. “We provide a path that will both educate clubs and their members on how to interact with the AKC, and be able to then stand on their own and hold AKC events in the future,” O’Neill explains.

Biewer Terrier standing in the yard.
©Evelina -
The Biewer Terrier had more than 1,000 dogs in its studbook in 2020, permitting its parent club to apply for full AKC recognition after only six months in Miscellaneous. The breed was fully recognized in 2021.

How Long Does Breed Recognition Take?

How long a breed stays in Miscellaneous can vary wildly. The Peruvian Inca Orchid, a diminutive, hairless South American Sighthound, has been in the class for over a decade.The Biewer Terrier (pronounced “beaver”), a particolored Toy once referred to as “the German Yorkshire Terrier,” moved through the Miscellaneous class quickly. The breed had more than 1,000 dogs in its studbook in 2020, permitting its parent club to apply for full AKC recognition after only six months in Miscellaneous.

Other requirements for leaving Miscellaneous are having a reasonable number of club members in good standing, as well as ten dogs owned by members with Certificate of Merit titles. Members earn these titles by showing in the Miscellaneous class offered at AKC shows.

Peruvian Inca Orchid standing in the grass outdoors.
©lenkadan -
The Peruvian Inca Orchid has been in the Miscellaneous class since Jan. 1, 2011.

Challenges With Breeds Standards

Fashioning a workable breed standard is another challenge. Breed’s standards in the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), must often be adapted to fit AKC’s guidelines. Some breeds have lengthy written standards with complex or outdated language, and detailed measurements. Disqualifications, too, can be tricky. In AKC standards, disqualifications are must be concrete and measurable. For example, falling short of or exceeding certain heights or weights, or the presence of a disallowed color, are disqualifications. FCI standards typically have a greater number of disqualifications, which can sometimes be subjective.

The canine culture in a breed’s country of origin can be another stumbling block. Some European breeds, particularly ones of German origin, require breed wardens to approve a mating. They then identify those puppies that can potentially be bred down the line. In other breeds, dogs must acquire hunt titles or pass temperament tests before being cleared for breeding or showing.

“Oftentimes Americans who want their breed to move forward here want the blessing of the country of origin,” O’Neill says. “But in the United States, our premise is freedom of choice.” Clubs are encouraged to incorporate breeding restrictions or title requirements into their codes of ethics to preclude the AKC from having to police them.

Benefits of AKC Recognition

Learning more about breeds and having a broader understanding of them and their history, temperament, and everything in between, is almost always positive for the dog community. Some breeds, like the Azawakh, which was recognized in 2019, don’t like strangers. Their recognition helped judges modify their exams to be less intrusive and more respectful of the breed’s disregard for strangers.

O’Neill notes that newly recognized breeds are a natural conduit for bringing fresh faces into the sport of dogs. “We encourage new people to join an all-breed club if they aren’t already involved,” she says. There, they’ll meet experienced mentors to help them learn the AKC ropes—if, that is, the humans in their breed community are willing to sit, stay and play nicely with each other.

Related article: What Is the AKC Foundation Stock Service? Helping Breeds Achieve Recognition
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