On a September day 135 years ago, long before the days of most dog sports, dog TV, and Instagram, a group of 12 dedicated sportsmen from dog clubs across the country met in Philadelphia, at the behest of Civil War veteran Major James M. Taylor.
This meeting of the “club of clubs” would go down in history as the first gathering of the American Kennel Club, and 135 years later, we remain America’s foremost source for all things dogs.
Here are some of the most important and interesting dates, developments, and dogs throughout our storied 135-year history.
Note: This is not a comprehensive history and does not include all notable dates.
AKC History in the 1800s
1878: The nine original charter breeds of the AKC are recognized in America for the first time. The list, comprised mainly of the types of hunting dogs commonly sought after at the time, included the Pointer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Setter, English Setter, and Gordon Setter.
Sept 17, 1884: The first meeting of the American Kennel Club is held in Philadelphia, where the Constitution, Bylaws, and Dog Show Rules are created. Major James M. Taylor is elected as the first AKC President.
1885: The Fox Terrier is first recognized by the AKC. The Wire Fox Terrier is one of the winningest dog breeds in conformation history, having claimed Best in Show at Westminster 15 times, in addition to winning the 2012 AKC National Championship.
1887: The AKC opens its first New York City office at 44 Broadway in 15×20-foot room.
1888: The Whippet is first recognized by the AKC. A Whippet named ‘Whiskey’ is currently the reigning 2018 AKC National Championships Best In Show winner.
1889: The first issue of The AKC Gazette is published. The Gazette would continue without interruption for over a century and it is now one of the longest-running dog publications of all time.
AKC History in the 1900s
1914: A reciprocal agreement is made between the AKC and England’s The Kennel Club, creating a successful trans-national partnership that continues to this day.
1917: The Labrador Retriever is first recognized by the AKC. The breed has become one of the most popular dogs in the history of the United States, having ranked first atop the most registered breeds for an astounding 28 years and counting.
1929: The first edition of Pure-Bred Dogs is published. Nine years later, the book was renamed The Complete Dog Book. To date, it has sold more than 2 million copies.
1933: The first Obedience Trial (then called “test”) was held in Mt. Kisco, NY. There were eight dogs entered in this first obedience test: two Labrador Retrievers, three Poodles, two English Springer Spaniels, and one German Shepherd Dog.
1934: The AKC Library & Archives is first established. It would go on to become one of the largest devoted dog libraries in the world, with over 15,000 volumes and counting.
1939-44: The AKC works with Dogs for Defense to mobilize dog owners to donate quality animals to be trained to help American troops during World War II.
1959: The Belgian Malinois is first recognized by the AKC. The intelligent, no-nonsense breed has gone on to become one of America’s most prized dogs for military work, police K9 work, and search and rescue operations.
1971: Junior Showmanship is officially recognized by the AKC for the first time, opening up the world of dog conformation and handling to younger generations.
1982: The Dog Museum of America opens in NYC with several oil paintings canines by well-known artists. The museum would ultimately move to St. Louis in 1987, and be renamed The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog. The AKC Museum of the Dog would ultimately return to NYC in a brand new space in 2019.
1984: The American Kennel Club celebrates its 100th Anniversary with the Centennial Show in Philadelphia, where a German Shepherd Dog won Best in Show.
1989: The first Canine Good Citizen tests are conducted, establishing a new and lasting foundational program for good dog behavior. Today, over 1 million dogs have received their CGC certification.
1994: The sport of Agility is established, and the first AKC-licensed Earthdog tests debuted. Later that year, the first version of AKC.org is launched.
1995: Judith V. Daniels becomes the American Kennel Club’s first female President. That same year, the Companion Animal Recovery program, now called AKC Reunite, is launched, and the AKC Canine Health Foundation is established with a $1 million AKC grant.
AKC History in the 2000s
2000: The first AKC Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) are distributed, honoring exemplary companion, law enforcement, search and rescue, service, and therapy dogs. Later recipients would include the legendary NYPD K9 and 9/11 hero Appollo.
2001: The first AKC National Championship was held in Orlando Florida. The National Championship continues to be held in Orlando each December.
2005: AKC Rally competition begins.
2009: AKC Canine Partners is launched as a way to allow mixed-breed dogs and their owners to participate in AKC Agility, Obedience, and Rally events.
2015: The Bred with H.E.A.R.T. program is launched as a means to improve responsible dog breeding. Later that year, the first Responsible Dog Ownership Day is held on September 19th, creating a new annual occasion to celebrate dog owners who go the extra mile.
2018: AKC.tv is launched, opening up a whole new world of informative and entertaining video content for dog owners and lovers across the world.
2019: The Azawakh is first recognized by the AKC, bringing the total number of breeds registered up to 193 and counting, making ours the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world.