Meet the AKC's Newest Dog Breed: "Loyal, Healthy, Long-Lived, and Intelligent"
Lancashire Heelers will be eligible to compete in the 2024 Westminster Dog Show.
There's a new dog breed in town at the American Kennel Club (AKC). On Jan. 1, the AKC started the year off by officially welcoming the Lancashire Heeler to its prestige pack, making it the club's 201st recognized breed. Lancashire Heelers—who make for exceptional farm dogs because of their ability to herd cattle and livestock—will compete as a member of the Herding Group, which is also home to Australian and German Shepherds, Collies, and Old English Sheepdogs.
Earning AKC recognition grants classified breeds eligibility to compete in the club's 26,000 sports and events, including the beloved Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. In order to join AKC's purebred-dog registry, a three-point criteria must be met by both the breed and its owners.
The first rule to becoming an official AKC member is that "there must be an active following and interest in the breed by owners in the U.S.," according to AKC's website. Additionally, the breed must have an established club of "responsible owners and breeders." The final qualification is that there "must be a sufficient population of dogs in the United States geographically distributed throughout the country."
After a seven-year battle, the Lancashire Heeler was finally awarded membership for the 2024 season in April of last year.
"We are excited to welcome the Lancashire Heeler to the AKC registry as our 201st breed," Gina DiNardo, AKC Executive Secretary, said in a statement. "A small, powerful herding dog that thrives on human interaction, this breed would make a great companion for active families that can provide a great deal of love and attention."
There's still much to be learned about this intellectual breed, but experts say Lancashire Heelers are the byproduct of the "17th-century crossbreeding of livestock-herding Welsh Corgis in a Northern Wales meat market, with the later infusion of the Manchester Terrier." Because of their origin, they quickly became known as "the butchers' dog" and were sought after by livestock owners.
"The breed is different, but in a good way," Jeff Kestner, Club Chair of Judges' Education Committee, said in AKC's announcement. "It's not a run-of-the-mill dog. Its eyes and expression are like magnets. Being a herding breed, it is extremely intelligent—it definitely needs a job to do."
Nowadays, Lancashire Heelers are prized as both farm and family dogs.
"Every farm had one. It was your standard dog on the farm," Liz Thwaite, who owns five Heelers herself and serves as secretary of Britain's Lancashire Heeler Club, told The Washington Post. "Their original purpose for them are waning, but we promote the dogs and love them."
According to the AKC, a typical dog of this breed will have a black or tan coat. The texture of their coat is "dense and waterproof" to make grooming a breeze. Generally, Lancashire Heelers will weigh 9 to 17 pounds once fully grown, and can live up to 15 years.
"They [are] small, lively, feisty, loyal, healthy, long-lived and intelligent," Thwaite added of the breed.