'Meet the Breeds' Showcases Rare Dogs and Cats
Uncommon and new breeds debut at annual event.
Yes, there were Golden Retrievers, Pugs and Poodles showcased at last weekend’s Meet the Breeds in New York City, but there were also a handful of dogs and cats that may have made people stop and ask: What is that?
The two-day American Kennel Club and The International Cat Association event helped provide some answers about rare breeds of dogs and cats, as well as some more common breeds that are not recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association – last year’s co-host of Meet the Breeds – and were making their debut this time around.
“Most people walk up and say, I haven’t heard of this breed,” said Judy Descutner, owner of a two-year-old Barbet.
“That’s why we are here – to help teach them. They are such fantastic dogs and people don’t know it.”
The Barbet, dating back to the 1600s, has the look of a shaggy Portuguese Water dog: curly-haired, strongly built and lively, the Barbet was originally bred in France as an all-purpose farm dog. It traces its routes back to the Poodle, Bichon and Bouvier.
Popular in Europe, there are only 75 Barbets known to living in the United States – but that is 25 more than there were last year, says Descutner, noting that people are beginning to catch on to the dog’s merits.
Her two-year-old Barbet, Claire, is a “fun, fantastic dog,” says Descutner, who is from Pittsburgh, Pa. She is trying to breed her now with a dog from Switzerland, through artificial insemination. Trying to diversify the breed pool in the U.S. is important, she says.
Down the aisle from the Barbet sat a few unfamiliar dogs, also newcomers to the dog scene. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been around for a long time.
The Bolognese, which looks much like a Bichon, dates back to the 1700s from Hungary. But not to be confused with a Bichon or Maltese, this apartment-friendly dog has its own unique traits.
“It’s not a yappy dog and is typically very calm,” said Janice Gray, who was on hand with her Bolognese, Panka. “They are happy to enjoy their alone time and are very independent.”
Gray says Panka’s typically Bolognese low-key attitude and demeanor allows her to take her nearly everywhere with her – to the movies, to restaurants – often without people realizing she has a dog in her bag.
There are only about 500 Bolognese dogs in the U.S., but they are becoming more popular, Gray says.
The Berger Picard, round off at only about 400 registered in the U.S., is certainly a different kind of rare dog that could meet the needs of a different sort of lifestyle. Considered the oldest of the French Sheepdog, the Berger Picard, dating back to the 9th century A.D., is a high-energy, playful dog that is very intelligent and people-oriented.
Andy and Sarah Poes, of Brooklyn, N.Y., sought out a breeder to purchase their two-year old Berger, named Bendel, three years ago. It isn’t hard to see why they were attracted to the Berger’s pointy ears, furry face and smile, which the breed is known for.
Janise Gray, of New Jersey, says that she fell in love with the rare Cirneco dell’Etna after her friend showed her a picture of the lean, brown dog that has ancient roots in Sicily. But she now likes to attend Meet the Breeds to help more people learn about the dogs, which are sometimes mistaken for giant Chihuahuas, Graysays.
They are active hounds and need regular exercise, but their short brown coat and medium size – averaging at about 20 to 25 pounds – makes them adaptable, and fairly low-maintenance pets.
Though the line-up of about 30 cats at Meet the Breeds paled to the approximate 150 dog breeds also present, there were also some first-timers in the cat bunch.
It was the first Meet the Breeds for the Bengal cat, though it is one of the most popular cats registered in the United States, at about 8,700 known cats. The wild-looking – though sweet natured – cats appeared to be a favorite for Meet the Breeds event goers, as people stopped to pet and take pictures of the leopard-patterned orange cats.
The far less common Burmese and Bombay cats also made their first appearance at Meet the Breeds. Both cats – known to be very people-oriented, laid-back and almost dog-like in their affectionate behavior – are a great bet for people who are looking for a social cat that doesn’t shed very much.
But people can expect to be placed on a wait list if they contact a breeder in the U.S. looking for a Burmese or Bombay to take home, as their secret is quickly getting out around town.
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Pictured: The Barbet, one of the rare breeds showcased at the 2011 “Meet the Breeds” event, greets the public. (Photo by Amy Lieberman)
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