American Kennel Club introduces new dog breed: Meet the Lancashire heeler

The herding group has welcomed it's newest pup.

January 3, 2024, 1:58 PM

The American Kennel Club is welcoming a small but mighty addition to the herding group with its 201st recognized breed, the Lancashire heeler.

The AKC announced the "can-do spirited breed" would be moving forward with full recognition on Tuesday, sharing details about the long road to its classification.

"These small-but-sturdy dogs aren't ones to lounge around all the time. They are energetic, and just as adept in Performance sports as they are in Conformation. You can find them competing in Herding, Agility, Obedience, Rally, Fast CAT, Barn Hunt, Dock Diving, Disc Dog, Tracking, and Therapy endeavors," the AKC stated. "It's a breed that will work hard all day and is happy to curl up at your side and watch the TV news at night."

In this undated stock photo, a Lancashire Heeler stands in the grass.
Vera Reva/Shutterstock

According to the AKC, Lancashire heelers have apparently raised questions from fellow breeders, dog show attendees and even judges who confuse them for a mixed-breed. To help with the misconceptions, the club said it plans to hold education seminars about the breed.

Sheryl Bradbury, president of the United States Lancashire heeler Club, "helped shepherd the breed to recognition since its entry in the AKC Foundation Stock Service" in 2001, the AKC stated.

The Lancashire heeler was first processed to join the "Miscellaneous Class" in 2017, but went onto find a hopeful home with the herding group in April 2023, with its eligibility to compete officially beginning this year.

What to know about the Lancashire heeler

The small breed first earned full recognition from The Kennel Club, United Kingdom, in 1981. Later, after joining the AKC's Foundation Stock Service, The United States Lancashire heeler Club was formed in 2007.

Jeff Kestner, one of the USLHC member-breeders who has been questioned about the dogs, said that Lancashire heelers "have also been called [mini] Dobermans, Manchester Terrier mixes, and [even] some sort of Corgi."

Despite some unknowingly misidentifying the breed, the Lancashire heeler will become easier to recognize as education grows, and the more it's seen in public.

Kestner has been adamant that the club refer to it as the "heeler" when nicknaming it, the same name fanciers use in the U.K., where the dog was originally bred.

While that moniker may sound familiar, it's actually the only AKC breed with the term "heeler" in its official breed name, unlike the Australian cattle dog, commonly referred to as a Blue heeler, Red heeler, or Queensland heeler only by nickname.

In this undated stock photo, a Lancashire heeler is seen walking in the snow.

"The breed is different, but in a good way," said Kestner, who is also Club Chair of the Judges' Education Committee. "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."

While the breed looks cute and sweet, and seems to be the perfect sized lap dog, Bradbury said that's a misconception.

"I always caution buyers to not let a puppy's cuteness fool you," she said. "The minute it is off your lap it may be chewing your shoes or nipping at your heels. Conversely, it will be your loyal best friend."

And although it's a highly loyal dog, she said loyalty is often directed at one household member, adding that the breed is "great with children as long as the children understand how to respect the dog."

The club breeders describe Lancashire heelers as "smart, fast, sweet, loving, clever, mischievous, intelligent, energetic, loyal, attached, versatile, tenacious, robust, affectionate, and alert."

While the official origin of Lancashire heelers is a bit uncertain, the AKC said it's "widely believed they are the outgrowth of 17th-century crossbreeding of livestock-herding Welsh corgis in a Northern Wales meat market, with the later infusion of the Manchester terrier."

For generations, it became known as "the butchers' dog" in West Lancashire, where it was bred and gradually gained popularity as a family pet.

"The standard calls for coat colors of black and tan or liver and tan. Their coats are dense and waterproof, requiring minimal grooming. A light brushing and occasional bath is advised," the AKC said. "These dogs tend to be 9 to 17 pounds, with a lifespan between 12 and 15 years."

An average litter size is five puppies, but since there is a low number of breeders, Bradbury has advised anyone interested in the breed to interview the breeder thoroughly first.

"Getting officially recognized as a member of the Herding Group required proof of a minimum of 20 litters bred with a three-generation pedigree," the AKC stated. "This insures that the breed is established and sustainable."

According to the club, Bradbury "estimates there are about 400 Lancashire heelers nationwide."

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