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Montgomery County Sentinel (Rockville, MD), October 6, 1960.

America’s Popular Dog Breeds, 1900-1960

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Calling all dog lovers! Earlier this year, the American Kennel Club announced that for the first time in history, the French Bulldog was the most popular purebred dog breed in 2022, knocking out the Labrador Retriever which took the top spot for the past 30 years. Here’s a look back at the most popular breeds from past decades. See if your favorite pooches made the list!

1900s: Collie

Detail from a newspaper featuring an illustrated portrait of a Collie dog.
The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), November 11, 1900.

It is believed that the Collie breed originated in the hilly terrain of Scotland and northern England, bred for herding sheep and other animals. Collies became increasingly popular in the later part of the 19th century after Queen Victoria took an interest in the breed. The breed’s popularity also grew in America. The Collie Club of America, Inc. was founded in 1886 and still continues today. By the turn of the century, the Collie had become “top dog” and reigned throughout the 1900s. 

Notable Collie enthusiast:
J. P. Morgan

Detail from a newspaper of a head-and-shoulders photograph of J. P. Morgan.
New-York Tribune (New York, NY), December 28, 1902.

In 1888, financier J.P. Morgan began his Cragston Kennel in Highland Falls, New York, with the intent to get into the competitive dog game. At first, his Cragston Collies won big at shows, but as competition in the breed grew over time, Morgan’s dogs won less often. By 1907, Morgan gave up his show kennel as a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

1910s: Boston Terrier

Detail from a newspaper featuring a photograph of a Boston Terrier dog.
New York Tribune (New York, NY), June 28, 1914.

The Boston Terrier is considered a true all-American breed, one of only a few to have originated in the United States. The breed developed in the latter half of the 19th century in Boston, but before getting the official name paying homage to the city, the breed went back and forth between being called Roundheads and Bull Terriers. As the formality of the Victorian Era faded and the more modern-minded Edwardians rose up, so came the Boston Terrier, which became America’s most popular dog breed of the 1910s. 

Notable Dog:
Sergeant Stubby

Detail from a newspaper featuring a photograph of Sergeant Stubby, a Boston Terrier. The dog is wearing a vest donned with several medals.
The Bridgeport Times and Evening Framer (Bridgeport, CT), August 21, 1921.

Private J. Robert Conroy found Stubby as a puppy in 1917 while training for combat and the dog soon became the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division. He served with the Division in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. After the war, Stubby became a celebrity back at home. He received many medals for heroism and was featured in parades across the country. He even met three presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. He later became the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas when J. Robert Conroy began studying law at Georgetown University. His remains are held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

 

1920s: German Shepherd

Detail from a newspaper featuring a photograph of two German Shephard dogs seated.
Evening Star (Washington, DC), February 25, 1923.

Derived from the old breeds of herding and farm dogs, German Shepherds are known to be incredibly loyal and hardworking. Once it was determined that these dogs were also very intelligent, they were used in police work and alongside soldiers in WWI. The breed left a lasting impression after the war which helped raise the German Shepherd to the number one spot in popularity of the 1920s. 

Notable Dog: 
Rin Tin Tin

Detail from a newspaper of an advertisement for a film. The main text reads: Rin-Tin-Tin, 'The Lighthouse By The Sea.'
The Seattle Star (Seattle, WA), April 6, 1925.

Rin Tin Tin made his Hollywood debut as a wolf in the film The Man from Hell’s River (1922), produced by the film studio Warner Bros. which was struggling at the time. The charismatic canine went on to star in dozens of pictures, which helped to save the studio from bankruptcy.  The real Rin Tin Tin was a puppy when he was rescued in 1918 from a bombed German kennel by American soldier Lee Duncan. When WWI was over, Duncan took Rin Tin Tin–whom he called “Rinty”–to Los Angeles to try and start the dog’s acting career. Rin Tin Tin’s fame is often attributed to the overall popularity of German Shepherds of the time period.

 

1930s: Boston Terrier

Detail from a newspaper featuring a photograph of a Boston Terrier dog.
Evening Star (Washington, DC), June 22, 1930.

The Boston Terrier regained the crown during the Great Depression when Americans sought out smaller dogs to scale back expenses. It is the first breed to make it to the top of two decades. Some speculate that the Boston Terrier’s clean lines and contrasting markings matched the geometric and stylized aesthetics of the modern Art Deco period of the time. 

Notable dog:
Kid Boots

Detail from a newspaper featuring an portrait photograph of Kid Boots, a Boston Terrier dog.
Henderson Daily Dispatch (Henderson, NC), March 3, 1934.

Kids Boots (sometimes referred to in newspapers as “Kid Boots Ace” or “Champion Million Dollar Kid Boots”) earned many accolades throughout his career, which reached its zenith in the early 1930s. He won Best of Breed at Westminster in 1930 and 1932 and was a consistent Group and Best in Show winner. In 1934, the dog was kidnapped and held for ransom after winning first prize in the Western Boston Terrier Club Show in Chicago. Kid Boots was recovered a year later after the ransom was paid.

 

1940s: Cocker Spaniel

Detail from a newspaper featuring a full-body photograph of a Cocker Spaniel dog facing left.
Evening Star (Washington, DC), March 30, 1941.

The rise of the Cocker Spaniel to the position of America’s top dog is believed to be influenced by the back-to-back Best in Show wins by My Own Brucie in 1940 and 1941.  The black Cocker Spaniel was celebrated in his time and was even featured in LIFE magazine. When the dog died in 1943, several national newspapers published an obituary for him, including the New York Times, which described him as “one of the greatest specimens ever produced in this country both as a show dog and as a sire…” (June 10, 1943, p. 28). 

Notable Cocker Spaniel enthusiasts: 
Hollywood Stars

Detail from a newspaper of a photograph featuring a woman (right) slightly bent forward looking down towards a Cocker Spaniel dog (left) who is up on two legs.
Actress and singer Jane Frazee with her dog Bossie. Evening Star (Washington, DC), March 9, 1942.

From Bing Crosby to Marylin Monroe to child stars like Margaret O’Brien, celebrities went gaga for Cocker Spaniels.

 

1950s: Beagle

Detail from a newspaper featuring a full-body photograph of a Beagle dog facing right. A human hand is holding the dogs tail.
Evening Star (Washington, DC), December 15, 1957.

The Beagle became a popular breed in America as hunting companions during the late 19th century. But it was during the 1950s, when many were purchasing homes and moving to the suburbs, that the Beagle became a popular family pet. 

Notable dog:
Snoopy

Detail from a newspaper of a panel illustration of the character Snoopy from the Peanuts comic strip.
The Chronicle (Pascagoula, MS), March 13, 1963.

On October 4, 1950–just two days after the first Peanuts comic strip debuted in newspapers–Charlie Brown’s pet Beagle Snoopy made his first appearance and became a cultural phenomenon. Some credit Snoopy with bolstering the Beagle’s popularity during the decade.

 

1960s: Poodle

Detail from a newspaper of a full-body photograph of Poodle dog.
Evening Star (Washington, DC), February 9, 1960.

Although the Poodle is considered the national dog of France, it was originally bred in Germany for duck-hunting. In fact, the breed’s stylish shave served a practical purpose–hunters wanted their dogs to have a free range of motion in the water, but wished to protect vital areas of the anatomy from the cold. They shaved the legs, neck, and tail but left the chest, hips, and leg joints coated. Starting in the 1950s in America, the Poodle was featured on many things, from the poodle skirt to musical figurines and stuffed toys. By 1960, the Poodle rose to the number one spot and remained there for two consecutive decades.

Notable Poodle trend:
Women’s Fashion

Detail of a newspaper advertisement for women's poodle-inspired fashion. The headline reads: Oodles of fun...the Poodle Set by Kayser.
The Chronicle (Pascagoula, MS), March 16, 1962.

France was enamored with the Poodle when it was first introduced in the 15th century and the breed became synonymous with the French. The dogs were viewed as elegant and fashionable. During the 1950s, American fashion was heavily influenced by French fashion and the Poodle began emerging into women’s fashion in clothing and jewelry, and hair. The dogs started appearing in high-end fashion advertisements and in magazines, like Vogue. By the 1960s, the Poodle fashion trend was still going strong and it is thought to have played a role in propelling the breed in popularity.

 

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Comments

  1. Stubby was likely a pit bull terrier, and the dog Bossie in the photo with Jane Frazee looks like an English Springer spaniel. Otherwise, great article.

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