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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
Rin Tin Tin
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
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.
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
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:
From Bing Crosby to Marylin Monroe to child stars like Margaret O’Brien, celebrities went gaga for Cocker Spaniels.
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.
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.
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:
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.
- Search Chronicling America* to find more coverage of dogs and other animals in historical newspapers!
- Information identifying top dog breeds through the decades from the American Kennel Club.
- If you love dog stories, check out this blog post:
Newsboys Honor Late President with Statue of His Beloved Dog
* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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