Beginnings of the AKC: Stud Books

The formation of the American Kennel Club.


Under Rowe’s leadership the National American Kennel Club intended to continue publishing stud book records where Burges left off, thus meeting the needs of both bench and field fanciers. In addition to offering free registration for dogs in field sports, NAKC formulated bench and field regulations and published show results. It’s likely that Rowe was overextended from the outset. Although NAKC was founded in 1876, Volume I of the stud book didn’t appear until 1879. It documented 1,416 dogs in three categories:

  • Imported Setters — stud book numbers 1-177 (Pointers, Clumber, Cocker, Irish Water Spaniels, Sussex, Retrieving, Water Spaniel, Irish, English, Gordon Setters, Chesapeake Dogs)
  • Native Setters — stud book numbers 178-242
  • Crossbred Setters — stud book numbers 243-1416

A notation heading the crossbred section suggested managerial problems. “Owing to the indefinite character of some of the pedigrees, it was impossible to decide to what breed certain dogs belonged. They are therefore included in the present class to save disregarding them altogether.” Rowe’s term as president ended in 1878, but he continued publishing the stud book at his own expense. “In spite of the delays and disappointments, dog shows continued to flourish and expand.” (AKC Gazette) Delays were not the only problem.

Arnold Burges published the first American stud record, The American Kennel and Sporting Field, in 1876.

The NAKC soon narrowed its focused exclusively to field sports, leaving bench show and breeds not of the sporting variety to sort themselves out. By the 1880s, numerous non-sporting breeds had influential promoters, ensuring that they received ample press coverage which led to growing public interest, bordering on fads in some cases. For instance, Mason popularized Italian Greyhounds and Manchester Terriers, Perry exhibited Pugs, and Watson bred Collies. None of these had originally figured into NAKC plans, but things were not going too well for the breeds that did. Pedigrees were submitted voluntarily without verification. Owners freely revised records every time a dog changed hands, alternately using registration numbers issued in England, America or none at all. This made it nearly impossible to verify show entries, pedigrees or ownership information. Vague inquiries for pedigree details filled the sporting magazines:

“Information Wanted: We are in constant receipt of inquiries concerning pedigrees of dogs, in which the writers fail to state whether the information wanted concerns setters, Bloodhounds or pugs.” (Chicago Field, May 28, 1881)

To prevent confusion over duplicate registered names it was usual to announce that a particular name was taken in the “Names Claimed” column. This worked fine if everyone read it before naming or renaming a dog. “Nothing more clearly demonstrates the absurdity of duplicate kennel names and the necessity of early registration of dogs than the case of the two Londons, one owned by Mr. Harrison of Ontario, and the other property of Mr. Coleman of High Point, N.C. Both are blue belton in color. As the latter is registered in Vol. II of the NAKC stud book we suggest that Mr. Harrison change the name of his London, thereby preventing inextricable confusion certain to arise if the names remain as at present.” (American Field, Jan. 6, 1883)

NAKC had no means to resolve innumerable complex problems that cropped up, such as the legal designation of a breeder. The Kennel Club addressed that particular question by defining the breeder of a registered dog as the owner of the dam at the time the puppy was whelped. This didn’t meet with universal favor, but it did settle the question. In America, some fanciers demanded legal recourse to regulate every eventuality; others labeled this sort of thing as hairsplitting and a sizeable group capitalized on the ongoing confusion.

Next: Manufactured Pedigrees >>

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