Bo Bengtson At Large: Biggest in the World?

Does the American Kennel Club still operate the world's largest registry of purebred dogs?

By Bo Bengtson | October 30, 2012

Does the American Kennel Club still operate the world's largest registry of purebred dogs? This is what the club proudly claims on its website and in its annual report. It's impossible to know for sure because current registration figures are not published anywhere that I can find. Inquiries to AKC are met with the blunt information that "registration figures are no longer released to the public."

AKC's unwillingness to make these figures available is understandable in view of the fact that they have kept dropping for many years. It is nevertheless a major change in policy: registration totals have been released annually by AKC from 1885 until just a couple of years ago. These figures have always been carefully analyzed and considered a vital sign of how healthy the club, and therefore the sport of purebred dogs, really is.

The figures from 1885 through 2008 are listed in AKC's own Dogs: the First 125 Years of the American Kennel Club. In the last published year, 2008, the total was 716,195 registrations, less than half that of the all-time peak (1,528,392 registrations in 1992). The next two years' figures were not released to the public but appeared in the AKC Annual Report under Registrations and Customer Service: AKC registered 649,677 dogs in 2009 and 563,611 in 2010.

In last year's AKC Annual Report, the registration total for 2011 has been omitted. The only indication of what the figure might be is in the Financial Report, which tersely states that "Registration revenues were $2 million (8 percent) less than 2010." Translated to numbers that would be a total of approximately 518,523 registrations last year.

This is just an estimate, of course, and if it is incorrect I would be delighted to print official figures. (Trust me, it would be a lot easier if I could quote AKC's own figures directly, instead of trying to work them out for myself...)

The question here is whether the annual registrations, in spite of a drastic slide, still make AKC the biggest purebred dog registry in the world. The rival United Kennel Club's figures are even more closely guarded than AKC's, but chances are they would have let the world know if they were aware they had surpassed AKC's total. As for the rest of the world, several countries are reporting impressive figures. The Japan Kennel Club, for instance, recorded 365,766 registrations last year — an astounding total for a country that's only a fraction the size of the US and has less than half our population.

Figures are not known for all countries, but even though purebred dogs and dog shows are much more popular in some spots abroad than they are in the US, it's unlikely that any of them register more dogs than we do  — yet. Russia and China, with huge populations and emerging dog fancies, may eventually challenge the American dominance.

So yes, AKC probably still has the world's largest purebred registry — but for how long? And wouldn't it make sense for AKC to make the figures public instead of trying to hide them from the fancy? After all, before you can begin to heal, you need to know just how ill you are...

From the October 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the October 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

 


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