A huge aspect of Westminster's 146th Annual Dog Show presented by Purina Pro Plan is breed education. Westminster Kennel Club’s Director of Communications, Gail Miller Bisher, says the club likes to highlight what she calls “hidden gem breeds” to help dog lovers and casual fans alike appreciate the history behind the animal—especially when those breeds are dwindling in number. American Foxhounds, Bergamasco Sheepdogs, Sussex Spaniels and Skye Terriers are this year's hidden gems.

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Rare Dog Breeds American Foxhound
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1. American Foxhound

Height: 21-25 inches

Weight: 60-70 pounds

Temperament: Sweet, athletic

Activity Level: High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 11-13 years

AKC Ranking: 186 of 205

Bred in the good ol’ US of A, American Foxhounds are hunting dogs. Miller Bisher says based on data from the American Kennel Club, there are less than 200 registered American Foxhounds these days. These dogs have been around since the 1800s and are known for being incredibly sweet and healthy pups.

Rare Dog Breeds Bergamasco Sheepdog
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2. Bergamasco Sheepdog

Height: 22-24 inches

Weight: 57-84 pounds

Personality: Independent, Mellow

Activity Level: Low

Shedding Factor: Non-shedding

Life Expectancy: 13-15 years

AKC Ranking: 187 of 205

Bergamasco Sheepdogs are herders with shaggy coats and mellow personalities. Their long, corded coats are—like the Mudi’s—very self-sufficient. No brushing is required after the cords are formed and they don’t shed. Bergamasco Sheepdogs are friendly canines but can have independent streaks, so training and giving them jobs to do is critical.

Rare Dog Breeds Sussex Spaniel
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3. Sussex Spaniel

Height: 13-15 inches

Weight: 35-45 pounds

Personality: Playful, affectionate

Activity Level: Moderate to High

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 13-15 years

AKC Ranking: 180 of 205

Don’t be fooled by their short stature! Sussex Spaniels are strong dogs with plenty of endurance. Their long ears and flowing, golden-liver-hued coats add a touch of elegance to their trot across the stage. Bred to hunt birds in the Sussex region’s tall, brambly foliage, they learned to signal their hunters with strategic barks, which is why they are more vocal than many other spaniels. (Fun fact: At Westminster’s show in 2019, a Sussex Spaniel named Bean was a fan favorite who eventually lost Best in Show to a Wire Fox Terrier. Could this year be a comeback year for Sussex Spaniels?)

Rare Dog Breeds Skye Terrier
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4. Skye Terrier

Height: 9-10 inches

Weight: 30-45 pounds

Personality: Stubborn, even-tempered

Activity Level: Moderate

Shedding Factor: Moderate

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

AKC Ranking: 178 of 205

Like many terriers, Skye Terriers can be stubborn when it comes to learning commands. This could be because they were bred in 1600s Scotland to dig out badgers and rodents—which takes tenacity. However, when with their family, these are affectionate dogs who enjoy regular playtime.

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