NEW YORK (AP) — An Italian truffle-sniffer, a French sheep herder nurtured back from near-extinction and a small Californian shepherd are joining the American Kennel Club's roster of recognized dog breeds.
The lagotto Romagnolo, the berger Picard and the miniature American shepherd will be eligible as of July 1 to compete in the AKC's shows, the organization announced Monday. That means they could appear at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show as soon as next year.
With the newcomers, the AKC's pedigreed pack consists of 187 breeds, and the three new ones represent some of its diversity of attributes and histories.
"What they have in common is that they all make great family pets, and the key is to find the traits and characteristics within a breed that work best with your lifestyle," club spokeswoman Gina DiNardo said.
The shaggy, energetic berger Picard — pronounced behr-ZHAY' PEEK'-ahr and sometimes called a Picardy shepherd — dates back centuries in northern France, but it was almost killed off during the world wars and remains rare. Still, many Americans have seen one, whether they know it or not, as the canine star and namesake of the 2005 movie "Because of Winn-Dixie."
Active and independent-minded, berger Picards are "definitely not for the lazy dog owner," but they make loyal, child-oriented companions for owners who provide them with enough physical and mental exercise, DiNardo said.
The lagotto Romagnolo — pronounced lah-GAHT'-toh roh-mahn-YOH'-loh — is a medium-sized dog with a curly coat, an affectionate demeanor and a nose for truffles.
It was originally used as a water retriever, but after marshes were drained in its native part of northern Italy, its truffle-hunting skills came to the fore in the late 1800s. Where there's no truffle-scouting to do, the low-shedding, upbeat breed is happy to fit into a family.
Small and athletic, the miniature American shepherd resembles the Australian shepherd — in fact, it was called a miniature Australian shepherd for a time after it was developed in California in the 1960s. Intelligent and good-natured, the mini shepherds can function readily as ranch herders or city pets.
Criteria for recognition include having several hundred dogs of the breed nationwide.
Some animal-rights advocates urge people to adopt mixed-breed dogs instead of pursuing purebreds. The AKC says breed characteristics offer predictability, helping owners make lasting matches with dogs.
American Kennel Club: http://www.akc.org
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