Wire Fox Terriers have declined in popularity by 94% since 1947

It first rose to fame back in the 1920s as Snowy, the canine sidekick in The Adventures of Tintin. But new figures reveal that the Wire Fox Terrier is now at risk of extinction.

The Kennel Club has shared new figures showing how the breed has declined in popularity by 94 per cent since 1947.

Bill Lambert, a spokesperson for The Kennel Club, said: 'Popular culture, celebrities and the influence of social media can play a big part in dog ownership trends and breed popularity.

'While the Wire Fox Terrier was once favoured by royalty, and Snowy was a recognisable character in comics and on television, the public may be less familiar with them now they are no longer regularly seen in the media.

'Equally, changing lifestyles can also be a factor and while they're a smaller breed, they can require a lot of grooming to maintain their distinctive coat, which may not suit all owners.'

The Wire Fox Terrier was once a mainstay of traditional British foxhunts.

'The Wire is thought to have come about from crosses of the Old English Terrier, smooth coated Black and Tan terriers of England, Bull Terriers, Greyhounds and Beagles,' The Fox Terrier Club explains on its website.

'They were used by hunters with the foxhounds to locate foxes when they went to ground by barking and so pinpointing the position of the fox for the huntsman.'

The breed gained widespread recognition after being featured as Snowy in the Tintin comics, which were first released in 1929.

While Snowy was white, this is uncharacteristic of the breed, which tends to be white and brown.

Several celebrities could often be seen with their Wire Fox Terriers, with Albert Einstein, Clint Eastwood, and Lucille Ball all known to be fans of the breed.

What's more, the breed was historically a Royal Family favourite during the Edwardian era.

King Edward VII and Queen Victoria are both reported to have owned one.

Registrations reached their peak in 1947, when over 8,000 puppies were born in the UK, making the breed one of the most popular.

However, since then, registration figures have dwindled.

In 2022, there were 359 Wire Fox Terrier puppies born in the UK, while this figure plummeted by 21 per cent this year, with just 281 puppies registered.

This means the breed is now likely to enter The Kennel Club's 'At Watch' list, which monitors breeds with 300-450 puppy births a year.

'The Wire Fox Terrier sadly [looks] likely to join this growing list,' Mr Lambert said.

'We have such a rich diversity of breeds, so we urge the British public to find out more about the lesser-known breeds, especially those who are at risk of disappearing.'

The breed is known to suffer from Small Dog Syndrome - a behavioral condition in which the dog can become unpleasant, snappy, bark excessively, and even become aggressive.

'The Wire Fox Terrier was the nation's favourite breed a century ago, and it remained popular for decades, so it is very concerning to see such low numbers for a friendly and lively dog that was once beloved by royalty and families alike, and there is a real danger that we could lose them forever,' Mr Lambert added.

Despite the falling numbers, the Wire Fox Terrier has consistently been one of the most successful at Crufts.

The breed won Best in Show on three occasions – in 1962, 1975 and 1978 – and has been in the running to take the title a further 12 times, including as recently as Crufts 2023.

Sadly, it seems these crowning moments have not translated into a boost for ownership outside of the event.

'Crufts, taking place in March, will have a dedicated Discover Dogs zone, and we really want to encourage potential puppy owners to come along and not only discover more about over 200 breeds, including those that are vulnerable, but also talk to experts to find out if they are right for them,' Mr Lambert added.

While the Wire Fox Terrier is likely to be added to the At Watch list, 34 dog breeds are in an even more vulnerable category, called the Vulnerable Native Breed List.

To be included in this category, the breed must have fewer than 300 registrations a year.

The list includes adorable breeds such as the Bearded Collie, King Charles Spaniel, Skye Terrier and Curly Coated Retriever.