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A high-energy Hungarian herding dog — the pumi — is the latest new breed to be celebrated at the Westminster Kennel Club and many other U.S. dog shows.
The American Kennel Club is recognizing the pumi, the 190th breed to join the roster of the nation’s oldest purebred dog registry. That means the pumi can vie for best of breed at Westminster for the first time next February.
With coats of corkscrew curls and ears that flop at the tips, the pumi (pronounced POOM’-ee) has a whimsical expression that belies its strong work ethic, fanciers say. The 20-to-30-pound breed goes back centuries in Hungary, where it herded cattle, sheep, and swine. It’s related to the puli, a breed already recognized by the AKC and known for its coat of long cords.
Like many herding dogs, pumis — the proper plural is actually “pumik” — are alert and active.
“They’re not for somebody who’s going to sit and watch TV all day long,” said Chris Levy, president of the Hungarian Pumi Club of America. But if provided with enough exercise and stimulation, “the pumi can chill out.”
Considered quick learners, pumis have done well at agility and other canine sports. Some in the U.S. also herd rabbits, chickens, goats and even cats in a cattery, said Levy, who breeds the dogs in Salem, Oregon. She and others have been working to build up the breed in the U.S. for two decades, but it’s still quite rare.
AKC recognition requires having at least 300 dogs of the breed nationwide, among other criteria. Two other new breeds, the American hairless terrier and an ancient North African hound called the sloughi, were recognized this past January and also will be eligible for Westminster for the first time next year.
Some animal-rights advocates say dog breeding is too appearance-focused and irresponsible when many mixed-breed animals need adoption.
The AKC says conscientious breeding helps people and pets make happy matches by making the animals’ characteristics somewhat more predictable.