Dogs have been beloved as companions and working animals for centuries, but the most popular breeds have changed over time. So which dog was in style the year that you were born? Check out this roundup as reported by National Geographic to find out, and learn more about how each breed rose to stardom.
Most Popular Dog Breeds by Decade
1920s: German Shepherd
German shepherds have been in the top 20 since the 1920s, when they were boosted by the popularity of Rin Tin Tin. This breed is confident, courageous, and smart. German shepherds are the star of I am Legend, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and any movie with a “K-9” pun in the title. It’s no wonder these dogs have stayed hot.
1930s: Boston Terrier
For years the Boston terrier was king, staying strong in the Top 10 through the 1960s. In the ’30s, small- to medium-sized dogs were most popular, largely due to economic circumstances (a little thing called The Great Depression). Smaller dogs were more cost-efficient and easier to take care of. To their credit, the Boston terrier is the first small companion dog breed to break into the top five in the 20th century.
1940s: Cocker Spaniel
Things took a turn for the harrier in the 1940s, and then again the 1980s when the cocker spaniel took the top spot. This gentle, smart, and good-natured breed is the smallest of the sporting group. Its popularity can be credited to a winning show dog named My Own Brucie (okay?) who became the most photographed dog in the world by 1941.
The curious, friendly, and vocal beagle broke out of the #2 spot and into #1 in 1950 when Charles Schultz’s Snoopy made his first appearance. Yes, it’s easy to forget that Snoopy is a beagle because he doesn’t look like one, really, but people were buying what Schultz was selling. Beagles have stayed near the top thanks to other famous members of the breed like Shiloh, Odie, Gromit, and any other generic-looking dog that might as well be a beagle.
Not to be outdone (never to be outdone!), poodles ascended to the number one spot in 1960 and stayed there until 1981. Why? Part of the reason is that poodles dominate the dog show circuit. They’re smart, active, and have really great hair. Poodle skirts were popular, lots of celebrities had poodles, and the breed comes in all colors and sizes. What’s not to like?
1980s: Cocker Spaniel
This curly-haired cutie was back in the spotlight by the time the ’80s rolled around. Have you heard of a little movie called Lady and the Tramp? Spaghetti scene? Oddly enough, Lady and the Tramp came out in 1955, but its enduring appeal kept cocker spaniels in the public’s hearts until they broke through again in the ’80s. Or maybe it was just the general popularity of big, beautiful hair.
1990s: Labrador Retriever
2000s: Labrador Retriever
This lovable, family-friendly breed seems like it’s in the top three to stay. The Labrador retriever first broke into the Top 10 in 1968 after a steady incline. This was thanks, in part, to movies like The Incredible Journey, which featured the breed. Retrievers (of the Labrador and golden variety) became a household staple after Full House and the Air Bud franchise hit the market, and Marley & Me keeps yellow labs in the public eye. Retriever became the new beagle, as many people immediately thought of this breed when they heard the word “dog.”
Honorable and Notable Mentions
Keep an eye on the bulldog, which is climbing its way back up to the top after a mid-decade dive. Also, the Yorkshire terrier is not to be forgotten, as it currently enjoys a popularity ranking of #7. Siberian huskies are also climbing quickly since their humble beginnings in the early 20th century.
Thanks to being featured in movies and pop culture, these breeds also saw their fifteen months of fame:
- Dalmatians (101 Dalmatians)
- Collies (Lassie)
- Old English sheepdogs (The Shaggy Dog)
- St. Bernard (Beethoven)
- Chihuahuas (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Taco Bell commercials, Paris Hilton’s handbags)
- Mastiffs (Turner & Hooch)
- Great Dane (Marmaduke and Oliver & Company)
- Jack Russell terriers (Frasier, Wishbone, The Artist)
Featured image from French film “Boule et Bill”