Heads up, Yorkie. There’s a new American Kennel Club breed in town.
It’s the Pumi, a high-energy, lively Hungarian herding dog and a relative of the puli, which most people recognize for its long, corded hair that looks like a mop.
The Pumi is the 190th breed recognized by the AKC, a designation that allows it to compete at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and other events sanctioned by the purebred dog registry.
One word to describe the Pumi’s look: Shagalicous.
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It has a short, fluffy, corkscrew coat that comes in many colors - black, white, gray or “shades of fawn from pale cream to red,” says the AKC.
And it’s face? It’s a “whimsical expression,” the AKC says.
Though it’s recognized world-wide - it’s a popular pet in Scandinavia, according to Time - the Pumi is a relative newcomer to the United States. It takes years for a breed to be recognized by the AKC.
“It’s assumed by many that the AKC has scouts beating the bushes looking for new talent, kind of like a major-league baseball team. Actually, the process is much the reverse: The AKC doesn’t go looking for breeds, the breeds come to the AKC,” the organization says on its website.
Behind every new breed is a fan club championing it and herding it through an arduous process that can take years - 17 years in the Pumi’s case.
Reams of documents must be produced - pedigree and ownership records, studbooks, photographs - and the AKC must be convinced that the breed has enough fans and interest from owners and breeders in the United States to warrant its blessing.
The Pumi had an ally and friend in Chris Levy, president of the Hungarian Pumi Club of America, who told NPR how excited she was at the prospect of the Pumi competing for “best in show” at Westminster, held every year at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“It's amazing,” said Levy. “I don't know what I'm going to do on that first day, when we can actually get a blue ribbon.”
Levi owns eight adult Pumik - that’s plural for Pumi - and a puppy.
She told NPR she fell in love with the dog’s “little part-pricked ears” that stand up and are covered with hair.
As a herding dog the Pumi is bred to take directions from a shepherd, which makes them “very focused on their people,” Levy said.
“They're so smart, so eager to please, active, they just love life,” she said. “They're very forgiving, they don't hold a grudge, they're easy to train. They need daily exercise and they also need mental stimulation. This is not a breed that will just lay around all day.”
Did you hear that, little Yorkie?