Kids compare rare pets

Rare breed pets – are they right for you?

If you’re thinking about getting a dog or cat as a family pet, the choice can be overwhelming. A popular option for those looking for a pooch is often one of the so-called ‘crossbreeds’, like a Labradoodle (a Labrador and Poodle mix) or a Cockerpoo (a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle cross). And cat-loving families usually opt for traditional favourites like the stocky British Shorthair or elegant Persian. But have you ever considered a ‘rare-breed’ dog or cat?

What exactly is a rare breed?

The Kennel Club defines a rare breed as one that has 300 or fewer registrations with the club each year. It’s created a list tracking numbers of native British and Irish dogs at risk of disappearing altogether – there are currently 28 breeds on the list.

Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko says of these rare breeds: ‘They’re all wonderful, but many people just don’t know about them, which is a shame because they could make the perfect family pet for those looking to get a dog,’ she explains. ‘We would encourage anyone choosing a dog to consider the less popular breeds as they may well be the perfect match for your lifestyle.’

So, we’ve put together some helpful information on a selection of rare-breed dogs and cats, to help you decide whether one of them could be your new best friend.

Top of the Pups – The UK’s Top 10 Rare Breeds

The UK is a nation of dog lovers – an estimated 24% of households own one! Our four-legged friends come in all shapes and sizes, some rarer than others. Luckily, across the UK, pet owners still have a soft spot for these quirky individuals. See the UK’s top 10 rare breeds and where you’re most likely to find them!

The Dogs

Bedlington Terrier

To buy: around £450

Average price to insure: £48.71 per month**

Food: £30-£40 per month

Potential health issues: heart murmur, reproductive issues, eye issues, copper toxicosis (liver disease).

‘Originating from the Northumberland mining town of Bedlington, this unusual but handsome dog has a long, hammer-shaped head, an arched back and a woolly coat. They’re often compared to spring lambs,’ explains veterinary specialist Mark Thomas.

‘They need around an hour’s exercise a day, so they’ll be equally happy in a town or the country, and they’re fine in smaller houses or gardens. Like most terriers, the Bedlington is friendly, affectionate and loyal but can be a little feisty, so if your children are sensitive to barking it might be something to take note of. Otherwise, they make a lovely addition to a home with older children and teens.’

Chinese Crested

To buy: around £330

Average price to insure: £49.24 per month**

Food: £30-£40

Potential health issues: eye problems and allergies.

‘These tiny but tough dogs have distinctive plumes of white hair tipping their head, feet and tail,’ explains Mark. ‘Perfectly at home in a flat, as they only need about 30 minutes of exercise each day, they make an ideal choice if the kids are pestering you for a pet, but you’re worried you’ll end up doing all the legwork when it comes to looking after their new friend,’ adds Mark.

‘Happy in nature and rarely aggressive, these intelligent dogs tend to play well with children and hate to be left alone, so they’ll fit in well with a family where someone is around most of the time.’

Puli

To buy: £300-£700

Average price to insure: £20-£40 per month**

Food: £40-£50 per month

Potential health issues: hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (which can lead to blindness).

‘Pulis are amazing looking dogs, with thick almost dreadlocked fur. If you were fond of Cousin It from The Addams Family or Dougal from Magic Roundabout, then you’re on to a winner,’ says Mark.

‘A house with a small garden would be the ideal spot for this breed and they typically need about an hour’s exercise a day. They’re loyal, lively and intelligent (so they’re easy to train), but tend to get on better with slightly older kids who are less likely to tug at their fur.’

Akita

To buy: around £450

Average price to insure: £77.04 per month**

Food: £40-£60 per month

Potential health issues: generally healthy, but they can find it difficult to cope with very hot weather. They’re known to suffer from hip dysplasia and bloat.

‘Everything about Akitas, which are native to Japan, is proud: from their alert, pointed ears to their distinctive curly tails,’ says Mark. They make a good choice for families with older children, as they prefer a calm environment, but if you’re bringing a mature pet into your home make sure it’s used to being around kids. They can be aggressive towards other dogs and generally see smaller animals as prey, so they’re better suited to a home without cats and other small pets. Overall, though, Akitas are highly intelligent and characterful dogs, and they make rewarding pets for experienced dog owners.’

King Charles Spaniel

To buy: around £380

Average price to insure: £56.42 per month**

Food: £40-£50 per month

Potential health issues: they’re known to suffer serious hereditary and congenital health defects, including cataracts and mitral heart disease.

‘Also known as toy spaniels, these dogs are extremely cheerful and affectionate – and they look adorable,’ explains Mark. ‘Their placid nature and love of being cuddled makes them ideal for families. They don’t like to be handled roughly, though, so make sure children are sensitive to that. They love going for lots of short walks so would suit a fairly active family, although they can suffer separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.’

Havanese

To buy: around £1,000

Average price to insure: £52.12 per month**

Food: £30-£40 per month

Potential health issues: they can be prone to eye problems.

‘These adorable dogs need a lot of grooming to keep up their appearance, but their loyal and affectionate nature makes up for all that brushing,’ says Mark. ‘They love being the centre of attention, so will thrive in a family home. And they bond well with children, although, as with any type of dog, interaction with smaller kids should be supervised.

‘They’re not keen on being left alone, so would best suit a household where at least one person is usually at home. Intelligent and eager to please, they’re relatively easy to train, and they only need around 30 minutes exercise a day.’

Leonberger

To buy: around £1,000

Average price to insure: £73.07 per month**

Food: £60-£70 per month

Potential health issues: hip and elbow dysplasia, and eye issues – all of which can be tested for.

‘These fluffy, caramel-coloured dogs have distinctive darker heads and a lion-like mane. Because they need a lot of exercise – at least two hours a day – they’ll suit an active family, ideally based in the countryside with lots of potential for long, stimulating walks,’ suggests Mark.

‘That lush coat also means they need a lot of grooming, so make sure everyone in the family is willing to help out. They’re great with kids of all ages (as long as they’re properly supervised) and the only issue is their size, which means they could accidentally knock over a small child.’

Bolognese

To buy: around £400

Average price to insure: £54.60 per month**

Food: £30-£40 per month

Potential health issues: hardy dogs that aren’t prone to any health issues.

‘These tiny fluff balls, similar to a Bichon Frise, are charming and companionable, and can live happily anywhere – from a small city flat to a huge country manor,’ says Mark. ‘Generally calm and content they love attention from children, so they make a great choice for a family looking for its first dog. They’re also very clever and respond well to gentle training. They prefer to have people around them most of the time.’

The Cats

Sphynx

To buy: around £500

Average price to insure: £42.54 per month**

Food: £15-£20 a month

Potential health issues: heart and skin problems.

‘One for animal lovers who don’t want to spend hours vacuuming up cat hairs, this breed owes its unusual appearance to being completely naked. Or hairless, at least,’ explains Mark.

‘They’re one of the most affectionate cats on the planet and they love cuddles and attention – perfect for anyone who isn’t put off by their soft, almost leather-like skin. They form strong bonds with their owners so they don’t like being left alone, so are best suited to families with one person at home most of the time. They’re very tolerant around children but, as with all cats, it’s best for an adult to observe interactions with younger children.’

Ragamuffin

To buy: £350-£400

Average price to insure: Around £20 per month****

Food: £30-£40 a month

Potential health issues: a generally healthy breed, they should be vaccinated against feline flu and feline leukaemia if they go outdoors.

‘This breed of cat makes a fantastic all-round family pet. They have a friendly nature and they adore affection and tummy rubs,’ explains Mark. ‘They enjoy climbing and fetching toys, and are brilliant with children of most ages. They’re a sociable breed, so they’re not too happy being left on their own, although they will adapt to most living situations. They love being groomed, which is a good thing, considering the amount of fur they have. This is not a cat for anyone who hates vacuuming.’

Scottish Fold

To buy: up to £900

Average price to insure: £20-£40 per month****

Food: around £20 per month

Potential health issues: joint problems, feline leukaemia.

‘With enormous, marble-like eyes and ears that flop forwards, this is a unique-looking breed that’s prized for its appearance,’ explains Mark. ‘They’re very human-oriented – but cope relatively well with short periods alone – and that, combined with the fact that they get on with other pets and are brilliant with kids, adds up to a fantastic family pet.’

Ragdoll

To buy: around £300

Average price to insure: £40.82 per month**

Food: £20-£25 per month

Potential health issues: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (heart disease), autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

‘Turning floppy when picked up, this is one of the most laid-back breeds around, making it perfect for toddlers who love to cuddle,’ says Mark. ‘While Ragdolls are chilled out when it comes to personality, they’re relatively high-maintenance when it comes to grooming, thanks to their fabulous fluffiness. Hopefully the kids will take on that role,’ he adds.

‘Most of all, they’re super-sweet and kind, they rarely scratch or bite, and are known to be very tolerant around children – even when they try to push them around in a pram!’

Devon Rex

To buy: around £400

Average price to insure: £43.19 per month**

Food: £15-£20 per month

Potential health issues: congenital myasthenic syndrome (which causes muscle weakness).

‘Playful and active, the delightful Devon Rex is said to love perching on people’s shoulders like a parrot,’ says Mark. ‘These cats are extremely intelligent and are adept at picking up new tricks, unlike some cats who will simply stride off in a haughty huff if you ask them to ‘fetch’.

‘With high cheekbones, huge eyes and pixie-like features, they belong on a ‘catwalk’. But they’re also outgoing and affectionate, so they’re great with other pets and children. As a bonus, their agility means they can quickly leap away if a toddler’s grasping hands get too close for comfort.’

Chartreux

To buy: around £160

Average price to insure: £40.20 per month**

Food: around £20 per month

Potential health issues: no health problems specific to the breed, although they should be immunised against feline flu and enteritis, and feline leukaemia if they go outdoors.

‘This beautiful blue-grey cat has eyes of copper or gold and sometimes bright orange, making them a very handsome family pet,’ comments Mark. ‘Affectionate and independent, they’re loyal to their owners but can appear aloof with strangers – like many cats. Their easy-going nature means they get on well with younger children as well as other pets.’

Korat

To buy: around £350

Average price to insure: £43.68 per month**

Food: £15-20 per month

Potential health issues: no specific health problems, although they should be immunised against feline flu and enteritis, and feline leukaemia if they go outdoors.

‘With its heart-shaped face and sparkling green eyes, the Korat is certainly a handsome feline,’ says Mark. ‘Strong-willed and bursting with personality, these cats make a wonderful addition to a lively home. They love attention and are never happier than when playing, making them a dream for households with younger children. Whether racing around the home or ‘fetching’ a toy, they’re a delight to be around.’

Nebelung

To buy: around £180

Average price to insure: £41.76 per month**

Potential health issues: no specific health problems, although they should be immunised against feline flu and enteritis, and feline leukaemia if they go outdoors.

‘The Nebelung is grey and fluffy, and always appears to be smiling,’ explains Mark. ‘A longer haired version of the Russian Blue, these cats are outgoing but also pretty demanding. They love being cuddled but only by those they know and trust – they can be a little wary of strangers.

‘Because of their serene temperaments, they’re probably best suited to households with older kids, or as a pet for elderly people. They prefer not to be left alone. A home where someone is around most of the time, or that has another cat or small dog, is ideal.’

** Average pet insurance costs from 1 January 2016-31 March 2017 on comparethemarket.com, across all four types of pet insurance.

*** Insurance average based on all types of pet insurance. Costs provided in April 2016 as featured on https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/dog-breeds/hungarian-puli/#CostSection 

**** Insurance averages based on all types of pet insurance. Costs provided in April 2017 by veterinary specialist Mark Thomas.

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