The Most Popular Dog Breeds From The Past Century

By Allegra Ringo

Most of us are used to seeing Labrador Retrievers everywhere because, for the past 25 years, the Labrador has been the most popular dog in America. German Shepherds are second, with Golden Retrievers coming in at third. But it hasn't always been that way. America has gone through many different breed obsessions, some of which may surprise you (and some of which won't).

1900s: The Collie

The Collie became popular at the beginning of the 20th century, and would go on to become an important figure in popular culture, most notably in the iconic Lassie books and movies (and TV show, comic books, toys, lunchboxes, and every other product you can think of).

A drawing of a Rough Collie circa 1900
A Rough Collie drawing from the 1900s
credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons

1910s: The Boston Terrier

The adorable Boston Terrier was, and still is, the only American dog breed to ever reach the #1 spot in America's heart. In the 1930s, they once again reached #1.

A black and white Boston terrier on a walk in the forest
A Boston Terrier looks on majestically.
credit: Image via Imgur

1920s: The German Shepherd

In the 1920s, the German Shepherd reigned supreme. Though its popularity died down in subsequent decades, the German Shepherd bounced back hard, and as of 2016 was the second most-popular dog breed in the U.S.

Anna Roosevelt Halstead poses with her German Shepherd next to a fence
Anna Roosevelt Halstead and her German Shepherd
credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons

1930s: The Boston Terrier again

America's dog sweetheart takes the cake again.

1940s: The Cocker Spaniel

An American Cocker Spaniel named My Own Brucie won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1940 and again in 1941. He went on to become "the most photographed dog in the world," according to his obituaries, and despite a lifetime of only eight years, was partly responsible for the ensuing popularity of the Cocker Spaniel.

A Cocker Spaniel lying on a blanket in a field
An American Cocker Spaniel being photogenic
credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons

1950s: The Beagle

Beagles were all the rage in post-war America. Snoopy made his debut in 1950 and despite looking very little like an actual Beagle, he had a large impact on the Beagle's explosive popularity during this decade.

Beagle with its tongue out
Real Beagles are much cuter than Snoopy.
credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons

1960-1982: The Poodle

The Poodle stole America's heart and kept it for 22 straight years. Though experts disagree on the exact origins of the Poodle, they agree that Americans still can't get enough of the Poodle. In 2006, the Poodle was the eighth most-popular dog in America, with nearly 30,000 Poodles registered with the American Kennel Club.

A black Poodle and a white Poodle on a restaurant patio in New York City
Fancy poodles in New York City.
credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons

Later 1980s: The Cocker Spaniel again

In a retro turn of events, the Cocker Spaniel once again rose to #1 in the later 1980s.

1990s- present day: The Labrador Retriever

If you're a millennial, the Lab has reigned supreme for the majority of your lifetime. The rise in popularity of larger breeds might be partly explained by Americans moving into larger homes, but the popularity of the Lab breed specifically is difficult to explain. Unlike Beagles and Cocker Spaniels, there's no one iconic Labrador character that started it all. Labs used to be considered something of an uppercrust breed, but have edged their way into becoming the American "everydog." That said, the French Bulldog is gaining on them quickly, so they'd better be on their best behavior for the next few years.

A yellow Labrador fetches a stick in the water.
A yellow lab and her beloved stick.
credit: Image: Wikimedia Commons