If you happened to spy a Kooikerhondje walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t know what to call it, much less how to pronounce it (it’s “koy-ker-hondt-chuh”). Just seeing one of these dogs in the United States would be a treat because they are so rare. The Kooiker is new to North America, but it’s not a new breed. Kooikers have around for hundreds of years and just might be one of the dog world’s best-kept secrets.
These small spaniels hail from The Netherlands, where they were prized for a unique hunting skill: luring ducks into an intricate trap built by the hunter. Working with a kookier, or “duck hunter,” the little white-and-red dog walked along the shores of the wetlands, weaving its way between angled screens made of willow reeds much like an agility dog navigates weave poles.
The ducks, curious, swam after the dog and were lured into narrow, net-covered canals, which led to small ponds where the ducks were captured by the hunter. In The Netherlands, a few Kooikers are still trained to lure ducks this way, though this is so conservationists can tag the ducks, not hunt them. Most Kookiers are more likely to be devoted family pets than duck hunters.
Kooiker numbers in Europe dwindled alarmingly following World War II, but the breed was saved thanks to the efforts of one woman, who began restoring the breed in 1939. The Kooikerhondje was recognized by the Dutch kennel club in 1971. It’s part of the American Kennel Club Foundation Stock Service, the first step to full recognition.
Rare Dog Breeds
This eclectic group of ancient dog breeds is anything but ordinary. To describe the dog breeds in this group as “rare” is entirely relative. Many of them are hugely popular in their native countries. The powerful Fila Brasileiro is used throughout Brazil as a police dog and a hunter of jaguar and other big game. The Canadian Eskimo Dog has a long history working with the Inuit peoples. The Sloughi and the Azawakh are ancient North African sighthounds. For our purposes, these dog breeds are considered “rare” because they have not yet…
Medium length, wavy, double-coat.