With just 34 in the UK and 6,000 worldwide, Emo is one of the world’s rarest dogs and the first Stabyhoun in Scotland. Born in May in Manchester, he and his six brothers and sisters are part of a project to introduce the breed to the UK.
Generally considered amongst one of the world’s rarest dog breeds, the Stabyhoun originates from the Netherlands. About the size of a small Labrador, it was bred as an all-round family and farm dog – required to work alongside the farmer during the day and to live inside the family home alongside children and other pets. The name Stabyhoun is most likely from the Dutch: “sta me bij” which means ‘Stand by me’ – an accurate reflection of its loyal nature.
Christina Savage is the President of the UK Stabyhoun Association and founder of the project which began back in 2012. Originally from Denmark where she grew up with a Stabyhoun herself, she now lives in Manchester with Emo’s mother, Jelske.
“For me, the Stabyhoun is first and foremost a gentle, loving and loyal family dog. Its growing popularity in the UK lies not in its rarity but in their ability to live with other family pets and young children.”
Until the import rules changed on 1 January 2012, it wasn’t possible to bring young puppies into the UK and so the breed had never been introduced. Christina says: “Families in the UK can finally enjoy the companionship of a very special dog. The fact that Stabyhoun puppies are now being born right here in England is a real milestone.”
Cathy Hawes and her five-year old son, Ben live in a small Perth and Kinross village with their two cats, five hens and three ducks. Cathy was looking for a breed that would naturally get along well with their cherished pets and be a playful yet gentle companion for her young son. “I spent months researching dog breeds; comparing personality traits, exercise requirements, size, temperament, and so on. And just when I had convinced myself that there was no such thing as the perfect breed for us, I came across a description of the Stabyhoun. It ticked all the boxes so naturally we got very excited.
“The puppy application process was comprehensive and included us meeting several Stabyhoun in England. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the breed for us, so we didn’t mind waiting for the right puppy. When we heard that the second ever litter in the UK was on the cards, I kept everything crossed that there might be a pup for us. It was almost too good to be true when she gave birth to seven healthy puppies,” says Cathy. “The next day, Christina called and told us that one of them would definitely be ours.”
Cathy had to wait five weeks before finding out which puppy would be joining their family. “These puppies are allocated to each family based on their temperament and, to a lesser degree, their potential for working and breeding. Ben fell in love with Emo when we came to visit a few weeks earlier, but I had complete confidence in Christina’s final decision for us. Secretly we hoped Emo would be the one and we were so excited when Christina approved,” says Cathy.
She added: “I wanted a dog that could be part of the family and likes to play, but also one that would be content crashing out for an hour or two after a walk. And that’s exactly who joined our family on 5 July when Ben and I collected Emo from Manchester.
“After the four and a half hour long journey home, Emo stayed glued to us while he settled in, but his confidence is growing by the day. Ben and he are already inseparable and the introduction to his new pet companions went brilliantly too. He is very well behaved and catches onto everything really quickly. Within a week he already knew to sit, lie down and watch me on command. Most remarkably for such a young puppy, he brings me my shoes when he wants to go outside. He truly is a wonderful little character and we are both delighted that he has joined our family. Hopefully he will be a good ambassador for the breed in Scotland.”
About her decision to have a litter of puppies, Christina says: “There are many lovely breeds in the country, not to mention great dogs needing new homes in rescue centres. But for some people, the Stabyhoun has a special appeal and those are the ones who have been happy to wait for nearly a year to get a puppy. I only wanted to breed a litter of Stabyhoun puppies if there was an approved waiting list of people wanting one, and that was easily the case for us.”
People who are interested in the Stabyhoun should contact the UK Stabyhoun Association to arrange for them to meet one first of all, as Christina explains. “Although they may share physical similarities with the likes of Collies, Spaniels and Retrievers, they are quite different and really need to be experienced to be appreciated. With so few Stabyhoun around, we want to make sure that every single one of them gets the right kind of home.”
Janice Vittachi, the association’s Vice President, is planning the country’s next litter of Stabyhoun puppies which could be on the cards this autumn.
She said: “The Stabyhoun is a truly wonderful and entirely unique breed of dog; perfectly suited to an active family home or someone interested in agility or hunting, and who fancies a bit of a challenge. The Stabyhoun absolutely adores children and its ability to accept other animals in the home is one of its great charms.”
The role of the UK Stabyhoun Association is to manage the introduction of the Stabyhoun to the UK as well as implement a controlled and closely monitored breeding programme to protect the health and temperament of the breed.
Anyone who is interested in a Stabyhoun puppy should email christina@stabyhounUK.com to begin the application process.