Hungarian dogs draw celebrity interest, but no money

Fri Sep 6, 2013 12:21pm EDT
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By Marton Dunai

KISUJSZALLAS, Hungary (Reuters) - When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife visited Hungary in May, social media sites lit up with people guessing why the high tech tycoon was in the country.

It turns out he owns a Puli, a Hungarian shepherd dog, wanted to learn more about it from a breeder and check out a kennel, surprising locals with a visit.

"They were very down-to-earth, and clearly in love with the pulis," breeder Ferenc Antal told Reuters.

The Puli is a mid-sized dog that grows long black or white fur which looks similar to dreadlocks. It accompanied nomadic Hungarian tribes more than 1,000 years ago. Its intelligence and affectionate nature make it a popular family pet.

With nine such unique dog breeds - Vizsla hunters, Komondor guard dogs, and others - Hungary could be a big canine exporter.

However, demand has been decimated by the sluggish global economy and the relaxed bureaucracy of the European Union and cheaper dogs without pedigrees have been outselling pure-bred dogs with official papers.

According to Andras Korozs, chief of the Hungarian Kennel Club, some dog varieties are on the verge of extinction because of this competition from undocumented dogs.

"Ten years ago, we gave pedigrees to 80,000 dogs per year," Korozs said. "Last year, we issued 20,000. This doesn't mean births are down, but owners don't spend the extra on pedigrees, because it's not worth the investment."   Continued...

A Wire-haired Vizsla puppy sits in a trophy of one of her forebears at a kennel in Paty, 10 km west of Budapest July 17, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh