18th February 2007 Dog's life: Is the Bloodhound close to extinction? They are calling it the case of the disappearing bloodhounds. Once at the centre of every manhunt, the doleful dogs with the dripping jowls are feared to be on the trail to extinction after total annual births in Britain fell to a pitiful 70. But it doesn't take a master detective to discover the reason - the celebrity-led craze for exotic crossbreeds such as the labradoodle and cockapoo. Figures from the Kennel Club reveal a devastating decline in traditional breeds such as the bloodhound, field spaniel and Dandie Dinmont. In the last year, a worrying 24 pedigree breeds have dipped below the threshold deemed viable for a longterm healthy population. Breeders say that a birthrate of at least 300 pups a year is required to guarantee a large gene pool and a future for the species. But last year there were only 64 field spaniels, 74 Sussex spaniels and 53 smooth collies born, while the lowest birth rate was among Glen of Imaal terriers, at 41. The Dandie Dinmont terrier, named after a character in a Walter Scott novel, had its worst year since records began in 1880, with just 78 puppies. Other low breeders included the otterhound, at 51, Sealyham, 57, Skye terrier, 84, and Cardigan Welsh corgi, also Meanwhile, wacky crossbreeds are becoming ever more popular. Country Life magazine recently reported that 'vets to the stars' in Notting Hill, West London, were treating more labradoodles - a cross between a labrador and a poodle - than almost any other breed. Meanwhile dogs such as dollies (a dalmatian and border collie cross), cockapoos (cocker spaniel meets poodle) and weidie (West Highland terrier and bearded collie) are being bred to order to meet demand. No longer dismissed as inferior mongrels, they can fetch up to £3,000 a puppy. Paul Keevil, a member of the Kennel Club's vulnerable breeds committee, said traditional pedigrees were in grave peril. 'The numbers of some breeds are critically low. For every one thinking a crossbreed is fashionable, it is one more person not choosing a British breed.' Julien Barney, of the British and Irish Dog Breeds Preservation Trust, added: 'It all seems to be about fashion. But the breeds that need help are the rare ones that are just as unusual.' The Dogs Trust has also warned about the potential genetic problems. Veterinary director Chris Laurence said: 'At least with pedigree dogs you know what the problems are going to be, but if you crossbreed a dog you don't know what you might get.' However, some owners swear by their crossbreeds and claim many other sane dog lovers have good and honest reasons for choosing them. Professional gundog trainer Peter Blatch said of his spanador: 'When I go to a shoot, it will sit at peg like a labrador and when you go to push it into deep dense cover, the spaniel kicks in. They make a lovely family dog, too.'