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The American Kennel Club has just released its list of the most popular breeds in the country.

Once again the Labrador Retriever sits atop the rankings, making it 21 years straight that the family, show and hunting dog has led the list. Tallied according to registrations with the AKC, it’s interesting to note that the majority of dogs in the top 10 are working and sporting dogs.

Here’s the top ten…

Labrador retriever: Perhaps the best dual-purpose dog in the field, the Lab matures quickly and loves to please.

German Shepherd: A herding dog that has found its way into the hearts of Americans for years. Smart and athletic, the German shepherd is used for police work, leading the blind and as guard dogs, among other uses — perhaps most notably as a favored family pet for generations.

Beagle: This rabbit-chasing fiend took the Yorkie’s spot on the list. Small enough for apartment dwellers (if you work on barking) or small homes, the beagle is a hunting machine and will follow its nose to the end of the earth.

Golden retriever: With a laid back disposition, willingness to please and a beautiful coat, it’s no wonder the golden is in the top 10. Field lines produce great dogs that will work for every waterfowl and upland bird, and their soft demeanor makes them easily trainable.

Yorkshire terriers: Okay, they’re definitely not a working or sporting dog nowadays, but the little yorkie used to be used as ratter in textile mills. I guess that qualifies, to some unknown degree, as a hunting/working use — although, it still makes me think of a cat.

Bulldog: Never really a working dog in the recognized sense, the bully was used to fight bulls and bears as entertainment in England. With most of the fight bred out of them (my 12-year-old male still gets ornery at times; unlike the Lab that sniffed the dead coyote I brought into the yard this weekend, the bulldog bit first and then investigated it), they’ve become popular because of their mashed faces, stocky body (a cinder blog on legs, as Hoss has been called) and funny personality.

Boxer: Similar to the bulldog, although much more athletic than the squat canine in the modern age, the boxer was used not just in the fighting arena but also as a hunting dog. It would chase down large game and subdue it until the hunter arrived.

Poodles: The original waterdog, the poodle’s tightly curled, thick coat served to protect it from cold water and to help it stay buoyant while retrieving game. Many of today’s waterdogs have an ancestry branching back to the poodle. While it’s not really a great hunter today, there are some breeders trying to restore lines with hunting/training sense — and with some success, the modern-day poodle is mainly a show and obedience dog, as well as family pet (we won’t go into the current fad of crossing any and all other breeds with it to produce high-priced designer breeds so popular today). It’s one of the most intelligent dogs around, as well.

Dachshunds: Long and skinny, the dachshund, or wiener dog, is now a lap dog, but originally it was bred to hunt down, dig out and fight badgers to the death within the confines of the beast’s den. They can still be a bit snippy at times, but for the most part shuffle around on tiny little legs barking at trespassers and living the good life in the house.

Rottweiler: Big and powerful, the rottie was originally used as herding dog by the Romans. It’s guarding and instincts were honed by the Germans and today it is a devoted, loyal and intimidating-looking dog. They’re not exactly aggressive, but not a dog you’d want to cross. Intelligent and athletic, they’re often used as police dogs.

Something new this year: the AKC has broken down the top-10 popular dogs by major cities, too! It’s kind of interesting to look at how location, climate and popular sporting activities in an area does, or doesn’t, affect a dog’s popularity.

Also of note from the AKC:

Most Notable Dog Trends in 2011 Include:

• Larger dogs are moving up, with the Labrador Retriever (1), German Shepherd Dog (2), Golden Retriever (4), Boxer (7), and Rottweiler (10) all making this year’s top ten.

• It is the year of the Setters, with all four making big jumps over the past year — the English Setter (from 101 to 87), the Irish Setter (from 77 to 70), the Irish Red and White Setter (150 to 147), and the Gordon Setter (from 98 to 94).

• Coonhounds made the largest tumble — the Black and Tan Coonhound (from 91 to 109) and the Bluetick Coonhound (from 119 to 136) had the biggest decrease in rankings this year. The Redbone Coonhound also dropped from 122 to 126.

• Terriers are making a comeback! Closing the gap this year, a couple of breeds that had been on the decline over the past decade have risen up the ranks over the past year — Bedlington Terriers (from 140 to 134), Border Terriers (from 83 to 80), and Dandie Dinmont Terriers (from 164 to 160).

• Among smaller dogs that rose in the rankings this year are the Brussels Griffon (from 80 to 77) and the Manchester Terrier (121 to 119).

• This past decade has proven that bigger is better, with larger breeds continuing to increase in popularity. Among them: the Bernese Mountain Dog (from 54 to 34), the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (from 101 to 82), the Bullmastiff (from 49 to 40), the Rhodesian Ridgeback (from 57 to 44), the Irish Wolfhound (from 86 to 79), and the Belgian Malinois (from 94 to 74).