On July 1, the American Kennel Club will recognize the Pumi, the newest addition to the Herding Group.
History of the Pumi
The Pumi (plural – Pumik) is one of three Hungarian herding breeds (Puli, Pumi, and Mudi) descended from dogs that migrated from the areas of China and Tibet around 800 AD. About 300 years ago these dogs mixed with French and German herding dogs as a result of trading of livestock between these three countries. At the time, the term “Puli” was used interchangeably with “Pumi”, but eventually came to describe two variations of the generic Hungarian herding dogs. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the Hungarians developed formal descriptions, or standards, for the three breeds.
Eastern Hungary has vast plains (the beginning of the Russian Steppes), called the puszta, and used the Puli for their herding dog. The Mudi developed on the puszta of Southern Hungary. Western Hungary where the Pumi originated, was hilly and made up of many small farms and pastures.
Livestock (cattle, sheep, and swine) was typically kept in the village at night and driven to pasture for the day, so they needed a dog that worked close to the livestock, driving it to and from pastures and keeping it within the pasture boundaries and out of the neighbor’s garden. The livestock was stubborn and half wild and needed a tough, close-working dog to keep them in line. The Pumi’s tools were bouncing, barking, quick movement, and an occasional nip as needed.
The Pumi was basically unknown in this country until the late 90’s when several dogs were imported from Europe. The Pumi owners petitioned the AKC to have the breed taken into the Foundation Stock Service (FSS), which would provide the ability to register dogs and record litters. They were accepted into the FSS program in 2001.
Hungarian Pumi Club of America
The Hungarian Pumi Club of America was formed in 2005, and has slowly grown as the breed has grown in popularity in the US. In 2011 the Pumi had enough dogs registered with FSS (150) to enter the Miscellaneous Classes, and by May of 2015, there were the required 300 Pumik registered to petition AKC for full acceptance into the Herding Group which will occur on July 1, 2016. These 300 dogs are made up of many European imports from different lines, which has provided a good gene pool for genetic diversity in this country.
Probably the most noticeable feature of the Pumi is their adorable ears, which are said to be ideally “two-thirds erect” and covered with hair, which makes for the “whimsical expression” described in the breed’s standard of perfection. The Pumi has a square, lean and muscular body type. They are a light-bodied dog, so although they can range from 15” to 18½”, they will only weigh between 20 and 30 pounds. They are covered with curly locks of hair all over their body that is made up of 50% hard hair and 50% soft hair, all basically the same length.
The Pumi has some terrier characteristics, but there is no documentation of terriers in their ancestry. They are very smart, active, and have the joy of life of a terrier, but they also have the sensibility and trainability of a herding dog.
They have been bred to work all day long with the shepherd, so they prefer to be near their people, and like it even better when all their flock (family) is together. They are happiest participating in the family’s activities, whether it’s hiking, camping, going on trips, participating in sports, or watching TV.
They need some activity during the day, but then are happy to chill out with you while you work on the computer, laying at your feet. But if you get up to go do something, they’re ready to go!
Dog Sports Loved by the Pumi
The Pumi excels at just about every dog sport and has been especially successful in agility – they’re built just for this sport – agile, eager, light-footed, and smart – geared towards what their person wants them to do. There is an American-bred Pumi that competes at the World Championship level and another one that won the 16” class at the AKC Invitational two years in a row.
The agility enthusiasts are taking notice and many puppies are going to agility homes to be future champions. Pumik also participate in herding trials, obedience, flyball, dock diving, barn hunt, lure coursing, nose work, and just about any other sport you can think of to do with your dog. Most every Pumi still retains that innate herding instinct and most will pass the herding instinct test having never seen sheep prior to the test. Pumi owners are active in dog sports with their dogs, as almost one-quarter of the dogs registered with AKC’s FSS program have one or more AKC titles.
The Pumi is a healthy breed, with hip dysplasia being the most common health issue, but even then not frequent. The Hungarian Pumi Club of America recommends testing dogs for hip dysplasia, patellar (kneecap) luxation, and DNA tests for Progressive Lens Luxation, and Degenerative Myelopathy. Optional tests are eye exams and x-rays for elbow dysplasia.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Pumi is its coat, with curly locks of hair all over the body. They need combing every two to three weeks followed by a good wetting down to let the coat curl back up. Once curled up and dry, the coat can be trimmed to keep it looking tidy.
The Pumi doesn’t shed, but hair will come out during combing which helps new, strong coat come back in. Using a hair dryer on the Pumi’s coat will remove the characteristic curls in the coat and should never be used.
Getting a Puppy
The Pumi is a rare breed in the US, with just a few litters born per year. If you are interested in a puppy, you may have to wait some time. If you have a preference for a particular color or sex, you will have to wait even longer. The Hungarian Pumi Club of America has a list of breeders on its website.
Within a litter, the most outgoing and playful puppy may be the most active and a bit more difficult to live with, so a family should pick a puppy in the moderate to lower level of activity unless the goal is a high-performance Pumi for dog sports. Tell the breeder exactly what type of temperament you’re looking for and the breeder, who has lived with the puppies for 8 or more weeks, can match the right puppy to your requirements.
The Pumi is a thinking dog and must assess each new situation, so it’s best to expose young puppies to many different situations while they’re young. Puppy kindergarten is a great way to get a good start with your puppy, but be sure to give it lots of exposure to other new situations specifically between 3 and 6 months.
Once a year, Pumi owners gather together somewhere in the US to celebrate the Pumi, and call it Pumifest. This is a 4-5 day event with AKC Herding Trials and Instinct Tests, AKC Agility Trials, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, and a National Specialty Show, with seminars and other fun activities fit in between.
In 2016, Pumifest will be in and around Tyler, Texas, October 12-16. Tyler is having their annual Rose Festival while the Pumik are there, and the Pumik and their owners are going to march in the Tyler Rose Festival Parade. For more information on Pumifest, go to http://pumiclub.org/events/2016-pumifest/.
The Hungarian Pumi Club of America has a lot of information on their web site at www.pumiclub.org.
Chris Levy is the President of the Hungarian Pumi Club of America and judges the Terrier Group, the majority of the Non-Sporting Group, Standard and Giant Schnauzers, and German Shorthaired Pointers.