NEW YORK (Reuters) - The friendly, and often clumsy, Labrador retriever has retained its long held title as the most popular dog breed in the United States, while the fearless Rottweiler has climbed to its highest ranking in 20 years.
The nation's most sought after dogs of 2016 were unveiled in New York City on Tuesday by the American Kennel Club, a purebred dog registry that releases a list of top dog breeds each year.
Labrador retrievers, commonly called "labs," have held their slot as the most popular breed for each of the past 26 years, making them the longest reigning leader of the pack.
"Labs, they're just great with people; they're great with everyone," said Theresa Viesto, who breeds labs in her hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, and is registered with the Club. "You never hear about a lab getting into a dog fight."
Viesto and her 4-year-old yellow lab, Reggie, attended the news conference alongside a roomful of stretching, scratching and wrestling dogs and puppies representing the top ten breeds.
Placing second, third and fourth were the German shepherd, golden retriever and English bulldog, respectively. Beagles were fifth most popular while French bulldogs placed sixth. The top six breeds remained the same as in 2015.
Poodles were seventh and Rottweilers eighth, each jumping one spot higher than the last lineup. Yorkshire terriers dropped two spots to place ninth and boxers held firm in the tenth spot.
While the most popular list is generally a reshuffling of longtime top breeds, Rottweilers have seen a resurgence in popularity recently after falling out of favor in the late 1990s, said Gina DiNardo, the Kennel Club's vice president.
It was not clear why Rottweilers were making a comeback - the last time the breed placed at its current level was in 1997 - but a strong economy generally prompts people to seek bigger and costlier dogs, including Rottweilers, DiNardo said.
Rottweiler owner Alexandra Niles, from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, said it was the breed's devoted nature that won her heart. "They'll pretty much do anything for you," said Niles, with her hefty 4-year-old Rottweiler, Talos, sprawled out on the floor next to her.
"He never leaves my side," Niles said about her companion, adding that he enjoys swimming and "doesn't mind" being dressed up in costumes.
The American Kennel Club maintains the country's largest registry of purebred dogs. Once a breed is added to the list of some 200 breeds and varietals currently recognized by the club, it is eligible to compete in the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Perhaps ironically, Westminster has never selected a Labrador retriever as winner in the shows 141-year history.
"Hopefully someday they will be," DiNardo said.
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Marguerita Choy