How Queen Elizabeth Was Fooled by a Fake Purebreed Dog

It's surprisingly difficult to verify whether your pet is a purebreed.

In January 2017 a group of judges at an English dog competition made a shocking allegation. Mallowdale Diamond, Queen Elizabeth’s black, curly-haired cocker spaniel, which had won the Yorkshire Gun Dog Open Qualifiers in 2015 and the Kennel Club Open Qualifiers in 2016, might not, they claimed, be a cocker spaniel but rather a “sprocker,” a cross between a cocker and a springer spaniel.

Sprockers (or any other mixed breed dogs, for that matter) are not allowed in pedigree competitions. The accusation, which appeared in the Sun tabloid, was quickly and loudly refuted. But a question lingered: If the queen of England might have been fooled about the heritage of her dog, what about the rest of us?

Pembroke Welsh corgis are not of the highest quality. But they’re hers, and she loves them.

“For a novice, buying a purebred dog is not easy,” says Betty-Anne Stenmark, a breeder and show judge who has worked in the industry for more than four decades. (She most recently served as Best in Show judge at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.) “There are a lot of people selling in-demand breeds, and the internet makes everyone look reputable.”

Queen Elizabeth in Scotland in 1974.

The first thing buyers should understand, Stenmark says, is that in the eyes of breeders what makes a dog a purebred “is the integrity of its registration papers.” For example, the American Kennel Club, the governing body of dog shows including the Westminster, recognizes 192 breeds and verifies a dog’s purebred status through its lineage. For a dog to be registered with the AKC, documentation must be shown going back three generations on both the sire’s and the dam’s sides of the family.

Do you know anyone that has fallen victim to buying a fake purebred?

Yes, it's so common.

No, or maybe I'm just not aware.


The most common scams involve breeders claiming that their dogs are purebreds without offering paperwork showing that the dogs have been registered with the AKC. Sometimes breeders promise to send paperwork later and never follow through, or charge extra for the documentation. Some breeders offer DNA test results, and while these can confirm a dog’s direct parentage, the AKC does not require them. “Many companies claim to have created tests that can identify a breed, but the data is simply not there.” says Brandi Hunter, a spokeswoman for the AKC.

Are there purebred Labradors and poodles out there that were simply never registered? Of course. But breeders charge a premium for dogs they claim are purebred, Stenmark says. “Buyers should be able to assume they’re getting a dog that has been carefully bred and that has been selected first and foremost for good and typical temperament, and for good health.”

What if Mallowdale Diamond had turned out to be a sprocker?

“Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t much care,” Stenmark says. “She’s a dog lover. For instance, her Pembroke Welsh corgis are not of the highest quality. But they’re hers, and she loves them.”


This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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