There are over 175 dog breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, and while many of us know quite a few of them, there are many rare breeds that we almost never see in passing. Dogs' origins can be traced all over the world, and there are a few which can only be found in their native countries.
Like other dogs, these lesser-known breeds have been bred over the years for specific purposes, whether that be to herd or protect livestock, to retrieve game and to track down animals, to pull carts and people or to keep as companions. Many of these dogs are average looking, but some will make you stare in amazement.
Everyone has either heard of or owned a Labrador Retriever, a German Shepherd, a French Bulldog, or a Beagle, but would you be able to identify a Beauceron, a Dandie Dinmont Terrier, or a Lagotto Romagnolo if you saw one? If you would like to test your knowledge of some of the lesser-known dog breeds in the world, then you have come to the right place. Take it to see how well you do!
The Norwegian Lundehund is a small breed of Spitz dogs which originated in Norway to hunt puffins and their eggs which were extremely valuable during the 16th and 17th centuries. The breed faced near-extinction twice – during World War II and in the 1960s with distemper.
The Pyrenean Shepherd, also known as the Pastor de Los Pirineos in Spain, is native to the Pyrenees mountains that form the natural border between France and Spain. It was originally bred to flock and herd livestock.
The Komondor, also called the Hungarian sheepdog, is a large breed of dog which originated in Hungary where it has been called one of the country’s national treasures. The large livestock guardian dog is known for its long corded coat which gave it its nickname ‘mop dog’.
The New Guinea Singing dog is a rare breed of dog which is named both after the place it is found and for its unique vocalization. When multiple dogs howl together, which typically starts off as just one, is called a chorus.
The Otterhound is a scent hound which originated in the United Kingdom where it was used as a hunting dog since the medieval period. It is currently listed as a vulnerable native breed as there are approximately 600 worldwide.
The Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog which was named after the Catahoula Parish in Louisiana, USA. It later became the state dog, but it was traditionally bred to hunt wild boar. They come in a variety of colors including blue and red merle and brindle.
The Mudi is a breed of herding hunting dog which originated in Hungary. It is closely related to the Pumi and Puli, and today this breed is bred for companionship, sport, show, and as working dogs.
The Kooikerhondje, which means “small caging dog” in Old Dutch, is a breed of working dogs which originated in the Netherlands sometime during the 16th century. The breed almost went extinct during the Second World War but was rescued by a noble Dutch man.
The Lagotto Romagnolo is a breed of dog which originated in the Romagna region of Italy, where it was used to retrieve waterfowl as well as truffles. The dog is known for its curly coat, and all colors are accepted except if it has a black coat.
The Pumi dog is a breed of sheepdog which originated in Hungary where it was used to herd sheep. There are approximately 2,000 registered dogs in Hungary, but the population of these lively dogs has been said to be growing.
The Bedlington Terrier is a small dog which is named after the small mining town of Bedlington, North East England where it originated. They were originally bred to hunt different vermin, but were also used in numerous sports.
The Azawakh is a breed of hunting and guardian dog which originated in different regions in West Africa. These sighthounds are usually associated with different nomadic tribes including the Tuareg people.
The Swedish Vallhund, also called the Swedish cow dog, is native to Sweden, of course! They were originally bred as herders and drovers, and nearly went extinct in the 1940s.
The American Foxhound was originally bred for their superior sense of smell. It is the cousin of the English Foxhound and is both taller and rangier than it, and it is also known for its musical bark referred to as “bay.”
The Skye Terrier is a breed of dog which is native to the United Kingdom where it is “one of the most endangered dog breeds.” The hunting dog has a long double coat with short hair on its head which mimics a veil over its eyes.
The Finnish Spitz was developed to hunt different types of game from squirrels to bears. They are still primarily used for that purpose, but many people keep them as companion dogs as they are very friendly.
The Hovawart is a medium to large breed of dog which originated in Germany where it was bred as a watchdog but is also kept as a companion dog to families. Although this breed is fairly easy to train, it is not suitable as a first pet.
The Thai Ridgeback was long unknown to the Western world. It is one of three breeds of dogs which have a ridge of hair along its back in the opposite direction to its coat—giving it the name ridgeback.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier was named after a fictional character from the novel “Guy Mannering.” The dog has a very long body, short legs, and a characteristic topknot of hair on the top of its head.
The Cesky Terrier is a small breed of dog which was originally created for hunting in the forest. Today, it is one of the rarest dog breeds in the world.
The Afghan Hound, also known as the Kuchi Hound, is a type of hound which is known for its characteristic long, thick and silky coat and its ring curled tail. The dogs were specifically bred for their unique features and were given away as gifts by the Afghan Royal Family.
The Tibetan Mastiff is a breed of dog which originated in the place it was named after. There, it was used by local tribes to protect their sheep from predators like tigers, wolves, and leopards. There are two types which can both be produced in the same litter.
The Caucasian Shepherd is giant, but that doesn't fully describe HOW big they truly are. They can have long or short coats, and their ears are historically cropped, though that practice is falling out of fashion.
The Wirehead Vizsla is a rare breed of dog which originated in Hungary where they are known for their excellent hunting abilities but are also suitable kept as pets. The dog has a wiry coat which is usually golden to russet in color, and they all have a prominent beard giving them their characteristic expression.
The Bergamasco Shepherd is a rare breed of dog which originated in the alpine region of northern Italy. Originally used to herd dogs, the dog is known for its matted and lock-like fur made up of three different types of hair.
The Lancashire Heeler, also called the Ormskirk Terrier or Heeler, is a small breed of dog which was developed in England to herd and drive cattle. In recent years, it has been recognized as a vulnerable breed which means that 300 or fewer are registered each year.
The Carolina dog, also known as the American Dingo or yellow dog, lives along isolated stretches of longleaf pines in Southeastern states. Often mistaken for the Australian Dingo, these animals are typically found in the wild but can be domesticated.
The Stabyhoun, also known as Stabij, is a breed of hunting dogs which originated in Friesland, Netherlands. It is considered one of the country’s national treasures, and with only a couple thousand left, it is one of the five rarest dogs in the world.
The Puli is known for their tight long curls and their ability to herd and guard livestock. These solid-colored (usually black) dogs originated in Hungary are both very rare and very expensive.
The Chinook was originally bred to be a "mushing" or sled-dog, which seems weird for a dog originally bred in New Hampshire. But it all starts to make sense when you learn that the original breeder spent time in Alaska during the Gold Rush.
The Slovak Cuvac is a breed of mountain dogs used in sheep farming by people in the Slovak mountains. They are natural guard dogs and are also loyal, gentle giants, making them great for families.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid, also known as the Peruvian hairless dog, is one of many hairless dogs popular during the Incan Empire. During the Spanish conquest of Peru, the breed nearly went extinct, but survived in rural areas.
This rare breed of dog is known for having double dewclaws, and it was the breed which was used to create the Dobermann Pinscher. The Beauceron originated in Central France, where it was bred to herd animals.
The Mexican Hairless dog, also called the Xoloitzcuintli, is found in three different sizes: toy, miniature, and standard. These dogs were very important to the Mayans, and it was thought that the god Xolotl made them from the Bone of Life.
The Telomian, also called the Anjing Kampung, is native to Malaysia, where it was bred to control the vermin population. These rare dogs are known for their unusual ability to climb which has been attributed to the native people building their houses on stilts.
The Canaan Dog is a breed that originated in Israel, where it was used as a guard dog. Today there are approximately 3,000 of these dogs around the world, mostly in North America and Europe.
The Bracco Italiano, also called the Italian Pointer, is a breed of dog which originated in Italy supposedly as a cross between an Asiatic Mastiff and a Segugio Italiano. They were usually owned by aristocrats, but nearly went extinct twice.
The Kai Ken, also called the Tiger dog and the Tora Inu, is a rare breed of dog native to Japan, where it is a national monument. They are natural hunters, and they are kept both as watchdogs and companion dogs.
The English Foxhound is a scent hound which was bred to hunt foxes and other game in the late 16th century. They are pack hounds, and they get along well with other animals making them great for families.
The Russkiy Toy, also called the Russian Toy, is a very small breed of dog which was developed from the English Toy Terrier and comes in two coat types; smooth and long coat. There were two occasions where the breed was wiped out; in the 1920s due to communism and in the 1990s after the revolution of 1989.