English Toy Spaniel standing in three-quarter view facing forward
English Toy Spaniel

What's a dog breed?

People have been breeding dogs since prehistoric times. The earliest dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs. From the beginning, humans purposefully bred dogs to perform various tasks. Hunting, guarding, and herding are thought to be among the earliest job…

What's a dog breed?

People have been breeding dogs since prehistoric times. The earliest dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs. From the beginning, humans purposefully bred dogs to perform various tasks. Hunting, guarding, and herding are thought to be among the earliest jobs eagerly performed by the animal destined to be called “man’s best friend.”

For thousands of years, humans bred dogs toward the physical and mental traits best suited for the work expected of them. The sleek Greyhound types bred to chase fleet-footed prey, and the huge mastiff types used as guard dogs and warriors, are two ancient examples of dogs bred for specific jobs.

As humans became more sophisticated, so did their dogs. Eventually, there emerged specific breeds of dogs, custom-bred to suit the breeders’ local needs and circumstances. The Greyhound, for instance, was the foundation type for the immense Irish Wolfhound and the dainty Italian Greyhound. All three have a distinct family resemblance, but you’d never mistake one for another.

So, then, when is a breed a breed and not just a kind or type of dog? The simplest way to define a breed is to say it always “breeds true.” That is, breeding a purebred Irish Setter to another purebred Irish Setter will always produce dogs instantly recognizable as Irish Setters.

Each breed’s ideal physical traits, movement, and temperament are set down in a written document called a “breed standard.” For example, the breed standard sets forth the traits that make a Cocker Spaniel a Cocker Spaniel and not a Springer Spaniel.

The AKC standard for each breed originates with a “parent club,” the AKC-recognized national club devoted to a particular breed. Once approved by the AKC, a standard becomes both the breeder’s “blueprint” and the instrument used by dog show judges to evaluate a breeder’s work.

There are over 340 dog breeds known throughout the world. The American Kennel Club recognizes 197 breeds.

Appenzeller Sennenhund

Appenzeller Sennenhund

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Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog

The compact but muscular Australian Cattle Dog, also called Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler, i…

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Barbado da Terceira

Barbado da Terceira

The Barbado da Terceira is medium-sized herder that is a great companion and family dog. The breed…

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Beauceron

Beauceron

The Beauceron is imposing and powerful, but also remarkably smart, spirited, and a versatile…

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Berger Picard

Berger Picard

The Berger Picard is a lanky herding dog of strong bone and sturdy build. Picards spent centurie…

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Border Collie

Border Collie

A remarkably bright workaholic, the Border Collie is an amazing dog—maybe a bit too amazing fo…

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Brittany

Brittany

Sportsmen on both sides of the Atlantic cherish the agile, energetic Brittany as a stylish and…

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Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dog

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a multi-purpose working dog that is well-muscled and powerful, bu…

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Czechoslovakian Vlcak

Czechoslovakian Vlcak

An alert, primitive canine that resembles a wolf in appearance. They are highly intellige…

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Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher

Sleek and powerful, possessing both a magnificent physique and keen intelligence, the Doberma…

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Dogo Argentino

Dogo Argentino

The Dogo Argentino is a pack-hunting dog, bred for the pursuit of big-game such as wild boar and…

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Dutch Shepherd

Dutch Shepherd

The Dutch Shepherd is a lively, athletic, alert and intelligent breed, and has retained its herding…

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