Afghan Hound standing in profile in the garden.
Afghan Hound

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.

Akita

Akita

Akitas are muscular, double-coated dogs of ancient Japanese lineage famous for their dignity…

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Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Anatolian Shepherd Dog

An Anatolian Shepherd Dog is a rugged, imposing flock guardian of ancient lineage. Protective and…

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Appenzeller Sennenhund

Appenzeller Sennenhund

The Appenzeller Sennenhund is tri-color, medium-sized, and almost squarely built and balanced. He…

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Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd, a lean, tough ranch dog, is one of those “only in America” stories: a…

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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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Belgian Laekenois

Belgian Laekenois

Strong, agile and full of life, the Belgian Laekenois (pronounced "Lak-in-wah") is one of fou…

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Bergamasco Sheepdog

Bergamasco Sheepdog

Generally happy with kids and other animals, the low-maintenance and robustly healthy Bergamasco i…

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Black Russian Terrier

Black Russian Terrier

The Black Russian Terrier is a large, immensely powerful worker of heavy bone and coarse all-black…

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Boerboel

Boerboel

Boerboels are intimidating but discerning guardians of home and family who learned their trade…

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Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres

They don’t build ’em like this anymore. Burly and barrel-chested, the tousle-coated dog of…

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Boxer

Boxer

Loyalty, affection, intelligence, work ethic, and good looks: Boxers are the whole doggy package…

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