Curly Coated Retriever standing stacked in a field at sunset.
Curly-Coated Retriever

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 193 breeds.

Afghan Hound

Afghan Hound

The Afghan Hound is an aloof and dignified aristocrat of sublime beauty. Despite his regal…

See More
American English Coonhound

American English Coonhound

These sleek and racy, lean but muscular hounds work dusk to dawn in pursuit of the wily raccoo…

See More
American Foxhound

American Foxhound

American Foxhounds are good-natured, low-maintenance hounds who get on well with kids, dogs, eve…

See More
Azawakh

Azawakh

Tall and elegant, the Azawakh is a West African sighthound who originates from the countries of…

See More
Basenji

Basenji

The Basenji, Africa’s “Barkless Dog,” is a compact, sweet-faced hunter of intelligence and…

See More
Basset Hound

Basset Hound

Among the most appealing of the AKC breeds, the endearing and instantly recognizable Basset Hound…

See More
Beagle

Beagle

Not only is the Beagle an excellent hunting dog and loyal companion, it is also happy-go-lucky…

See More
Black and Tan Coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound

Large, athletic hunters who work nights, Black and Tan Coonhounds are friendly, easygoing hound…

See More
Bloodhound

Bloodhound

The world famous “Sleuth Hound” does one thing better than any creature on earth: find people…

See More
Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhound

The sleekly beautiful Bluetick Coonhound is a sweet and affectionate charmer who might enjoy…

See More
Borzoi

Borzoi

Among the most impressively beautiful of all dogs, the aristocratic Borzoi is cherished for hi…

See More
Cirneco dell’Etna

Cirneco dell’Etna

The sleek and sinewy Cirneco dell’Etna, the ancient coursing hound of Sicily, is an athletic…

See More