Beagle lying down facing forward in three-quarter view
Beagle

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 192 breeds.

Barbet

Barbet

An archetypic water dog of France, the Barbet is a rustic breed of medium size and balanced…

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Basenji

Basenji

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

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Basset Fauve de Bretagne

Basset Fauve de Bretagne

Smart, courageous and determined, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne is a serious hunter, easily…

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Basset Hound

Basset Hound

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

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Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound

Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound

The Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound is calm and balanced, devoted to its owner, and reserved with…

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Beagle

Beagle

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

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Bearded Collie

Bearded Collie

A boisterous and charismatic droving dog from Scotland, the shaggy-coated Bearded Collie…

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Beauceron

Beauceron

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

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Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington Terrier

Graceful terriers in sheep’s clothing, Bedlington Terriers, named for the English mining shire…

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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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Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois

The smart, confident, and versatile Belgian Malinois is a world-class worker who forges a…

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Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog

The Belgian Sheepdog is a highly trainable herder whose versatility and intelligence is the stuff…

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