Shetland Sheepdog standing in three-quarter view facing forward
Shetland Sheepdog

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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Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

Big, powerful, and built for hard work, the Bernese Mountain Dog is also strikingly beautiful and…

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Boerboel

Boerboel

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

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Broholmer

Broholmer

Calm, good-natured, yet watchful and confident, the Broholmer hails from Denmark and makes a grea…

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Bullmastiff

Bullmastiff

Fearless at work, docile at home, the Bullmastiff is a large, muscular guarder who pursued and held…

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Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Shepherd Dog

The Caucasian Shepherd dog is a serious guardian breed and should never be taken lightly. The…

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Dogue de Bordeaux

Dogue de Bordeaux

The most ancient of French dog breeds, the Dogue de Bordeaux (“Mastiff of Bordeaux”) was around…

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Great Dane

Great Dane

The easygoing Great Dane, the mighty “Apollo of Dogs,” is a total joy to live with—but owning…

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Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is a large, thickly coated, and immensely powerful working dog bred to dete…

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Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, immensely strong worker famous for a dense coat of…

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Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound

The calm, dignified, and kindly Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all AKC breeds. Once fearle…

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