Greyhound running in a field.
Greyhound

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 200 breeds.

Afghan Hound

Afghan Hound

Among the most eye-catching of all dog breeds, the Afghan Hound is an aloof and dignified…

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Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute

An immensely strong, heavy-duty worker of spitz type, the Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate…

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American Foxhound

American Foxhound

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

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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 a medium-sized herding breed that is tri-color and almost squarely…

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Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog

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

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Basenji

Basenji

The Basenji, Africa's 'Barkless Dog,' is a compact, sweet-faced hunter of intelligence and poise…

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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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Bearded Collie

Bearded Collie

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

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Black and Tan Coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound

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

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Bloodhound

Bloodhound

The world-famous 'Sleuth Hound' does one thing better than any creature on earth: find people who…

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