Pharaoh Hound sitting in three-quarter view facing forward
Pharaoh 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 192 breeds.

Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog, Iceland’s only native dog breed, is a charmingly friendly and faithful…

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Irish Red and White Setter

Irish Red and White Setter

The rollicking Irish Red and White Setter is an athletic medium-sized bird dog bred primarily fo…

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Irish Setter

Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is a high-spirited gundog known for grace, swiftness, and a flashy red coat. They…

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Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier, “Daredevil” of the Emerald Isle, is a bold, dashing, and courageous terrie…

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Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

The tallest of the AKC’s spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is instantly recognizable by i…

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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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Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound

A true Greyhound in miniature, the elegant Italian Greyhound is an alert, playful, and highly…

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Jagdterrier

Jagdterrier

Also known as the Deutscher Jagdterrier, the Jagdterrier is courageous, enduring, vital, full of…

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Japanese Chin

Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is a charming toy companion of silky, profuse coat and an unmistakably…

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Jindo

Jindo

Loyal, watchful, and intelligent, the Jindo developed as a breed on an island off the coast of…

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Kai Ken

Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is a medium-sized dog and is one of the six native Japanese breeds or Nihon Ke…

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Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dog

The Karelian Bear Dog is an eager hunter and very independent, yet works cooperatively to…

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