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.

Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff

The Neapolitan Mastiff is a huge, powerful guarder whose astounding appearance has intimidated…

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Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje is lively, agile, self-confident, good-natured and alert. The breed…

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Newfoundland

Newfoundland

The massive Newfoundland is a strikingly large, powerful working dog of heavy bone and dignified…

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Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terriers are little, cute, and loyal, and they will gladly curl up in your lap, but don’…

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Norrbottenspets

Norrbottenspets

The Norrbottenspets is a small, slightly rectangular spitzdog, well poised, with sinewy and…

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Norwegian Buhund

Norwegian Buhund

The densely coated Nowegian Buhund, a Nordic spitz-type closely associated with the Vikings, is a…

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Norwegian Elkhound

Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound is a robust spitz type known for his lush silver-gray coat and dignified bu…

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Norwegian Lundehund

Norwegian Lundehund

From Norway’s rocky island of Vaeroy, the uniquely constructed Norwegian Lundehund is the only…

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Norwich Terrier

Norwich Terrier

Norwich Terriers are plucky little earthdogs named for their hometown in England. The old cliché…

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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The smallest of the AKC’s retrievers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is intellige…

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Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog is the archetypical shaggy dog, famous for his profuse coat and peak-a-boo…

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Otterhound

Otterhound

Big, boisterous, and affectionate, the Otterhound was bred in medieval England for the now-outlawed…

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