Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen lying in three-quarter view facing forward
Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen

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 193 breeds.

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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Papillon

Papillon

The quick, curious Papillon is a toy dog of singular beauty and upbeat athleticism. Despite hi…

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Parson Russell Terrier

Parson Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell Terrier is a bold and clever terrier, swift enough to run with horses and…

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Pekingese

Pekingese

The Pekingese, a compact toy companion of regal bearing and a distinctive rolling gait, is one of…

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Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Among the most agreeable of all small housedogs, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a strong, athletic…

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Perro de Presa Canario

Perro de Presa Canario

The Perro de Presa Canario has a calm appearance and attentive expression. He is especially…

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Peruvian Inca Orchid

Peruvian Inca Orchid

Agile, smart and swift, the Peruvian Inca Orchid is an elegant sighthound that developed in Peru…

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Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen

Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen

The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is a vivacious small French hunting hound known for a happy…

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Pharaoh Hound

Pharaoh Hound

The Pharaoh Hound, ancient "Blushing Dog" of Malta, is an elegant but rugged sprinting hound bred…

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Plott Hound

Plott Hound

The Plott Hound, a hound with a curious name and a unique history, is a rugged, relentless hunting…

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Pointer

Pointer

The Pointer is the ultimate expression of canine power and grace. The breed’s name is its job…

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