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.

Saluki

Saluki

Among the world’s oldest breeds, the slim but rugged Saluki was the hunting hound of kings fo…

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Samoyed

Samoyed

The Samoyed is a substantial but graceful dog standing anywhere from 19 to a bit over 23 inches a…

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Schapendoes

Schapendoes

This shaggy sheepdog of Holland is also known as the Dutch Sheep Dog. Schapendoes are cheerful…

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Schipperke

Schipperke

The Schipperke, Belgium's "little captain," is the traditional barge dog of the Low Countrie…

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Scottish Deerhound

Scottish Deerhound

The crisply coated Scottish Deerhound, “Royal Dog of Scotland,” is a majestically large…

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Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier

A solidly compact dog of vivid personality, the Scottish Terrier is an independent, confide…

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Sealyham Terrier

Sealyham Terrier

The Sealyham Terrier is brave and spirited, but not as spiky as smaller terriers. These sturdy…

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Segugio Italiano

Segugio Italiano

Calm, responsive, and intelligent, the Segugio Italiano is a tenacious hunter and an excelle…

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Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is an extremely intelligent, quick, and obedie…

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Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu

An ancient Japanese breed, the Shiba Inu is a little but well-muscled dog once employed as a…

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Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

That face! Those big dark eyes looking up at you with that sweet expression! It’s no surprise…

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Shikoku

Shikoku

The Shikoku is a dog of marked endurance, keen in sense with a naive feeling, energetic and…

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