Azawakh jogging in a green grassy field.
Azawakh

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 197 breeds.

Dachshund

Dachshund

The famously long, low silhouette, ever-alert expression, and bold, vivacious personality of the…

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English Foxhound

English Foxhound

The English Foxhound is a substantial galloping hound of great stamina. His long legs are straigh…

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Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen

Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen

The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen is a French scenthound. Somewhat active and never high-strung…

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Greyhound

Greyhound

The champion sprinter of dogdom, the Greyhound is a gentle, noble, and sweet-tempered companio…

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Harrier

Harrier

The Harrier is a swift, prey-driven pack hound of medium size first bred in medieval England to…

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Ibizan Hound

Ibizan Hound

The Ibizan Hound is a lithe and leggy visitor from the dawn of civilization, bred as a rabbi…

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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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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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Otterhound

Otterhound

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

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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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