Bergamasco Sheepdog standing in a field in the mountains.
Bergamasco Sheepdog

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.

Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer

Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer

The Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer is a dog of moderate strength, working type, but with nobleness i…

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Slovensky Cuvac

Slovensky Cuvac

The Slovensky Cuvac is boundlessly faithful and courageous and always ready to fight off…

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Slovensky Kopov

Slovensky Kopov

This spirited, persistent hunter will follow a scent for hours. The Slovensky Kopov is a hardy…

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Small Munsterlander

Small Munsterlander

The Small Munsterlander is a versatile hunting dog and natural retriever with a medium range, solid…

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Smooth Fox Terrier

Smooth Fox Terrier

The Smooth Fox Terrier, called the “gentleman of the terrier world,” is a lively, gregariou…

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Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, an exuberant Irish farm dog, is happy, friendly, deeply devoted…

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Spanish Mastiff

Spanish Mastiff

The Spanish Mastiff is a very intelligent dog, not without beauty, whose expression manifests both…

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Spanish Water Dog

Spanish Water Dog

The inexhaustible Spanish Water Dog is a dual-purpose breed whose hallmark is a coat of wooly…

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Spinone Italiano

Spinone Italiano

The Spinone Italiano, a densely-coated hunting dog, is sociable, docile, and patient, sometime…

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Stabyhoun

Stabyhoun

Although occasionally somewhat willful by nature, Stabyhouns are obedient, gentle, and patie…

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

From his brawling past, the muscular but agile Staffordshire Bull Terrier retains the traits of…

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Standard Schnauzer

Standard Schnauzer

The bold, bewhiskered Standard Schnauzer is a high-spirited farm dog from Germany. They are the…

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