Boykin Spaniel holding a dummy toy in a field.
Boykin Spaniel

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.

Transylvanian Hound

Transylvanian Hound

The Transylvanian Hound is good-natured, courageous, and enduring. At his foundation, he is quie…

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Treeing Tennessee Brindle

Treeing Tennessee Brindle

The Treeing Tennessee Brindle is an exceptionally sturdy and healthy breed. They are intellige…

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Treeing Walker Coonhound

Treeing Walker Coonhound

A smart, brave, and sensible hunter, the Treeing Walker Coonhound is a genuine American favorite…

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Vizsla

Vizsla

The Vizsla is a versatile, red-coated gundog built for long days in the field. For centuries, these…

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Volpino Italiano

Volpino Italiano

The Volpino Italiano is a diverse breed. They love to run and do agility, but when done…

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Weimaraner

Weimaraner

The Weimaraner, Germany’s sleek and swift “Gray Ghost,” is beloved by hunters and pet owne…

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Welsh Springer Spaniel

Welsh Springer Spaniel

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is a vigorous, medium-sized bird dog of happy disposition, known fo…

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Welsh Terrier

Welsh Terrier

The Welsh Terrier is as alert and spirited as any self-respecting terrier, but a bit calmer tha…

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West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terrier

Smart, confident, and always entertaining at play, the adorable West Highland White Terrie…

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Wetterhoun

Wetterhoun

The Wetterhoun, although originally bred for hunting otters, now make excellent companio…

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Whippet

Whippet

The sleek, sweet-faced Whippet, the “Poor Man’s Racehorse,” is lightning quick. He is a…

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Wire Fox Terrier

Wire Fox Terrier

The Wire Fox Terrier breed standard says they should be “on the tip-toe of expectation at the…

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