Basset Hound laying down in three-quarter view.
Basset 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 193 breeds.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, immensely strong worker famous for a dense coat of…

See More
Hamiltonstovare

Hamiltonstovare

The Hamiltonstovare is a versatile scent hound, bred to hunt hare and fox in Sweden. When no…

See More
Hanoverian Scenthound

Hanoverian Scenthound

The Hanoverian Scenthound has a calm and assured temperament, at the same time sensitive…

See More
Harrier

Harrier

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

See More
Jindo

Jindo

Loyal, watchful, and intelligent, the Jindo developed as a breed on an island off the coast of…

See More
Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dog

The Karelian Bear Dog is an eager hunter and very independent, yet works cooperatively to…

See More
Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, lovable Labrador Retriever is America’s most popular dog breed. Labs are…

See More
Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo

The Lagotto Romagnolo, Italy’s adorable “truffle dog,” sports a curly coat and lavish facial…

See More
Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler

The Lancashire Heeler is a medium to high energy dog. Intelligent, alert and friendly, they are…

See More
Mastiff

Mastiff

The colossal Mastiff belongs to a canine clan as ancient as civilization itself. A massive…

See More
Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff

The Neapolitan Mastiff is a huge, powerful guarder whose astounding appearance has intimidated…

See More
Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje is lively, agile, self-confident, good-natured and alert. The breed…

See More