Rottweiler sitting in three-quarter view.
Rottweiler

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 200 breeds.

Gordon Setter

Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter, the black avenger of the Highlands, is a substantial bird dog named for a…

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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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Hanoverian Scenthound

Hanoverian Scenthound

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

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Hovawart

Hovawart

The Hovawart is a medium-temperament working dog with versatile usage and has a very good nose. He…

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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 Red and White Setter

Irish Red and White Setter

The rollicking Irish Red and White Setter is an athletic medium-sized bird dog bred primarily fo…

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Irish Setter

Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is a high-spirited gundog known for grace, swiftness, and a flashy red coat. They…

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Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

The tallest of the AKC's spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is instantly recognizable by its crisply…

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Komondor

Komondor

A powerfully large Hungarian flock guardian covered in profuse white cords from head to tail, the…

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Kuvasz

Kuvasz

The snow-white Kuvasz is Hungary's majestic guardian of flocks and companion of kings. A working…

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Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, lovable Labrador Retriever is one of America's most popular dog breeds, year afte…

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Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog is the archetypical shaggy dog, famous for his profuse coat and peak-a-boo…

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