Collie standing in a field of wild grasses.
Collie

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 199 breeds.

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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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Perro de Presa Canario

Perro de Presa Canario

The Perro de Presa Canario has a calm appearance and attentive expression. He is especially suited…

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Pointer

Pointer

The Pointer is the ultimate expression of canine power and grace. The breed's name is its job…

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Rafeiro do Alentejo

Rafeiro do Alentejo

The Rafeiro do Alentejo is an excellent farm and estate watch dog. He is also a very useful…

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Redbone Coonhound

Redbone Coonhound

The streamlined Redbone Coonhound, an American original, is even-tempered, mellow, and kindly a…

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Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an all-purpose 'Renaissance hound' whose hallmark is the ridge, o…

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Rottweiler

Rottweiler

The Rottweiler is a robust working breed of great strength descended from the mastiffs of the Roma…

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Saluki

Saluki

Among the world's oldest breeds, the slim but rugged Saluki was the hunting hound of kings fo…

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Sloughi

Sloughi

The ancient Sloughi, nicknamed the 'Arabian Greyhound,' is a lean, swift coursing hound who hunted…

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Slovensky Cuvac

Slovensky Cuvac

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

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Tornjak

Tornjak

The Tornjak is of steady disposition, friendly, courageous, obedient, intelligent, and full of…

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Tosa

Tosa

The Tosa's temperament is marked by patience, composure, boldness and courage. He is normally a…

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