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 200 breeds.

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 Terrier

Irish Terrier

The Irish Terrier, 'Daredevil' of the Emerald Isle, is a bold, dashing, and courageous terrier of…

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Japanese Akitainu

Japanese Akitainu

Descending from regional hunting dogs, the Japanese Akitainu was initially restored and preserved…

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Japanese Spitz

Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz are little comedians who want to make you happy and laugh. They are very loyal…

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Kai Ken

Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is a medium-sized dog and is one of the six native Japanese breeds. Traditionally used…

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Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dog

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

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Keeshond

Keeshond

The amiable Keeshond is a medium-sized spitz dog of ample coat, famous for the distinctive…

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Kishu Ken

Kishu Ken

The Kishu Ken is a dog of noteworthy endurance, showing nobility, dignity and naive feeling. Hi…

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Korean Jindo Dog

Korean Jindo Dog

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

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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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Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo

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

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