Pharaoh Hound sitting in three-quarter view facing forward
Pharaoh 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 192 breeds.

English Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniel lovers often use the word “merry” to describe their breed. Upbeat in the…

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English Foxhound

English Foxhound

The English Foxhound is a substantial galloping hound of great stamina. His long legs are straigh…

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English Setter

English Setter

The English Setter is a medium-sized sporting dog of sweet temper and show-stopping good looks. I…

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English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a sweet-faced, lovable bird dog of great energy, stamina, and…

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English Toy Spaniel

English Toy Spaniel

The merry English Toy Spaniel was bred to be the companion of kings. But ETS are spaniels first and…

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Entlebucher Mountain Dog

Entlebucher Mountain Dog

The Entlebucher Mountain Dog, tricolor “Laughing Dog” of the Swiss Alps, is a rugged and…

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Estrela Mountain Dog

Estrela Mountain Dog

The Estrela Mountain Dog is not only an excellent livestock guardian, but is also known for hi…

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Eurasier

Eurasier

The Eurasier is a medium-sized dog with a thick, medium-long coat that can come in a variety of…

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Field Spaniel

Field Spaniel

The sweet and sensitive Field Spaniel is famously docile, but vigorous and game for anything whe…

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Finnish Lapphund

Finnish Lapphund

The weatherproof Finnish Lapphund is a tough and substantial reindeer herder from north of the…

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Finnish Spitz

Finnish Spitz

The lively Finnish Spitz, the flame-colored, foxy-faced breed from the “Land of 60,000 Lakes,”…

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Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat-Coated Retriever

The Peter Pan of the Sporting Group, the forever-young Flat-Coated Retriever is a gundog of…

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