Lhasa Apso standing in three-quarter view.
Lhasa Apso

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.

Puli

Puli

No other breed can be mistaken for the Puli, a compact but powerful herder covered from head to…

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Pyrenean Mastiff

Pyrenean Mastiff

A centuries-old, rare breed from the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, this livestock guardian protected…

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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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Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

The Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog origins come from near the Carpathian Mountains. The breed i…

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Russian Toy

Russian Toy

The Russian Toy is a small, elegant, lively dog with long legs, fine bones and lean muscles. They…

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Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard

The Saint Bernard does not rank very high in AKC registrations, but the genial giant of the Swi…

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Samoyed

Samoyed

The Samoyed is a substantial but graceful dog standing anywhere from 19 to a bit over 23 inches a…

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Schapendoes

Schapendoes

This shaggy sheepdog of Holland is also known as the Dutch Sheep Dog. Schapendoes are cheerful…

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Schipperke

Schipperke

The Schipperke, Belgium's "little captain," is the traditional barge dog of the Low Countrie…

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Scottish Deerhound

Scottish Deerhound

The crisply coated Scottish Deerhound, 'Royal Dog of Scotland,' is a majestically large coursing…

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Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier

A solidly compact dog of vivid personality, the Scottish Terrier is an independent, confide…

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Sealyham Terrier

Sealyham Terrier

The Sealyham Terrier is brave and spirited, but not as spiky as smaller terriers. These sturdy…

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