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With 199 recognized dog breeds, it can be difficult to learn about them all. While the United States is filled with Labrador Retrievers and French Bulldogs, two of the most popular dog breeds in the country, there are many other breeds that go relatively unnoticed. If it weren’t for their enthusiasts, we might not even see as many as we do. But just because they’re less popular, doesn’t mean these dogs have nothing to offer. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The rarest dog breeds in the United States are actually some of the most exciting!

Below are the 20 rarest dog breeds according to 2021 AKC registration data.

Otterhound

#20 rarest breed (178/197)

Amiable and boisterous, the Otterhound is a large hunting breed originating from England. As its name suggests, the breed was developed for otter hunting. Because its quarry was found on land and in water, it differs from other hounds with its rough, double coat and webbed feet. Strong in body and mind, the Otterhound is an inquisitive breed with an exceptionally powerful nose.

Otterhound laying outdoors.

Bergamasco Sheepdog

#19 rarest breed (179/197)

The Bergamasco is a unique breed easily recognized by its coat. With three types of hair, the coat forms flocks of hair weaved together, giving it a felted look. The Bergamasco is an ancient sheepdog breed, originating in Persia’s harsh mountain climates, where his coat protected him from the environment. Independent yet sociable, the Bergamasco is an intelligent dog that requires regular exercise if he is to be a family pet.

Bergamasco Sheepdog standing in a pasture.

Polish Lowland Sheepdog

#18 rarest breed (180/197)

Compact, alert, and adaptable, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog is a beloved watchdog from Poland. Their nickname, PON, is the acronym for the Polish breed name, Polski Owczarek Nizinny.

Polish Lowland Sheepdog standing outdoors in the fall.

Skye Terrier

#17 rarest breed (181/197)

The Skye Terrier is canny, courageous, and good-tempered. Agile and strong, this terrier is a breed with elegance and dignity. The breed is loyal and devoted to its family, although sometimes stubborn. Bred for hunting foxes along the Isle of Skye of Scotland, they are stronger than their size makes them appear.

Skye Terrier standing outdoors in profile.
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There are more Giant Pandas in the world than there are Skye Terriers.

Ibizan Hound

#16 rarest breed (182/197)

The Ibizan Hound is a tall sighthound from the dawn of civilization, bred as a rabbit courser on the rocky shores of Spain’s Balearic Islands. Art history students will recognize the elongated head, with its large erect ears, as a familiar motif of ancient Egypt.

Ibizan Hounds together on a trail in the forest.
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Cirneco dell’Etna

#15 rarest breed (183/197)

A sleek coursing hound of Sicily, the Cirneco dell’Etna is an ancient athletic hunter given to quick bursts of speed. Cirnechi are mild, low-maintenance companions and are cherished for their loyal and gentle nature. These antique dogs have sprinted into the 21st century relatively unchanged by passing fads and fancies.

Cirneco dell'Etna looking at the waves on the beach.

American English Coonhound

#14 rarest breed (184/197)

When not on duty, American English Coonhounds are laid-back, but they’re persistent and stubborn when pursuing their Racoon prey. The breed’s work ethic and energy, as well as the patience required to redirect their loud, ringing bark, can make them an unsuitable house companion for inexperienced owners.

American English Coonhound howling in a field.
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Azawakh

#13 rarest breed (185/197)

The Azawakh is a West African sighthound that originated in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. This slender hound has a refined appearance, but don’t be fooled: this is a hardy, long-lasting hunter who has been chasing gazelle over the blistering sands of the Sahara for over a thousand years.

Azawakh running in the grass.

Komondor

#12 rarest breed (186/197)

The Komondor is a massive Hungarian flock guardian draped with profuse white cords from head to tail, making it one of the most distinctive breeds in the world. Koms can’t be mistaken for anything else thanks to their distinct appearance.

Komondor

Canaan Dog

#11 rarest breed (187/197)

Israel’s national dog, the Canaan Dog is placid with family and distant with strangers. The dog is a noisy and persistent guardian of flock and home, always on the lookout. They’re tough, agile, and appear to be unstoppable, making them ideal for hikers and runners.

Canaan Dog outdoors in the desert with a goat.

Harrier

#10 rarest breed (188/197)

The Harrier, recognized back in 1885, is an old, reliable hunting breed from England. Bred to hunt in packs for rabbits and hare, they possess all of the required attributes of a scenting pack hound. Sturdily built with large bones, full of strength, and well balanced, Harriers can work tirelessly in all terrain. They are outgoing and friendly, fairly active, and easygoing companions.

Harriers together outdoors for a hunt.

Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen

#9 rarest breed (189/197)

A French scenthound, the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (GBGV) is a busy dog who doesn’t tire easily — despite being somewhat lively and never high-strung. The stamina and bravery of these short, long hunters are legendary in Gallic folklore.

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Cesky Terrier

#8 rarest breed (190/197)

The Cesky Terrier, true to its terrier heritage, is feisty and tenacious in its work. Bred to hunt in packs, they are slightly more sociable and trainable than your typical terrier. Adventurous and clever, they make great companions for those ready to provide them with adequate physical and mental exercise.

Cesky Terrier standing in a field.

Finnish Spitz

#7 rarest breed (191/197)

The Finnish Spitz was originally bred for hunting small game and birds in Finland. True to its Spitz heritage, the breed is lively, courageous, and friendly. The dogs carry themselves boldly, showing off their stunning red color and confident personality. Although small, they are very active and athletic dogs that need ample exercise.

Finnish Spitz standing on a log in the forest.
PavelRodimov/Getty Images Plus

Pyrenean Shepherd

#6 rarest breed (192/197)

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a vibrant athlete and vigilant herding dog of all kinds of livestock. They are enthusiastic and mischievous dogs, both in work and play. The coat varies from smooth to long, but the quality is more important than abundance. The Pyrenean Shepherd is playful with his family, though wary of strangers, and does best in a very active home.

Pyrenean Shepherd standing in profile in a field.
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Sloughi

#5 rarest breed (193/197)

The ancient Sloughi, sometimes known as the “Arabic Greyhound,” is a slender, fast coursing dog that hunted a variety of game in the North African deserts. The Sloughi is a traditional sighthound who is distant with strangers yet compassionate with family.

Sloughi in the desert.
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Belgian Laekenois

#4 rarest breed (194/197)

The Belgian Laekenois is the rarest of the four closely related Belgian herders: the Belgian Sheepdog, Malinois, Tervuren, and Laekenois. Although observant with strangers, the breed is friendly and loving with those they know well.

Belgian Laekenois head portrait outdoors.
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American Foxhound

#3 rarest breed (195/197)

The American Foxhound is leaner than its English cousin, and was bred in the United States to hunt foxes and other game. They are scenting pack hounds, bred to run effortlessly for many hours during their chase. Although easygoing, the breed is stubborn and independent and requires a significant amount of exercise in order to be kept happy and healthy.

American Foxhounds outdoors looking up at the viewer.
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English Foxhound

#2 rarest breed (196/197)

The English Foxhound is an old breed, recognized by the AKC in 1909, used most notably for hunting in large packs for fox. In appearance, the breed is much stouter than its American counterpart, but should not be heavy. English Foxhounds are active, loyal, and gentle companions.

English Foxhound standing in a field with a pack.
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Norwegian Lundehund

#1 rarest breed (197/197)

The Norwegian Lundehund is a small Spitz breed that originally comes from remote islands in Norway. Bred to hunt puffins on steep, vertical cliffs, the Lundehund is equipped with six toes on each foot and elongated rear foot pads. These dogs are alert and energetic, small and mighty, and make excellent hiking companions.

Norwegian Lundehund head portrait outdoors.
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Related article: Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2021
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