Search Menu
Boston Terrier walking in the grass.
©cynoclub -

The Boston Terrier became the first breed to enjoy the number-one position for two decades, though the breed fell to the number-two position in the 1920s after its initial reign atop the list in the 1910s. The records of the Boston Terrier Club of America show that the breed was number-one or number-two for every year between 1905 and 1935.

A top-ten breed since the 1890s, Cocker Spaniels began their impressive climb in the 1930s, gaining the number-two position. It’s no surprise that in the decade of the Great Depression, all ten top breeds were small- or medium-sized companion dogs.

1. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier puppy standing up on a picnic table outdoors.

The Boston Terrier is a true American creation, bred as a cross between an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier. The new breed’s supporters established the Boston Terrier Club of America in 1891, changing the name of the breed to Boston Terriers, named after the city where the breed originated.

2. Cocker Spaniel (American and English, All Colors)

Cocker Spaniel (ASCOB) standing outdoors.
© Mary Bloom

Coming in at number two are Cocker Spaniels, both American and English. The spaniel family is a large one of considerable antiquity. As far back as the 14th century, we have mention of the Spanyell, which came to be divided into water and land spaniels. Further divisions in land spaniels were based on size. “Cockers” were the smaller of the two types of spaniels and are to this day the smallest in the Sporting Group.

3. Fox Terrier (Smooth)

BBE Terrier Group Fourth, Best of Breed, and Best Bred By in Breed/Variety: GCHG CH Absolutely Signature, Fox Terrier (Smooth); Terrier Group judging at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

One of the first records of the breed was made in 1790, when Colonel Thomas Thornton’s “Pitch,” a smooth-coated white Fox Terrier, was immortalized in print and paintings. Smooth Fox Terriers preceded the Wires in the show ring by 15 to 20 years. At first, they were classified as sporting dogs, a tribute to their keen nose, remarkable eyesight, and stamina in driving foxes from their holes.

4. Scottish Terrier

Best of Breed: GCHS CH Kelwyn's Warrior Princess CA, Scottish Terrier; Terrier Group judging at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

The Scottish Terrier, as we know them today, has been bred in purity for many years. The first show to have a class for the breed was in Birmingham, England in 1860. A number of later shows carried this classification, but the dogs shown in these classes were not Scottish Terriers, but Skye Terriers, Dandie Dinmont Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers.

5. Beagle

Beagle fetching a frisbee at the beach.
Peter Kirillov/Getty Images Plus

The actual origin of the Beagle seems to be obscure because of the absence of reliable documentation on the earliest days of development. The turning point for American Beagles came in the 1860s, when dogs from a well-bred strain in England were imported to inject a beautiful breed type.

6. Pekingese

Reserve Best in Show, Best Bred By Exhibitor in Show, Toy Group First, BBE Toy Group First, Best of Breed, and Best Bred By in Breed/Variety: GCHS CH Pequest Wasabi, Pekingese, handled by David Fitzpatrick; Best in Show lineup at the 2020 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.
David Woo/American Kennel Club

The earliest known record of the “Lion Dog” is traced to the Tang Dynasty in China in the 6th century. Breeding of these little dogs reached a zenith during the Tao Kuang period (1821-1851). The oldest strains of the Pekingese were kept amazingly pure. Imperial Dog Books, illustrated with pictures of the most admired dogs, were used as the standards.

7. Chow Chow

Best of Breed: GCHB CH Rebelrun Rebellion At Elite, Chow Chow; Non-Sporting Group judging at the 2018 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin.
©American Kennel Club

The Chow Chow probably originated more than 2,000 years ago as a result of crossing the Mastiff of Tibet with the Samoyed, a breed originating from the northern parts of Siberia. The importation of Chow Chows into England began in about 1880. They became increasingly popular after Queen Victoria took an interest in this “Wild Dog of China,” as it was dubbed while on display at the London Zoo.

8. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel in a scent work trial outdoors.
©Nathan Brower

The name “springing spaniel” included in one classification the ancestral stock from which many of the present-day land spaniels emanated. In the 1880s, English Springer Spaniels and Cockers were often born in the same litters, size alone being the distinguishing feature. In 1880, the American Spaniel Club was founded and it classified anything over 28 pounds as a Springer.

9. Pomeranian

© -

The Pomeranian descended from the Spitz family of dogs and the sled dogs of Iceland and Lapland. The breed takes its name from the historical region of Pomerania, which makes up the southern coast of the Baltic Sea (present-day Germany and Poland). However, the region isn’t where the breed originated, but where it was most likely bred down to size.

10. Bulldog

Bulldog puppy laying next to a pumpkin.
Lilun_Li via Getty Images

The Bulldog, to the best of our knowledge, had its origin in the British Isles. The “bull” in its name referred to the dog’s use in the sport of bull baiting. The Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 put an end to the sport, and subsequent generations of breeders have bred for the gentle temperament the Bulldog has today.

Related article: Why Are Some Dog Breeds Rare or Not as Popular?
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Selecting a Puppy

How do you know what breed is right for your family? How do you find a reputable breeder? What questions should you ask a breeder? Download this e-book for guidance on these questions and other important factors to consider when looking for a puppy.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download