Vintage photo of a boy sitting in the grass with a dog licking his face.

Vintage photos of America's most popular dog breeds

Written by:
December 5, 2020
Harold M. Lambert // Getty Images

Vintage photos of America's most popular dog breeds

Leafing through the pages of history, you'll find words and photos that help paint pictures of how humans have evolved over time. Take an extra moment to inspect the photos closely and you will most likely discover a dog at his master's heels, on a queen's lap, pulling a sled, chasing a bird, trotting through the White House, or tucked inside the pocketbook of a luminary. Just saying the word "dog" makes us smile.

It won't take you long to think of a dozen iconic dogs. Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Toto, Balto, Buddy, and Clifford come to mind. Stacker curated vintage photos of dogs to illuminate their important role in history and our hearts. Author Edith Wharton noted, "My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet."

This collection of 50 incredible vintage images showcases a cadre of canines you will adore. We turned to our friends at the American Kennel Club to learn about the most popular dogs of 2019, using data released March 17 of that year. Photos were selected from a variety of trusted sources that show these breeds in vintage photos. The photos that were discovered are simply enchanting. We then learned about the photo and researched a few tidbits about the breed's history.

We hope you enjoy the vintage photos of famous dogs and dogs of celebrated people like Norman Rockwell, Helen Keller, and Shirley Temple. Some of our favorites include black-and-white photos of dogs in office trays, in nature, and in their element.

Grab a cup of coffee and fetch your favorite canine to enjoy this special slideshow together. Sit, stay, and take a few minutes to travel back in time to enjoy these great photos that remind us why dogs truly are our best friends.

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PA Images // Getty Images

#50. English cocker spaniel

Trixie, the mother of eight adorable English cocker spaniel pups, keeps an eye on her offspring who snuggled in office trays in this black-and-white photo from 1960. Trixie was owned by a couple from St. Anne's on the Sea in Lancashire, England. English cocker spaniels were originally bred as hunting dogs, but gained popularity as companion dogs thanks to their jolly and fun personalities.

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#49. Portuguese water dog

This young Portuguese water dog is looking for adventure. This breed's love of water originates from its roots as a crew member aboard fishing boats off the coast of Portugal. Members of the breed—Bo, who arrived in 2009, and Sunny, in 2013—resided in the White House with the Obama family.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#48. Saint Bernard

Actress Shirley Temple is pictured with her favorite canine pal Buck, a 160-pound Saint Bernard that had just been signed for a five-year contract after having appeared in the 1935 version of "Call of the Wild." He was the first dog to be given a long-term contract in a movie.

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Toronto Star Archives // Getty Images

#47. Akita

Helen Keller is shown in San Francisco in 1939 with an Akita dog named Kenzan-Go who was the second one presented to her by the Japanese state department. She had been given a brother of Go-Go's two years earlier, but that pup, who was the first Akita to live in the United States, died at only 7 months of distemper. Her love of the breed and the companionship Go-Go provided her helped spread the breed's popularity in this country.

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Denver Post // Getty Images

#46. Chesapeake Bay retriever

Mrs. Donald E. Chambers, who disagreed with a This Week magazine article on homes of the future, caught up on reading under the watchful eye of Rufous, her large Chesapeake Bay retriever in this 1959 photo. The American breed's roots are in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay area where these water-loving dogs would hunt waterfowl in adverse weather conditions.

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#45. Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is an ancient Japanese breed that has evolved into the most beloved dog in Japan. It arrived in America about 60 years ago. This accommodative pup can be found in the county or city.

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Roger Jackson // Getty Images

#44. West Highland white terrier

A judge inspects the entrants in the West Highland white terrier class during the Crufts Dog Show held in the United Kingdom in 1965. Ch. Elfinbrook Simon took home the best in show title at New York City's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show three years earlier in 1962.

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Fairfax Media Archives // Getty Images

#43. Bichon frisé

The bichon frisé pictured in this 1978 photo was noted as a rare breed. Today the powder puff is a popular companion due to its merry disposition and playful nature. A bichon named Flynn captured the hearts of Americans in 2018 when he was named best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club's Dog Show held in New York City.

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Denver Post // Getty Images

#42. Rhodesian Ridgeback

A woman named Helen Phillips has a firm grip on her Rhodesian Ridgeback in this 1970 photo from the Denver Post. The athletic dog from South Africa was bred to hunt lions, and today still loves to hunt and is a devoted companion.

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#41. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois first appeared in America in 1911. These intelligent and hardworking dogs disappeared from the American landscape during World War II because European dogs were not being imported. In the 1960s, fans of the Belgian Malinois started to import the confident canines back to America.

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Rae Russel // Getty Images

#40. Newfoundland

A family sits outdoors in a New York park and plays with their Newfoundland in 1948. The Newfoundland breed is cherished by its owners, which have included former U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Lyndon B. Johnson, author Emily Dickinson, and explorers Lewis and Clark.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#39. Weimaraner

Two Weimaraners sit on a low brick wall beneath a street sign on Jackie Gleason Avenue in 1959. The breed's history dates back to the 1800s when they were used as hunting dogs, but quickly became cherished companions. Grace Kelly was given a Weimaraner as a wedding gift, and the Eisenhowers let their Weimaraner Heidi ramble through the White House.

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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#38. Collie

Siblings pat a collie as the little girl holds a large bouquet of hydrangea in this1933 photo. A standard collie is available in four different coat colors—pure white; white with brown; tri-color with white, brown, and black; and sable.

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Harold M. Lambert // Getty Images

#37. Basset hound

This young boy sits in a toy metal military vehicle on top of a wooden table outdoors with his pet basset hound puppy perched on the hood in 1955. The long-eared breed inspired a shoe named Hush Puppies and was a favorite of Marilyn Monroe.

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ullstein bild Dtl. // Getty Images

#36. Maltese

This diminutive dog atop a camera in Germany in 1910 showcases the charm of the Maltese breed. It provides joy and comfort for its owner, making it a great therapy dog. Leona Helmesy left $12 million to her Maltese named Take Trouble.

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Kirn Vintage Stock // Getty Images

#35. Chihuahua

This elegant couple holds their Chihuahuas in their laps in 1928. The tiny dogs are the smallest breed on the planet and come in nine different colors.

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Doug Griffin // Getty Images

#34. Vizsla

Hugarian artist Endre Szász's wife plays with their Hungarian vizsla Maxie after their pet ocelot Sisa was kidnapped in 1972. Sisa was taken from his fur-lined sleeping box along with thousands of dollars worth of Hungarian jewelry.

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Hulton Deutsch // Getty Images

#33. Border collie

John Gilchrist crouches beside his two Border collies Ben and Spot at international sheepdog trials being held at Perdiswell Park in Worcester, England, in 1948. The breed hails from Scotland and flourished on the border of England and Scotland. The term "collie" is used to describe sheepdogs in Scotland, thus the name border collie.

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Maeers // Getty Images

#32. Mastiff

Three large mastiffs peered out of a car window at the Tiddicar Kennel in 1934. These jumbo dogs can grow up to three feet tall at the shoulders. Male mastiffs can weigh between 160-230 pounds.

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The Montifraulo Collection // Getty Images

#31. Pug

Little Hilda Horton stands outside the Holy Trinity Hall in 1931 with Ch. Dancing Dickeren. The pug was entered in the Pug Dog Club's Championship Show in London. The ancient lap dogs enjoyed royal treatment by Chinese emperors and were kept as pets by Buddhist monks.

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#30. Cane corso

Also known as the king corso or the Italian mastiff, this working breed is extroverted and is said to have origins in the Tibetan highlands. The guard dog is known for its very high intelligence. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010.

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Historical // Getty Images

#29. Miniature American shepherd

Shepherd Felix Madrieta watches over a herd of sheep in Idaho with the help of two herding dogs in 1940. The popular miniature American shepherd is an intelligent and energetic dog that evolved in America in the 1960s from smaller Australian shepherds.

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George Rinhart // Getty Images

#28. Cocker spaniel

Herman Mellenthin squats next to his prize-winning black cocker spaniel. The dog won best in show at Somerset, New Jersey's Morris and Essex Kennel Club Show in 1939.

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PA Images // Getty Images

#27. English springer spaniel

English springer spaniel Flick of Glauen retreives a rabbit in the open stakes at the Eastern Counties Spaniel Society 25th Trials in Suffolk, England, in 1947. These hunting dogs were originally bred to chase, or flush, birds into the air so that hunters could shoot them.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#26. Brittany

Winners of the first four places in the all-age stake of the East Coast's Old Dominion Brittany Club Annual Field Trials are shown here with handlers or owners in 1955. This active breed is named for the French province where it was developed.

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Fox Photos // Getty Images

#25. Shetland sheepdog

Farmers attend sheepdog trials at Blackpool in Lancashire, England, in 1936. Shelties are an intelligent breed that were bred for herding and demand ongoing stimulation.

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Topical Press Agency // Getty Images

#24. Pomeranian

Mrs. Langton Dennis with her prize dog at the Pomeranian Dog Show at the Botanical Gardens in 1913. The Pomeranian is the tiniest member of the spitz family whose originais circle back to a cadre of sledding dogs.

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#23. Bernese mountain dog

Fables tell stories that the ancestors of the Bernese mountain dog were brought to the mountains in Switzerland more than 2,000 years ago by the Romans. In the mid-1920s, a Kansas farmer imported a pair of Bernese mountain dogs to America to work on his farm.

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#22. Havanese

Cuba's national dog, the Havanese, arrived in America in the 1950s. Famous people who have owned a Havanese include Ernest Hemingway, Queen Ann, Charles Dickens, and Barbara Walters.

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Harold M. Lambert // Getty Images

#21. Boston terrier

A boy sits on a sofa reading a book next to a Boston terrier in 1945. The state dog of Massachusetts, the Boston terrier was America's first breed developed in the country.

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Mondadori Portfolio // Getty Images

#20. Shih Tzu

Spectators watch a Shih-Tzu dog show at the Tenth Milan International Trade Fair in Milan, in 1929. Shih Tzu is one of the most ancient dog breeds with its history dating back to the time of the Byzantine Empire.

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Phil Burchman // Getty Images

#19. Doberman pinscher

American actress Jane Russell with her two Doberman pinschers, Blitz and Katherine, by her side in 1949. The breed was developed in Germany around 1890 by a night watchman and tax collector Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, who was also a dogcatcher and oversaw a dog pound.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

#18. Miniature schnauzer

Charles Ruggles, left, star of the Paramount film "Early To Bed," sits with his champion miniature schnauzer and director Norman Z. McLeod during location shooting in Europe's San Marino in 1936. Descendants of affenpinschers and standard schnauzers, the breed came from Germany in the late 19th century.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#17. Great Dane

Gloria Lloyd, daughter of comedy legend of the silent screen Harold Lloyd, poses on a swing bench outside and under the protection of two Great Danes in 1900. These gentle giants and descendents of mastiffs evolved 400 years ago in Germany, but may have been on the scene as early as 3000 B.C.

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Susan Schiff Faludi // Getty Images

#16. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Two rare Cavalier King Charles spaniels in the back of a limousine in New York City on their way to the Metropolitan Opera House where they played their parts in "Der Rosenkavalier" in 1968. These toy spaniels never reach more than 13-inches high at the shoulders and were a part of European nobility.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#15. Siberian husky

President Franklin D. Roosevelt pets a Siberian husky while reading beside the fireplace in circa 1940. The blue-eyed beauties hail from Siberia and came to America in 1909 by way of Alaska.

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PA Images // Getty Images

#14. Boxer

The intimate glance being exchanged by film stars Richard Basehart and Joan Collins brought a green-eyed look to Droll von Stralsund, a very possessive boxer, in 1953. Droll seemed very jealous of the companionship between Collins and her co-star Basehart, who were filming "The Good Die Young" in London. Boxers have an interesting history that dates back to 2000 B.C. The breed was named for an ancient city called Molossis, in what is currently Albania.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#13. Australian shepherd

Norman Rockwell finds respite in Vermont in 1950. He bred fine Labrador retrievers and spent hours away from his Vermont studio, working and playing with his animals around the countryside. On this day, an Australian shepherd, front left, accompanied him on his ramble.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

#12. Yorkshire Terrier

Singer Eddie Fisher and actress Elizabeth Taylor return to California in 1960 for the Academy Awards with friend of the family, a Yorkshire terrier, who insisted on sharing the limelight with the couple. Did you know that weavers from England brought the tiny terriers to America in the mid-1800s?

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Heritage Images // Getty Images

#11. Dachshund

A dachshund sits on the bonnet of Charles Mortimer's Bentley in the 1930s. The diminutive dog originated in Germany hundreds of years ago to hunt badgers. Its name translates to "dach," meaning badger, and "hund," meaning dog.

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Lisa Sheridan // Getty Images

#10. Pembroke Welsh corgi

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother, sits on a deck chair with a Pembroke Welsh corgi, possibly Carol or Crackers, on the grounds of the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, England, in 1940. A beloved breed of the royals, Queen Elizabeth II has owned more than 30 Pembroke Welsh corgis throughout her life.

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Denver Post // Getty Images

#9. German shorthaired pointer

This 1940 photo from the Denver Post features Chief, a German shorthaired pointer, holding point while a couple prods up a bird. The breed was developed in Germany in the late 1800s by hunters looking for a versatile hunting dog and companion.

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The Washington Post // Getty Images

#8. Rottweiler

Bubba, a female blue and gold macaw, sits on Mara, a Rottweiler, in a 1995 photo from The Washington Post. The dogs were named after the town of Rottweil in Germany, and the Romans used Rottweilers to guard and move cattle.

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Topical Press Agency // Getty Images

#7. Beagle

The Meet of the Aldershot command beagles at Eton College in the United Kingdom where they are being watched by a large crowd of Eton scholars in 1932. Did you know that Beagles were originally pocket-sized pups?

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Boyer // Getty Images

#6. Poodle

A long-haired poodle struts her stuff in 1900. There are three sizes of this award-winning breed—toy, miniature and standard. A standard poodle won best of show at New York City's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2020. It was the fifth time the breed won the title at this show.

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Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#5. Bulldog

This 1910 photo features two bulldogs and their master. Bulldogs were recognized by the American Kennel Club more than 130 years ago. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, and John Legend are bulldog owners.

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ullstein bild Dtl // Getty Imagess

#4. French bulldog

Mrs. Goldschmidt is joined by her French bulldog in her cabriolet in 1924. Today Frenchies are enjoyed by their famous owners including Madonna, Hugh Jackman, and Reese Witherspoon.

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Douglas Miller // Getty Images

#3. Golden retriever

Two Golden retrievers pose with their owner at a Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England, in 1932. Scottish waterfowlers combined water spaniels with retrievers in the 19th century to create this popular breed, which is now bred with other breeds to create mixed varieties such as goldendoodles and golden collies.

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Keystone-France // Getty Images

#2. German shepherd

A German shepherd perches on the steps of a car in Paris in 1900. The breed is known for its intelligence and trainability, as evidenced in its most celebrated star representative, Rin Tin Tin.

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Mirrorpix // Getty Images

#1. Labrador retriever

A Labrador named Sandy takes the wheel of the Animal Welfare Trust's newest animal ambulance in March 1947. America's most beloved breed was originally developed to fish, and can be found with a black-, yellow–, or chocolate-colored coat.

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