Least popular dog breeds in America
Least popular dog breeds in America
It’s safe to say that few living creatures have as high approval ratings as our canine companions. They’re not called “man’s best friend” for nothing, and it’s generally accepted that they all go to heaven. Odes to their loyalty are well documented throughout human history, from Argos in Homer’s “Odyssey” to movie tributes like “Balto” and “Beethoven.”
But human nature can lead us to play favorites, and with 197 registered breeds to choose from, some inevitably fall to the bottom. To help understand what guides our choices, Stacker broke down the 97 least popular dog breeds in America based on data released March 15, 2022, from the American Kennel Club.
Some factors that play into a breed’s national popularity—or lack thereof—are obvious: size, maintenance, allergies, disposition, and temperament. But name recognition (brand name, essentially) is just as important; consider why Labradors, retrievers, and bulldogs are annually among the most popular, while the #4 least popular breed appearing here was only officially recognized by the AKC in 2020, despite originally being bred in Belgium in the 1800s. Another barrier to popularity can be access—newer or less common breeds have far fewer reputable breeders, which limits your options for making one of the lesser-known breeds a part of your family.
Whether you’re adopting a dog and researching breed characteristics or deciding on a reputable breeder, keep reading to discover 98 lovable kinds of dogs you may not have heard of.
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#97. Bouviers des Flandres
In many European countries, the bouviers des Flandres is considered an ideal police dog. However, they have their share of fans stateside as well—one of the most famous of which is former president Ronald Reagan.
Literally bred to be owned by royals, Leonbergers are regal animals and the true embodiment of “gentle giants.” Males can top out at 31 inches tall and 160 pounds. Some of their most famous owners include King Edward VII, Napoleon III, and Tsar Alexander II.
#95. Belgian Tervuren
A Belgian Tervuren won the first-ever AKC herding championship, which speaks volumes to this breed’s work ethic and stamina. While they certainly make great pets, these animals are also superior working dogs that continue to work alongside the police in Belgium.
Borzois are tall dogs that can reach 32 inches from feet to shoulder and carry a greyhound-like build. This large but sleek breed was once used to locate wolves in Russia and has exceptional vision that enables them to spot prey quickly and from a far distance. The dogs are notoriously sweet, even-tempered, and mellow.
#93. Japanese Chin
Japanese Chins hail from the palaces of Japan and China, where they even occasionally had servants of their own. Their pampered nature persists to this day, making them the perfect breed for someone looking for a companion dog with an appetite for being spoiled.
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#92. Neapolitan mastiff
One of the largest dog breeds in the world, Neapolitan mastiffs can clock in at up to 200 pounds. Because of their size, it’s recommended these dogs start training early.
#91. Miniature bull terrier
Miniature bull terriers stand between 10 and 14 inches tall and are known for their silly, energetic nature. These dogs make excellent companions but require diligent, patient training.
#90. Spinone Italiano
With a name that means “prickly,” you would be forgiven for expecting these dogs to have a temperament. However, these hunting dogs earned the name due to their prickly coats—not their attitudes. The Spinone Italiano is highly social, calm, and sweet.
#89. Welsh terrier
The Welsh terrier is inseparable from the history of Wales. The breed was first mentioned roughly 1,000 years ago, but the pups didn’t receive their name until 1855. Welsh terriers were originally bred to hunt foxes and rodents; today, these dogs are more likely to be found working the crowd at a dog show. These little dogs have a reputation for being calmer than other terriers.
#88. Toy fox terrier
Like most terriers, this tiny breed was originally used as a ratter. Their eagerness to learn and trainability has led to them being highly suitable for another profession: clown assistant. Their boundless energy and jumping skills have made toy fox terriers circus favorites.
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#87. Norwich terrier
While the Norwich terrier’s love of roaming makes it a bad idea to let this dog off-leash in a wide-open space, it would be a shame not to nurture its love of the outdoors. Norwich Terriers tend to excel in agility training and competitions and create deep bonds with their humans—they prefer to be around their owners as much as possible and are likely to be unhappy if left alone all day.
#86. Tibetan terrier
Tibetan terriers are highly intelligent and gentle but can be a bit more reserved around unfamiliar people. The dogs have a long history of being symbols of good luck for travelers.
#85. Gordon setter
Gordon setters were among the first nine registered dog breeds in the U.S. in 1878. The largest (and today the rarest) of the setters, the Gordon is likely to get along with every member of the family—including your cat. Due to the breed’s rarity, finding a reputable breeder close by may be a challenge.
#84. Afghan hound
These elegant dogs are extremely fast: The average Afghan hound can reach 40 mph, which puts it neck and neck with a purebred racehorse. And while they’re docile, their deep hunting instincts means these hounds ought to be watched around smaller animals.
Schipperke means “little captain” in Flemish, an appropriate name for a breed that loves the water. Historically, these pups were barge dogs that spent most of their time on the water with their owners. Shipperkes make great watchdogs, are highly active, and extremely smart. These are dogs that would rather be with their owners 24/7 rather than crated or left alone all day.
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#82. Silky terrier
These tiny, energetic champions are often seen in show dog competitions—and not just for their shiny coats. The silky terrier is an accomplished herder, tracker, and fly-ball competitor. They’re also smart and can begin with training as young as 8 weeks old.
#81. Parson Russell terrier
The Parson Russell terrier was acknowledged in 2003 as a separate breed from the Jack Russell, although the two types of terriers are intrinsically linked. Both breeds are known for their energy and stamina and they share a creator in the English priest John Russell.
Boerboels are large dogs that can weigh up to 200 pounds. They were bred to be watchdogs, but have also been used to hunt large game in South Africa. Boerboels are extremely smart, territorial, and fiercely loyal.
This breed may not have a name that rolls off the tongue, but it is nevertheless the oldest dog breed in the U.S. Xolos, or Mexican hairless dogs, do best in a pack (human or canine) and are known for being fiercely loyal to whichever human they bond with most.
These French shepherd dogs have worked alongside the military and police force for years. They’re calm, steady animals that were even used by the Germans to infiltrate British trenches during World War I.
#76. American Eskimo dog
When it comes to trainability, American Eskimo dogs are at the top of the class. This is the first-known breed to have learned how to walk a tightrope, earning the dog a reputation as a circus dog in the 19th century. While you don’t have to train your American Eskimo dog for the circus, the breed does seem to thrive on learning new things. The breed comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy.
#75. Manchester terrier
In Victorian England, these spry dogs were known as the “gentleman’s terrier.” With proper training, the Manchester terrier is eager to learn and be a lifelong companion. These dogs top out at around 22 pounds and are extremely good-natured and playful, making them excellent family pets.
#74. Irish terrier
The Irish terrier is a true farm dog. They love jobs and can do them all: hunt, guard flocks, and protect families. These terriers are such adept workers, they were used as messengers and watchdogs during WWI.
#73. Tibetan spaniel
A favorite among Tibetan monks, the Tibetan spaniel was sometimes used as a guard dog at monasteries. This instinct hasn’t gone away over the years: Tibetan spaniels still alert their owners when someone is approaching their territory, although that’s about the extent of their assertiveness.
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#72. Welsh springer spaniel
Believed to be the oldest of Britain’s spaniels, Welsh springer spaniels are easily identified by their lush red and white coats. Active and energetic, the dogs can be reserved with strangers but make great companions for children and other household pets.
#71. Black Russian terrier
This breed has only been in the U.S. since the 1980s. Before they made their way to the states, black Russian terriers worked alongside the Soviet military. The breed is extremely loving, loyal, and hard-working, but may not be a great fit as a first family pet as they can get overly excited fairly easily.
Arab tribesmen used to call Salukis a “gift from God.” These sighthounds are true beauties who move quickly and are poised enough to have been considered the royal dogs of Egypt.
#69. Belgian sheepdog
Belgian sheepdogs served alongside soldiers in the First and Second World Wars. They are incredibly loyal dogs, but also love the thrill of the chase. Belgian sheepdogs require a yard that’s fenced in to keep them from scaring cyclists or runners.
#68. Norfolk terrier
The Norfolk terrier is one of the smallest dogs around—but they don’t let its size stop fool you into thinking they’re not fierce hunters. These dogs were bred to be ratters, and run in packs for fox hunts. To curtail excessive barking, consistent training is a must. They tend to be good with other pets in the house and are great with kids, especially if they’re all raised together.
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#67. Smooth fox terrier
Fox terriers are still working on gaining popularity in America. The feisty dogs have been members of the AKC since the late 1800s but are still hard to find stateside. This breed is very loving but extremely active and may be too rough and rowdy for households with small children.
The quintessential race dogs, greyhounds are known for their speed and sweet disposition above all else. Surprisingly, these fast animals are also notoriously lazy; given the chance, they’re perfectly happy to lounge around the house with their people.
#65. Bedlington terrier
Known best for their distinctive, sheep-like style, Bedlington terriers look like cuddly toys. Looks are deceiving in this case—these dogs are fast and hearty hunters who love to track rabbits.
#64. Kerry blue terrier
Kerry blue terriers, the largest of the AKC terriers, hail from Ireland and are said to possess a distinctly Irish spirit to boot. These dogs are mischievous, loyal, and have a nearly boundless sense of energy.
#63. American hairless terrier
The American hairless terrier is the first hairless breed to originate in the U.S. These hypoallergenic dogs make great family pets but require a few things most breeds don’t: namely, sunscreen in the summer and a cozy sweater in the winter to keep warm.
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#62. Field spaniel
These dogs were primarily bred to be show dogs and pets. Their reputation as a superior companion remains unchallenged, as they’re docile, loyal, and happiest by their human’s side.
#61. English toy spaniel
The history of the English toy spaniel is linked to English nobility. Queen Elizabeth I had an English toy spaniel and her doctor reportedly called it “the comforter.” Their early popularity may have led to them becoming one of the first toy breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886.
#60. Icelandic sheepdog
Iceland’s only native dog breed is also one of the world’s oldest. The medium-sized breed’s origin can be traced back as far as 8000 B.C. These dogs have a long life span of up to 15 years and a curious, energetic temperament.
#59. Sealyham terrier
These white terriers were bred specifically to hunt small game like badgers, otters, and pheasants. Even the breed’s white coat played a role in its jobs as an excellent hunting companion, as the stark shade allowed the dog to stand out in landscapes full of brown and gray hues. Sealyham terriers are known for their fearlessness and outgoing nature and can make great family pets as long as they’re kept away from any other, smaller pets, who they’re likely to hunt.
#58. Bluetick coonhound
These friendly dogs are happy to laze about during the day. But once they’re on the hunt for a raccoon or following a scent, the bluetick coonhound is relentless. Males can reach 27 inches tall and 80 pounds. Lots of activities and exercise are essential for these dogs, who can become destructive and loud without enough exertion.
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#57. Black and tan coonhound
Like all coonhounds, the black and tan is a working dog with a love of hunting raccoons, although the breed doesn’t discriminate. This breed will happily take on large and small game—anything allowing the dog to put its superior sense of smell to use. They make excellent pets, are wonderful with children, and are perfectly happy relaxing alongside their humans on the couch. Just be mindful of any nearby neighbors—black and tan coonhounds are known for their loud and frequent barks.
#56. Lakeland terrier
Lakeland terriers are increasingly rare. The small dogs once worked the lake districts in England and they are notorious burrowers. The first president of the Lakeland Terrier Association claimed he had a Lakeland terrier that chased an otter into a 23-foot burrow (and had to be rescued as a result). Lakelands are mostly hypoallergenic and bond with their families despite being of a more independently-minded breed.
#55. Bearded collie
The history of the bearded collie is intrinsically tied to farm life. These herding dogs were originally bred to tend to flocks of sheep, but they also have friendly personalities that have made their transition to family pets a smooth one.
#54. Wirehaired vizsla
The wirehaired vizsla is an incredibly trainable, disciplined, and gentle breed. Not only was this breed the first to become an American Kennel Club quintuple champion, vizslas are also one of the Transportation Security Administration’s top-three preferred bomb-sniffing dogs. If you’re considering this breed, be ready to give your dog plenty of exercise.
#53. Spanish water dog
This breed is technically a herder, not a sporting dog. Nevertheless, Spanish water dogs are bright, easy to train, and quickly pick up on herd movements.
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#52. German pinscher
German pinschers were almost entirely wiped out during the wars. A man named Werner Jung kept the breed from going extinct and is responsible for the continued popularity of German pinschers in modern times. These smart, devoted dogs make terrific companions and stand stature-wise between min pins and Dobermans.
#51. Tibetan mastiff
It’s important to socialize this mighty breed early. Tibetan mastiffs can be extremely territorial and wary of strangers—so if their owners want them to play well with others, they should get them used to a busy house early in life.
Joyful, smart, loving, and devoted are all words commonly used to describe the Barbet, a French hunting breed that has been around since at least the 16th century. With their shaggy, curly coats, these active, endlessly playful pups look like real-life Muppets. The breed clawed its way back from near-extinction and is now gaining popularity here and around the world.
#49. Clumber spaniel
Prince Albert and King Edward VII both loved Clumber spaniels. Thanks to such high-profile owners, the breed—the largest of the spaniels—became a favorite among the British upper class. Clumber spaniels are known for being extremely playful and easy to train.
Briards have a fascinating history as helper dogs. During WWI, they helped carry ammunition and served as lookouts while soldiers slept, as well as working alongside the Red Cross. The large herding dogs can reach 27 inches tall and 90 pounds, and always want to be at the center of all family activities.
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#47. Treeing walker coonhound
First bred in Virginia, these dogs are southern hunters through and through. Once the dog trees its prey—usually a raccoon—it will let out a distinctive bark to let its owner know where to find supper. These dogs are great with kids, but—like other breeds throughout this list—not ideal if your household has other pets smaller than your prolific hunting dog.
#46. Australian terrier
The Australian terrier has been called the clown of the dog world, and for good reason. These sweet dogs want nothing more than play and keep their owners happy. Despite their good nature, this is a scrappy breed with a history of working on farms.
The Pumik originated in Hungary as far back as 800 AD. Officially adopted by the American Kennel Club in 2016, a Pumik is easily distinguished by its corkscrew curls and incredible intelligence. The breed’s history as a sheepdog in the Hungarian countryside makes Pumi best suited to active, outdoor lifestyles with lots of attention from their owners.
#44. Irish red and white setter
Irish setters retain their puppy spirit longer than most dogs due to a slow rate of maturation. That means that even though they make excellent hunters (and calm, loyal family dogs), setters may require patience when training—especially as they can reach 75 pounds.
#43. Redbone coonhound
As its name implies, these dogs were developed by American settlers to hunt raccoons. The breed was instrumental in tracking the small mammals that kept pioneers fed while moved toward the west and south. Today, redbone coonhounds are most noteworthy as devoted family pets with exceedingly friendly, curious dispositions.
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#42. Nederlandse kooikerhondje
A real sporting dog at heart, the Nederlandse kooikerhondje are known to be lively, self-confident, alert, and good-natured pups. Apart from their adorable black-tipped ears, this “little white and orange dog with a big heart” is also a faithful furry friend, making them the ideal playmates to have in the home—but they also wouldn’t mind exerting some of their energy outdoors, either.
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Löwchen literally translates to “little lion dog”—an appropriate nickname for a breed that often sports an impressive mane. Löwchens are primarily companion dogs, and their gentle natures make them ideal for work as therapy dogs, as well.
#40. Scottish deerhound
The Scottish deerhound is a friendly enough dog but they love a good chase—which makes them better as solo pets. This sleek breed is best suited for single-dog homes without small children.
This breed has been described in French as “diablotin moustachu,” or mustached little devil. The nickname is an affectionate one that has more to do with the dog’s coat than personality. Affenpinscher translates to “monkey-like terrier,” which makes sense considering the breed is known for its dexterity and ability to grasp things with its front paws.
#38. Swedish Vallhund
This corgi relative has a distinct feature that's uncommon in most breeds: It's hard to know what kind of tail it will have. Some Swedish Vallhunds are born with nubs others have long tails and some are born without any tail at all.
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#37. Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
Each word in this French breed’s name is relevant to the description of this dog, which is small with short legs and wiry coats that come from the Vendeens region of France. As a true pack dog, this breed is happiest surrounded by other pets and family members.
#36. Portuguese podengo pequeno
The official dog of Portugal was once commonly found on the ships of medieval Portuguese explorers. These days, these small dogs can still be keen hunters but are just as happy being their owners’ best friends. The breed is classified into three size categories—small, medium, and large—and is known to be playful and energetic.
#35. Berger picard
These dogs made perfect smugglers due to their unique coats. The breed was reportedly used to smuggle tobacco and matches across the Franco-Belgian border. Furry pouches of tobacco would be strapped to shaved dogs, who would then go unnoticed as they moved the contraband across the border.
One misconception that has haunted the bright puli is that they have trouble with their eyesight. In fact, the only eye issue plaguing the herding dog is an unruly, long mane that can obstruct vision if not trimmed. As long as you keep your puli well-groomed, its eyesight shouldn’t be a problem (although keeping up with the energetic, stubborn breed might be).
#33. Irish water spaniel
The Irish water spaniel is the tallest of all the spaniel breeds. These dogs are tare adept swimmers with water-repellent fur. Irish water spaniels are known for being downright clownish despite their working roots.
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#32. American water spaniel
The American water spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin. These sweet hunting dogs were bred to dive off boats after prey, making them a favorite for people who live in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
#31. Curly-coated retriever
These retrievers are known for their spectacular curly coats. While they look like they’ve been crossed with poodles, curly-coated retrievers share no relation. As with all retriever breeds, these dogs are loving, make great family pets, and are eager to please.
#30. Finnish Lapphund
These dogs were once used to herd reindeer. That’s a big job, but these vocal pups were up for the task. Despite their working past, they make excellent and friendly companions.
Hailing from Hungary, this was the chosen breed by King Matthias I. The troubled king is believed to have trusted his beloved Kuvasz more than any human in his court.
#28. Norwegian buhund
Known as the dog of the Vikings, the Norwegian buhund is an ancient breed. The dog’s history riding shotgun with the Vikings is a bit misleading, however, since there’s nothing more the modern-day versions would rather do than simply hang out at home with their human companions.
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#27. Plott hound
This all-American breed was developed in the Smoky Mountains. German immigrant Johannes George Plott and his descendants were responsible for breeding these superior trackers. Plott hounds are best suited for experienced dog owners, as they require consistent training; with a firm leader, these dogs can make wonderful family pets as they have a particular fondness for children.
These sled dogs are named after the dog that started their line. Breeder Arthur Walden crossed his dog Chinook with a stock husky to create the breed. Sadly, Chinook was later lost during an expedition to Antarctica. These dogs are amazing family pets, known for their gentle nature and excess of affection.
#25. Entlebucher mountain dog
Entlebucher mountain dogs can most often be found working in the mountains of Switzerland from where they originate. A cousin of the Bernese mountain dog, it can be difficult to tell the two breeds apart.
#24. Dandie Dinmont terrier
The Dandie Dinmont terrier got its name from Sir Walter Scott’s 1815 novel “Guy Mannering.” The diminutive dogs are known for their prominent poofs of hair atop their heads, as well as their relatively mild-mannered temperaments.
#23. Glen of Imaal terrier
If not for the Irish Rebellion, these little pups might not exist. When Queen Elizabeth gave the Flemish land for helping her squash an Irish uprising in the late 1500s, the men brought their hounds with them. Those hounds ended up breeding with the dogs native to Ireland, resulting in these sweet fluffballs. They make great famiy pets, but may be too strong for very young children to play with.
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#22. Pharaoh hound
Malta’s national dog is a favorite in the United States as well. This dynamic breed is exceptional at hunting rabbits and requires a tall fence to keep the high-jumper from straying.
#21. Sussex spaniel
Sussex spaniels are talkers for good reason. Because their short legs keep them so low to the ground (they max out between 13 and 15 inches tall), these even-tempered, athletic dogs bark and make other noises to alert hunters to their whereabouts.
There are said to be fewer than 350 otterhounds currently in the United States and as few as 600 worldwide. These dogs make great pets due to their even temperaments and friendly nature but their thick double coats require at least weekly brushings.
#19. Bergamasco sheepdog
These sheepdogs have instantly recognizable coats of long, curly fur that need to be well-groomed. If you’re up for the task, then this Italian breed is perfect for active families with big yards.
#18. Polish lowland sheepdog
The Polish lowland sheepdog is a true hero of a breed. During WWII, a polish lowland named Psyche is said to have warned people in Warsaw when bombs were going to drop. These pups are happiest when they have jobs, making them highly trainable and eager to please.
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#17. Skye terrier
Skye terriers love their owners but can be pretty ambivalent about everyone else. These regal animals were a favorite of Queen Victoria’s and have working dog roots.
#16. Ibizan hound
Ibizan hounds were once owned by Egyptian pharaohs, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be right at home in your less-than-royal abode. These athletic dogs make excellent pets—just be sure they get plenty of exercise to tire them out.
#15. Cirneco dell’Etna
First recognized by the AKC in 2015, this ancient breed’s name literally means “dog of Cyrene (Libya).” These agile dogs have remarkable instincts for hunting—especially when it comes to rabbits.
#14. American English coonhound
American English coonhounds are believed to have a presidential origin story. Evidence suggests George Washington was one of the first people in America to own these dogs.
The lack of Azawakh popularity in America is attributable to its rarity, recency, and unfamiliarity in the States. The African sighthound traces its origins to ancient times on the continent’s western region, roaming the Sahara alongside nomads. The first Azawakh arrived in America in the 1980s, birthing the first domestic litter by the end of the decade. The AKC classified them as “miscellaneous” in 2011; they only joined the official Hound Group in 2019; and are now eligible for the Westminster Dog Show.
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There’s just no getting around the fact that a komondor’s fur looks an awful lot like a mop. But there’s a good reason for that: Their coats act as camouflage so that they can blend in with sheep and surprise any wolves that get too close.
#11. Canaan dog
Canaan dogs have a rich history dating back to Biblical times. Before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, Canaan dogs herded sheep and other livestock. After their owners were driven out of their homeland, the dogs fled to the desert where they lived undomesticated until the 20th century.
A member of the hound group, these hearty little pooches are sometimes mistaken for beagles. Although they have a history as hunters, this is one breed that has adapted beautifully to life as a family pet. Harriers usually love children, but their energy might make them a bit too much for younger kids to handle.
#9. Grand Basset Griffon Vendéens
This newly recognized French breed is rare in the United States because of its breeding difficulty. Owners of these hunting hounds report they are quiet, family-friendly companions that require vigorous daily exercise to work off their huge amounts of excess energy. Their name is also descriptive, roughly translating to “large, low, shaggy dog of the Vendée.”
#8. Cesky terrier
The American Kennel Club claims that, as of 2017, there were only around 600 Cesky terriers in the U.S. This calm terrier breed may be rare stateside, but those who have the privilege of being a Cesky owner likely know that they’re keen hunters and eager agility competitors.
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#7. Finnish spitz
Taimyr wolves live on through the Finnish spitz. The ancient breed of wolves is extinct, but DNA research has shown that they were at least partly responsible for the existence of these champion barkers with a fox-like appearance. These smart dogs are fast learners but they’re also cunning and will find ways to challenge their trainers.
#6. Pyrenean shepherd
World War I brought these small sheepdogs out of the mountains and into the war zone. The breed served as couriers, led search-and-rescue missions, and worked side by side with soldiers.
Sloughi owners have been loyal to their dogs since ancient times—at least if the maxims are to be believed. These elegant animals have found favor with royals throughout history and even now some nomadic owners have been known to honor them after death like human family members.
#4. Belgian Laekenois
This rare breed was only officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2020, although it is thought to have originated in the 1880s as a Belgian herding dog. The Laekenois was used as a messenger dog during both the First and Second World Wars, and was even targeted by Hitler. There are currently only about 200 Laekenoises in the U.S., and roughly 1,000 worldwide.
#3. American foxhound
As the state dog of Virginia, American foxhounds are a beloved hunting breed. These dogs are also valuable during search-and-rescue missions, thanks to their keen sense of smell. More than 300 of them helped recover victims after the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
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#2. English foxhound
Unlike many hunting dog breeds, English foxhounds still haven’t completely caught on as companion dogs in the traditional sense. Generally, these dogs are kept by hunters and live in packs trained to chase foxes.
#1. Norwegian Lundehunds
Norwegian Lundehunds boast two unusual characteristics that make them skilled at sniffing out puffins. These curious pups have six toes on each foot that seem to have developed to help them navigate slippery rocks; and they can wiggle their ears—which not only protects them from water but also helps out when they’re crawling into a puffin burrow.
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