What 25 dogs were bred for
Genetic science has allowed humankind to create specific characteristics for canines. Take the Labradoodle, for example. Wally Conron, the original breeder of the half-labrador retriever and half-poodle, purposefully mated two canines to create one hypoallergenic guide dog. It worked, but to his regret. The Australian dog breeder confesses he opened a Pandora’s box with the pet, creating a “Frankenstein monster” that spurred the age of designer dogs in the 1980s.
While the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not acknowledge the labradoodle, it recognizes 193 other breeds. Stacker used the AKC dog breed database to compile a list of 25 breeds with unique origin stories. The breeds are ranked here according to their popularity in 2018. AKC details how “for thousands of years, humans bred dogs toward the physical and mental traits best suited for the work expected of them,” from being a guard dog along a tax collector’s route to being able to work and hunt in the minus-60 degree temperatures of the Siberian tundra. The club also uses a “breed standard” to document characteristics such as temperament and physical traits.
Of the 193 breeds, it awards certain ones at the famous all-breed Westminster Annual Dog Show, held since 1877, most notably at Madison Square Garden. In over a century of competition, some canines consistently prove they remain Best in Show. Two that have stood out are the Kerry Blue Terrier “Mick,” and the Wire Fox Terrier, which has captured 15 Best in Show honors.
Continue reading to find out what these 25 dogs were bred for.
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#25. English foxhound
- 2018 popularity rank: #188
After the fall of the Roman Empire in medieval England, noblemen used hounds, known for their stamina and stride, to hunt deer while lowly groundskeepers stayed back to kill the foxes famous for poaching hen houses, but that changed in the 1600s when traditional British fox hunts began. Aristocrats began breeding the English foxhound, which combines the speed of a greyhound and scent ability of a conventional hound, to guide them on chases in packs. A member of the hound group, the breed’s keen sense of smell and baying, a deep and prolonged howl, were ideal for sniffing out and alerting the presence of fox.
#24. Field spaniel
- 2018 popularity rank: #149
Considered a “cautionary tale for dog breeders,” due to its instant popularity followed by near extinction, the field spaniel has a rich history. Initially classified by size and duty in the 1800s to hunt game birds, British spaniels became popular during the birth of dog shows in England, when specific types and breeds were coveted as winners. The field spaniel—a mixture of Sussex, English, springer, and cocker—was an instant hit until health became an issue, which eventually led to just cocker and springer mating.
- 2018 popularity rank: #140
Named after the Ancient Aztec dog-headed god Xolotl, this hairless breed was said to guide its owners into the afterlife, which is why it was killed and buried alongside humans as far back as 3,000 years ago. Surviving time, Xolos are still considered sacred in Mexico as dedicated watchdogs. It was not just the Ancient Aztecs and modern-day Mexicans who adore this dog, but also Christopher Columbus and Spanish missionary Bernadino de Sahagún, who journaled about having Xolos alongside them in their journeys.
#22. Kerry blue terrier
- 2018 popularity rank: #129
Though bred to work the farm chasing rodents and herding cattle, the stunning, shiny blue coat of a Kerry blue terrier makes it a winner, with 43 out of 95 winners by 2003 at the 127th Westminster Dog Show Club, when famous canine Mick stole Best in Show. Named after County Kerry in Ireland, the breed was once a country mascot, representing Irish patriots who fought for their freedom. Its Irish roots and mystery surrounding its backstory has given rise to legends involving leprechauns and shipwrecks, among other fantastic tales.
- 2018 popularity rank: #120
Dating back to 7,000 years B.C., Egyptian, Asian, and Middle Eastern kings kept the sleek, tall Saluki at their sides. Present when Alexander the Great invaded India and known to be the hunting companions to Pharaohs, the Saluki was considered so sacred in ancient days some royals had them mummified. Though thousands of years have passed since they originated, Saluki’s almond-shaped eyes, height, colors, and patterns remain.
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#20. Afghan hound
- 2018 popularity rank: #113
From the region of Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, the Afghan hound’s age, which predates written history, is not only noted by authorities to be the oldest purebred dog, but myth boasts it was present during the Great Flood. Owned by Asian aristocrats, and other royal clans, the majestic-looking canine, which stands as tall as 27 inches with panoramic sight, was registered as a purebred pup by the AKC in 1927. By 1959, Mattel Barbie brought the breed great fame as the plastic doll's pup.
#19. Wire fox terrier
- 2018 popularity rank: #101
The fox terrier had a very specific duty in the 1700s, and that was “go to ground,” which means getting game out of their dens for huntsmen. Once out of the hole, horsemen would track, chase, and kill foxes across the countryside. The breed is almost always all white so it will not be mistaken for a fox during the chase. With 15 Westminster Best in Shows, the Wire Fox Terrier is both attractive and family-friendly, with bouts of energy and personality.
- 2018 popularity rank: #93
The mixed breed of Saint Bernard and Newfoundland, Leonbergers originate from a region in Germany of the same name and were initially bred for kings. While some royal owners—including Napoleon III, King Edward VII, and Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi—have called Leonbergers them their companions, so have more humble men like farmers and fishers, since the breed works well in pastures and on waterfronts.
- 2018 popularity rank: #92
This breed was considered so sacred by the ancient Chinese ruling class that, if a Pekingese was stolen, death was the punishment. Exactly where and when the flat-faced dog originated from is unknown, but fanciful legend has it that Buddha shrunk a lion down to a dog. In reality, the lapdog was bred and owned by Chinese emperors for centuries and are the ancestors to modern-day dogs, including the Peke, Pug, and Shih Tzu. The breed made its way west centuries later when the British Army plundered Beijing in the 1860s.
- 2018 popularity rank: #87
Believe it or not, the Basenji breed does not bark—it yodels. Considered to be possibly the oldest breed by paleontologists and the AKC, Basenjis trace back through the artworks from both Babylonia and Mesopotamia, and tales about traveling the Nile River in Africa to be given as presents for Pharaohs. The ancient-African dog saw its way West by 1895 but was not bred successfully until 1937 in England. Like cats, Basenjis clean their entire body, which could account for their lack of odor.
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