We all know that dogs are man’s best friend and that they have been an integral part of human history for millennia. It is believed that the domestication process of dogs started 10,000 to 30,000 years ago when a group of wolves first came into contact with European hunter-gatherers. Over time, wolves changed both physically and psychologically to become the friendly pets we know today.
While those earlier breeds of dog have died out, some have lasted thousands of years. Today we are going to be looking at the oldest dog breeds in the world and how they have evolved over time.
Characteristics of the Oldest Dog Breeds in the World
Many of the oldest dog breeds in the world share similar physical characteristics, as well as personality traits. Ancient dog breeds usually have strong bodies with well-developed muscles. Some of them have a wolf-like appearance and their coats are often a brown, red, tan or white colour.
In terms of their personality and character, these dogs tend to be very intelligent and independent. They are usually active dogs and they show great aptitude for learning. The breeds on this list typically show greater autonomy than some other dog breeds and they can make their own decisions.
While you could say that the dogs on this list are more wild in nature than some other breeds, they do make good pets. These dogs need lots of attention and effort must be made to train and socialise them correctly. If these dogs are not trained or socialised, it can lead to behavioural problems in the future.
The Origins of the Domesticated Dog
It is known that the dog was the first domesticated species and that their closest living relative is the Gray Wolf. Archaeological records show that the first undisputed dog remains were buried with a human 14,700 years ago, with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago. This shows that the earliest dogs arose in the time of human hunter-gatherers.
The genetic diversion of dogs is thought to be caused by an initial wolf population split into East and West Eurasian Wolves. These were then domesticated independently around 6,400 to 14,000 years ago before going extinct into two different dog populations.
1 – What is the Oldest Dog Breed in the World? The Basenji
The Basenji is believed to be the oldest dog breed according to a scientific study which compared the origin and genomic analysis of 161 breeds of dog. Researchers estimate that the Basenji originated from the African continent and they were used to track and hunt prey. It is thought that the breed is the one depicted in cave paintings found in Libya that date back around 6,000BC.
Well known as the “barkless” dog from Africa, the Basenji does not emit a normal bark but a high pitched howl which almost resembles a laugh or yodel. They feature a short coat, small, muscular body, erect ears and a tail curled tightly over one hip. A wrinkled brow gives them a somewhat mischievous expression.
The Basenji is an incredibly intelligent breed of dog and they are often quite stubborn. They are incredibly curious and are highly active, requiring lots of exercise and mental stimulation. Due to their highly inquisitive nature, the Basenji will destroy or chew almost anything left lying about.
A big plus of owning a Basenji is that they love to play. They are also known the make excellent watch dogs, standing up to intruders and defending their territory when challenged. Interestingly, they have almost feline-like grooming habits and they are fond of escaping.
2 – Shanxi Xigou (Chinese Saluki)
The Saluki is one of several breeds that can trace its roots back to Egyptian times, with dogs that resemble them being depicted on tombs at around 2,100BC. The breed then spread to different parts of the world and was first directly mentioned in 685AD during the Tang Dynasty.
Salukis possess a greyhound-like build, combining slender legs, a narrow body, deep chest, long tail and a small waist. They have a slightly slopped face and they are built for both speed and endurance.
The Saluki is a devoted breed of dog, but they tend to be aloof, or even shy, with strangers. They are typically very quiet and gentle, and they are good with other dogs.
These dogs must get the chance to run and burn off some energy every day. They are moderately obedient, but they can misbehave if they are not exercised. Despite their gentle, quiet domineer, the Saluki is a serious hunter.
3 – Afghan Hound
The Afghan Hound is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and is thought to date back to pre-Christian times. It is closely related to the Saluki and is classed as a basal breed that predates modern breeds of dog.
Although the Afghan Hound is undoubtedly ancient, there are no written or visual records of the breed in these early times. Most modern purebred Afghan Hounds descend from dogs brought to the United Kingdom in the 1920s. Today, they have become very popular as show dogs, but back then they were used for hunting and protecting purposes.
They are a tall dog with a very distinctive long coat. The long, fine-textured coat requires a considerable amount of grooming and care. Coats can be any colour but white markings, particularly on the head are not desirable for show dogs.
While Afghan Hound puppies eagerly seek affection from family members, adult dogs can be somewhat aloof and do not lavish attention. They are very independent dogs and will think for themselves.
Afghan Hounds are known to be quite mischievous and there are many stories of them stealing objects from under the noses of family members. They are certainly an interesting breed of dog, but they may not be the best suited to first time dog owners.
4 – Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff is considered to be the progenitor of all breeds of Mastiff dog and they have long been used by local tribes of Tibetans to protect sheep from wolves, leopards and bears. In 2008, a study concluded that while 12 breeds of dog appeared to have diverged from the Gray Wolf 42,000 years ago, the Tibetan Mastiff diverged earlier at 58,000 years. It is still unsure when the breed first became domesticated, but it could arguably be the oldest dog breed in the world.
While the Tibetan Mastiff is still used to protect livestock from wild animals today, they also enjoy life as a family companion or show dog. Their unique appearance with a long coat, appealing colours and beautiful tail make them a conversation starter.
Despite their size and somewhat ferocious look, the Tibetan Mastiff is a gentle, loving and patient dog. They are hard-working dogs and fiercely loyal to their owners. They make excellent guard dogs and centuries of breeding for that specific task have made them the perfect protector.
Tibetan Mastiffs are generally quiet dogs when their needs are met, but if they are upset about something they can start barking. Socialisation is especially important for this breed and you need to introduce them to lots of other dogs and people when they are a puppy.
Pure Tibetan Mastiffs are incredibly rare, so expect to pay a premium for them. The world’s most expensive dog was a Tibetan Mastiff puppy that sold for $2 million in China and one sold in 2011 with a price tag of $1.5 million.
5 – Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is one of the world’s oldest working breeds of dog and their story starts with the Chukchi people thousands of years ago. Chukchi originate from east Siberia and their hunter gatherer culture relied on the Siberian Husky. The Husky pulled their owner’s sleds, protected the Chukchi people from invaders and worked to help them hunt.
The breed is incredibly active, energetic and resilient. They have a unique coat that is thicker than most other dog breeds, comprising of two layers; a dense under coat and a larger top coat of short hairs. It protects the dogs against the harsh Artic winters, but also reflects the heat in the summer. A Husky’s coat is so effective that it is capable of keeping them warm down to temperatures as low as -50 to -60 degrees Celsius
The Husky howls rather than barks and they often quite mischievous. Huskies will often escape and they are known to be incredibly intelligent, demanding dogs. However, they are known to be good with children but need plenty of exercise and training to keep them under control.
Huskies have a high prey drive as the Chukchi people allowed them to roam free in the summer. They would hunt in packs and preyed on birds, wild cats and other animals, but they can be trained to live with other dogs or small animals like cats.
6 – Greenland Sledge Dog
The Greenland Sledge Dog are believed to have arrived in Greenland with the Paleo-Eskimo peoples around 2,500BC to 800BC. Later, the Vikings then settled in Greenland and became aware of these dogs. The Greenland Sledge Dog was then used by whalers, explorers and fur traders to explore and travel across the arctic regions.
They are a powerful, heavy-built dog and have a broad, wedge shaped head. Their coat is of medium length and consists of two layers that protect against the cold (similar to the Siberian Husky). The males are significantly larger than females and many of them have triangular shaped area on the shoulders.
Like many other sled dogs, the Greenland Sledge dogs have incredible stamina and they are capable of traversing difficult terrain with ease and speed. As working dogs, they are highly valued for their immense strength and endurance.
The Greenland Sledge dog is much the same as it was when it was first brought to Greenland. They are kept for their speed and strength as a working dog, not for their personality. As such, these dogs require an extremely confident, firm and consistent owner to make them a good household pet.
7 – Alaskan Malamute
Like the Greenland Dog and the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute is well adapted to cold and has been identified as basal breed that predates the emergence of modern dog breeds. The Malamute has a similar east Asian origin to, but it not related to the Canadian Eskimo Dog and the Greenland Dog. However, the breed contains a possible admixture of the Siberian Husky.
It has been discovered that the Malamute, the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Husky share a close genetic relationship with each other and where related to the Chukchi sled dogs.
The coat of the Malamute is double layered like the Siberian Husky and Greenland Dog. The undercoat has an oily woolly texture and can be as thick as two inches. The outer guard coat is coarser and features longer hairs.
Malamutes are still used as sled dogs, but most are kept as family pets, show dogs or performance dogs in weight pulling or agility.
The Malamute is highly-intelligent, resourceful and independent. They have a high prey drive and need lots of exercise. While Malamutes are particularly amicable around people, they do need to be trained to tolerate smaller pets. It is also necessary to be mindful of them when they are around small children.
8 – Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu has become an incredibly popular dog breed and it is the smallest of the six original spitz breeds native to Japan. Primitive drawings from as far back as 300BC depict the Shiba Inu living with humans, but the origins of the dog date back 9,000 years ago.
The Shiba Inu is recognised as the official national dog of Japan and the breed was declared a national treasure in 1936. They were used to hunt deer, wild boar and small game as they are extremely quick and agile.
These dogs have a small, compact frame with well-developed muscles. They are double coated like many of the other basal breeds and they excel at dealing with cold, harsh winters.
Shibas are independent, intelligent dogs that have high prey drive. They can sometimes show aggression, but consistent socialisation and obedience training turn them into fantastic household pets.
They are a relatively fastidious breed and can often be seen cleaning themselves as much as cats. Because of their fastidious, proud nature, Shiba puppies are known to be easy to toilet train and will in some cases do it themselves.
9 – Akita Inu
Like the Shiba Inu above, the Akita has a long history with Japanese culture and its origin dates back thousands of years to the Matagi Inu. Today’s Akita has developed primarily from dogs in the northernmost region of the island Honshū in the Akita prefecture, thus giving the breed its name.
The breed became famous after the story of Hachiko, an Akita who would walk with his owner to the train station every day and wait for him to return after work. His owner died one day at work, but Hachiko kept going to the train station every day for nine years, waiting for his owner to come back. A bronze station was erected in his honour at the Shibuya train station in Tokyo in 1934.
Again, the Akita features a double coat and they feature a muscular build. While the majority of them are short haired, some feature long coats (known as Moku) due to the presence of a recessive gene.
Akitas are known to be highly intelligent, strong dogs that are courageous and loyal. They are also dominant, independent and can have a spontaneous nature about them. They tend to be fairly quiet and will think about a situation before acting upon it.
As they bred to work and live alone or in pairs, Akitas do not tend to be friendly towards other animals. Due to their silent nature, they do not show signs of aggression and their attacks can be sudden.
These dogs are not suited for first time dog owners due to their complex personality. They need a confident owner who can train and socialise them correctly.
10 – Chinese Shar-pei
The Shar-pei breed has existed in China since ancient times and they have been used for anything from hunting to herding and even fighting. Originating from the Guangdong province in China, the original Shar-pei looked very different to the breed that has become popular in the west. People in southern China, Macau and Hong King differentiate the two types of Shar-pei by calling them ‘meat mouth’ and ‘bone mouth’.
The Shar-pei’s distinctive loose skin and prickly coat are designed to help the breed fight off wild boar and animals. Additionally, these enhanced traits were beneficial when it came to fighting, as the breed was difficult to grab onto. If another dog did manage to grab on, the Shar-pei still had room to manoeuvre and bite back.
During the Communist Revolution the Shar-pei population reduced dramatically. Matgo Law, a Hong Kong businessmen, appealed to the Americans through a magazine to save the breed. Around 200 Shar-peis were smuggled into the United States. The majority of the American Shar-pei population is related to these 200 dogs.
The Shar-pei’s coat is rough to the touch and extremely prickly. They come with various different types of coat; horse, brush and bear. The rough, prickly horse coat is closer to the original Shar-pei’s coat. Compared to the horse coat, the brush coat is slightly longer and smoother. Additionally, brush coat Shar-peis are more docile, whereas horse coat variants are more active and dominant.
Any coat that is longer than one inch is considered to be a ‘bear coat’ and is not considered breed standard. This occurs when both the male and female carry recessive coat genes. The bear coat resembles that of the Chow Chow and the dog’s personality tends to be more like those with the brush coat.
All Shar-pei puppies need early socialisation and training. They can be suspicious of strangers and they are a very independent, reserved breed of dog. If they are poorly socialised and trained, the Shar-pei can become aggressive and/or territorial. Nevertheless, they are extremely loyal and devoted dogs, and they can make great companions. Training is not too difficult and they respond well to positive reinforcement techniques.
11 – Chow Chow
One of the most distinctive dog breeds around, the Chow Chow originates from northern China and has been identified as a basal breed. It is believed that the Chow Chow originated in China or in Arctic Asia about 2 – 3000 years ago and then migrated to Mongolia and other parts of Asia.
One Chinese ruler was said to own 5,000 Chow Chows and a Chinese legend talks about large war dogs from Central-Asia that resembled lions. The breed was bred to pull sleds and sadly for human consumption as well.
The Chow Chow is a very sturdily built dog and is known for its extremely dense double coat that can either be smooth or rough. The fur is particularly thick around the neck, giving it the appearance of lion. Additionally, Chow Chows have a distinctive blue-black/purple tongue and very straight legs. They also have a curled tail and their coats come in black, blue, cream, tan or a slight shade of red.
Chow Chows are fiercely loyal and they can become extremely protective of their territory and owners. While they are not an excessively active breed, they do need daily exercise and mental stimulation.
To avoid aggression and problems when they get older, Chow Chows should be socialised as early as possible. They can be an aggressive breed, but most are known to be fairly easy-going in nature and in some cases, slightly aloof to those around them. Due to their strong hunting instincts it is recommended that these dogs stayed fenced and away from smaller dogs and cats. However, they can be trained to live with other animals if they are socialised correctly.
12 – Samoyed (Bjelkier)
Originally breed to hunt, herd and pull sleds, the Samoyed originates from Siberia and takes its name from the Samoyedic people. The Samoyed has been identified as a basal breed and the first American Samoyed was registered with the AKC in 1906.
The appearance and character of Samoyeds is similar to that of the Siberian Husky. Their most notable feature is their brilliant and fluffy white double coat. They have a curled tail similar to the Malamute and they sometimes sleep with their tail over their noses to provide additional warmth.
Samoyed’s eyes are typically brown or black in colour and are almond in shape. They also have triangular shaped ears and are solidly built dogs.
Interestingly, despite their similar appearance and character to Siberian Huskies, they are not an aggressive breed of dog. It is extremely rare to find an aggressive one and because of this they make poor guard dogs. However, they are known to bark whenever someone approaches their territory.
Samoyeds are excellent companions and are great around children or other dogs. They do need plenty of exercise to keep themselves stimulated and they have a tendency to start digging when they are bored. Due to their herding nature, they will often try to move children and other dogs in a different direction by rounding them up.
13 – Finnish Spitz
Indigenous to Finland, the Finnish Spitz was breed to hunt all types of game from squirrels and other rodents to bears. The Finnish Spitz was developed by selectively breeding Spitz-type dogs that inhabited Russia several thousand years ago. Finno-Ugrian tribes in the far northern regions bred dogs to their specific needs and found the Finnish Spitz to be particularly good at hunting.
By 1880, the breed was becoming extinct due to it mating with other breeds of dog. Around the same time, a Finnish sportsman named Hugo Roos decided to revive the breed. He saw the many virtues of the breed and only selected pure Finnish Spitz dogs to breed from. Thirty years of breeding led to the modern Finnish Spitz.
These dogs have square build and a double coat that consists of a dense under coat, and a long guard coat. Proper coat care is incredibly important for this breed. It is important that owners brush out the old undercoat so that the new coat can grow properly, as excessive undercoat can cause skin problems.
Finnish Spitz puppies are often described as having a similar appearance to a red fox cub. They are born with a dark, grey, black, brown or fawn coat, but the adult colour is typically golden-red with variations from pale honey to dark chestnut.
They are an active, lively dog and they love to bark. In Finland, these dogs are even prized for their barking ability and they can bark as many as 160 times per minute. Finnish Spitzes are independent, determined and very intelligent. They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods and can be excellent companions.
14 – Japanese Chin
While it bears the name of Japan, the Japanese Chin is actually believed to originate from China. The route by which it arrived in Japan is widely debated, but it is thought to have arrived when the breed was gifted to the Japanese royalty in AD 732 by the rulers of Korea. The breed is descended from the “Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog” and originated at about the same time as the Tibetan Spaniel.
The Japanese Chin was unique as it was owned strictly for companionship, rather than its working abilities. Due to its distinct appearance and character, the Chin was only allowed to be owned by those of royal and noble blood.
The breed stands about 20 to 27cm in height and can vary in weight from a low 1.4kg, all the way to 6.8kg. They have a distinctive expression that is characterised by large wide-set dark eyes, a large rounded broad head, a very short muzzle, feathered eyes and unique facial markings.
The Japanese Chin has one coat and it can be either black and white, red and white, or a combination of the two (tricolour).
Japanese Chins are considered to be one of the most cat-like dog breeds in terms of attitude. They are incredibly intelligent, independent and they even use their paws to wash their face. Additionally, they like sleeping on high surfaces, hiding in strange places and they have a very good sense of balance.
The breed is very friendly, but can be defensive when they sense something is out of the ordinary. They can be easily socialised and they are very good around other dogs or children. Additionally, as the Japanese Chin was bred for the purpose of entertaining their owners, they can perform a variety of different tricks.
15 – Tibetan Spaniel
Like the Japanese Chin, the Tibetan Spaniel is descended from the “Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog”. The breed originated over 2,500 years ago in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet and they were used as monastery dogs.
The Tibetan Spaniel was not only used as a pet and a companion, but also a watch dog. They would sit on the walls of monasteries, keeping watch over the countryside. Their keen eyesight gave them the ability to see great distances and they would bark to alert the monks and Tibetan Mastiffs down below. Additionally, they were trained to spin the monk’s prayer wheels and would sleep with the monks at night to keep them warm.
This breed has a small domed shaped head and short blunt muzzle. They have wide set eyes and their ears are featured. The neck is covered in a mane of hair, which is why they have the nickname “little lions”. Tibetan Spaniels come in a range of different colours including; white, red, gold, cream, black, fawn or a mixture.
Like the Japanese Chin above, the Tibetan Spaniel is almost cat-like in its behaviour. They will climb onto any high place they can get to and they love to be around people. It is important that they have regular contact with humans and they do not respond well to being left alone. However, Tibetan Spaniels can be somewhat aloof with strangers and they need to be socialised at an early age.
16 – Pekingese
The Pekingese originated in China and is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, with the first recorded noting around 2,000 years ago. They share their ancestry with the Tibetan Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Terrier and the Pug.
For centuries, the Pekingese could only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. During the Second Opium War, in 1860, British and French troops found a number of Pekingese at emperor Xianfeng’s palace and took them back to the west. Around the turn of the century, the breed become very popular in the west.
Despite being over 2000 years old, the breed has hardly changes. One difference is that modern breeders and dog show judges seem to prefer the long-haired variant to the more traditional spaniel-cat one.
Pekingese dogs have a very distinctive flat face and their compact body sits low to the ground. The breeds unusual rolling gait may have been deliberately bred into them to prevent the dogs from wandering away in ancient times.
Their coats come in a wide range of colour combinations such as; red, gold, cream, white, tan, black, grey and even blue. They usually weight anywhere from 3.2kg to 6.4kg, but they can be slightly smaller or larger.
Daily brushing and a trip the groomers every 8 – 12 weeks is required to keep their coats healthy and presentable. Additionally, the breed is prone to heatstrokes due to their abundance of fur.
Pekingese are extremely affectionate dogs and make great companions, but their stubbornness makes them difficult to train. They can be wary of strangers, which makes them excellent watchdogs. The breed is fond of barking, so it may be a good idea to train them not to at an early age.
17 – Lhasa Apso
Like the Tibetan Spaniel, the Lhasa Apso were bred as watchdogs for places such as palaces and monasteries. The breed gets its name from the city of Lhasa, which is the religious and administrative capital of Tibet. Apso means “bearded” in Tibetan, which means that Lhasa Apso translates to “long-Haired Lhasa dog”.
It is believed that the breed was domesticated and actively bred as long ago as 800 BC. They are closely related to the ancestral wolf and in Tibet they are referred to as Apso Seng Kyi, which can be translated as “Bearded Lion Dog”.
The Lhasa Apso has a long, heavy coat that is very dense. They come in a variety of colours including black, white, red, tan and gold. Most have black noses with dark brown eyes, but some may have liver-coloured noses.
The breed’s protective nature can surprise those who are unfamiliar with them, but they are never usually aggressive. They make excellent watchdogs as they are highly alert and can be somewhat suspicious of strangers.
Lhasa Apsos must be socialised early and trained well. These dogs are more difficult to train than more obedient dogs such as Labradors. Training should be consistent and if you do not take charge, the Lhasa will.
This breed is known to be impatient with children and can sometimes nip if they become annoyed. They tend to bond with adults more, or those who are particularly gentle with dogs.
18 – Shih Tzu
The name may mean Little Lion, but there is nothing fierce about the Shih Tzu. This breed is believed to have originated in China as far back as 800 BC. It is thought that the breed developed from a cross between the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese.
The breed was a favourite of China’s royals and so prized that, for many years, the Chinese refused to sell, trade or give them away. The first Shih Tzus didn’t make their way to the west until the 1930’s and weren’t widely spread until after the second World War.
These dogs have large dark eyes and a short muzzle. They have a long double coat that is soft to the touch, but some may have a shorter curly coat. The coat comes in a variety of colours, but is usually white, black or grey. Daily brushing is required to avoid tangles and regular grooming is needed as their coat grows so quickly.
As this breed was bred to be a friendly companion, they are incredibly affectionate and make excellent pets. They love to meet new people and dogs, and they are well suited to city or country life.
Shih Tzus are excellent around children and they tend to get along well with other animals. While they were not bred to be watchdogs, the Shih Tzu makes for great guard dog due to their active and alert nature.
19 – Tibetan Terrier
Another breed to originate from Tibet, the history of the Tibetan Terrier dates back thousands of years. They were kept as mascots, good luck charms, watchdogs, companions and even herding dogs. Tibetan Terriers were often used to retrieve items that had fallen down mountain sides.
Also known as the “Holy Dogs of Tibet”, Tibetan Terriers were never sold and only given as gifts by monks. Because of this, current Tibetan Terriers can be linked to a handful of foundation dogs. Tibetan Terriers were kept purebred for over 2000 years and were often referred to as “the little people”, as they made great companions. The first Tibetan Terriers were brought to Europe in the 1920’s.
Tibetan Terriers are a powerful, medium sized dog, with a shaggy coat. Their size and weight can vary wildly, with some weighing as much as 14kg. They have widely set, dark eyes and a skull that is neither rounded nor flat.
The breed features a double coat that requires occasional trimming. The coat should be long and thick, but not so much that it touches the floor like in other breeds such as the Lhasa Apso. Their coat is so effective that Tibetan Terriers can withstand temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius.
Tibetan Terriers are active enough to compete in agility training and they need regular exercise to keep them both mentally and physically stimulated. They are incredibly alert and make excellent watchdogs. Despite being incredibly friendly, they can be reserved with strangers.
20 – Norwegian Elkhound
This wolf-like breed is one of the ancient Northern Spitz breeds and is the National Dog of Norway. Like many of the other Spitz dogs, the Elkhound was used as a hunter, herder and defender. They are known for their courage when hunting moose (or elk) and other large game such as bears.
The history of the Elkhound dates back thousands of years, with archaeologists finding skeletons of dogs that resemble the breed as far back as 5,000 BC. The Norwegian Elkhound became a breed of interest after the Norwegian Hunters Association held its first dog show in 1877.
Norwegian Elkhounds should ideally stand about 50cm high and weigh up to around 23kg. They have a double coat that is usually grey, white and black in colour, and a tightly curled tail.
The Norwegian Elkhound is exceptionally affectionate and loyal, and they tend to be very good around children. Despite being good around people, Elkhounds can be somewhat aggressive to other dogs so it is important to socialise them as early as possible.
They can be dominating and difficult to train due to their intelligence and independence. Training requires a consistent and firm approach, and there is no room for timidness. The breed requires plenty of exercise and while they do okay in apartments, they are better suited to houses with sizable gardens.
21 – Swedish Vallhund
The national dog breed of Sweden can trace its roots back to the 8th or 9th century, however, its origins may date even further back. Also known as the Västgötaspets or Swedish cow dog, the Vallhund was bred to herd cows and protect livestock.
The breed is thought to have played a part in the development of the modern Welsh Corgi and the Lancashire Heeler. They are related to the other, larger Spitz breeds which have been found buried with their owners thousands of years ago. The skeleton of the Vallhund is remarkably similar to that of the Elkhound above.
Vallhund’s have a strong, long body and they are born with every variance of tail length, from no tail to a full length one. They have a harsh topcoat and a soft, dense undercoat. Their fur can vary in colour from grey to brown/red to black and they are usually darker on their back, sides and neck.
They are an energetic, lively breed that are known to create games to keep themselves mentally stimulated. Vallhund’s love any form of training, dog sports or activities and will be keen to head out the door with you.
While the Vallhund sounds like the perfect breed of dog, with their lovely nature and medium sized build, they are not for everyone. The Vallhund has a tendency to bark at strangers and their high energy levels are not suited to inactive owners.
22 – Icelandic Sheepdog
Another breed from the Spitz family, the Icelandic Sheepdog was brought to Iceland by the Vikings. The Icelandic Sheepdog very much resembles dogs found in graves in Sweden and Denmark from about 8000 BC, but it is unsure when exactly the breed first came into existence.
Plague and canine distemper wiped out over 75 percent of the breed in the late 19th century, which led to a ban on importing dogs to Iceland. The breed faced extinction once again in the late 20th century, and as a result the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association was setup to preserve the breed.
While, the Icelandic Sheepdog was not used to take sheep from one place to another, it was used to prevent them from wandering off. The breed was also used to herd other animals such as horses as well. In Iceland, sheep often become lost and it is the job of the Sheepdog to find them and return them to the herd. They are, therefore, very good at working on their own and figuring out problems by themselves. Additionally, these dogs were used to protect livestock from birds of prey.
Due to their history as a working dog, the Icelandic Sheepdog is incredibly tough and active. They are always alert and active, giving visitors or family members a very enthusiastic welcome. They are not aggressive and they get along well with children, as well as other pets.
This breed is excellent for activities such as dog agility trials, obedience training, tracking, herding and much more. If you are looking for a great breed to train and work with, the Icelandic Sheepdog should be on your list.
23 – Keeshond
Named after the 18th-century Dutch Patriot, Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer, the Keeshond is closely related to German spitzes such as the Pomeranian and Klenspitz. The breed was previously known as the Dutch Barge Dog, as it was frequently seen travelling on barges and boats on rivers and canals in Holland.
Like other spitz-type dogs, the Keeshond has a double coat with a softer undercoat and a rougher top coat. Males tend to lose their coat once a year, while females lose it twice a year and they require regular brushing. Their coat colour is usually a mixture of grey, black and white, but with a small amount of cream on the legs and feet.
They are sturdily built, with a wedge shaped head, small pointed ears and an expressive face. The tail is tightly curled and it can be difficult to distinguish it from the rest of the body.
Keeshonds tend to be very active, playful dogs and they are very eager to please. They are incredibly intelligent and will quickly learn any commands you teach them. Because of this, they make excellent agility and obedience dogs. In some cases, they have been trained to serve as guide dogs.
This breed is excellent around children and they make great family pets. They usually get on well with other dogs and animals in the house. However, Keeshonds can clingy and they are known for their very load, distinctive bark. If you are looking for a quiet dog, the Keeshond is probably not going to be the right breed for you.
24 – Standard Schnauzer
Schnauzer-type dogs of medium size were bred as working dogs in 14 – 16th century Germany. They were used as herders, guard dogs and general all-purpose working dogs, and they have appeared in numerous artworks across the ages.
The breed was used by peasant farmers for centuries, but with the advent of dog showing in the 19th century they quickly became a favourite for shows. The first official recorded import of a standard Schnauzer into the United States happened in 1905, but it wasn’t until after World War I that they became more popular. During the First World War, Schnauzers were used by the German Army to carry small packages and by the Red Cross as guard dogs.
Standard Schnauzers have distinctive long eyebrows and beards. Their coats are always pepper and salt or black in colour, with stiff and wiry hair. A Schnauzer’s hair will perpetually grow in length, but contrary to popular belief they do shed to some degree. While other dogs usually shed their coat twice a year, a Schnauzer’s coat will become dull and easy to pull out. When this happens, the coat can be stripped out by hand, letting the new coat grow. Alternatively, the coat can be clipped but this does result in a less full coat.
The breed makes for an excellent family dog and they are incredibly loyal to their owners. They can adapt to almost any climate condition and they are known to be good with children. Proper training and socialisation at an early age will make them very tolerant and patient in almost any situation.
They are known to be intelligent and easy to train. In Stanley Coren’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs”, they were ranked 18th out of 140 different breeds of dog for their intelligence and ability to follow commands.
25 – Pomeranian
The earliest recording relating to the Pomeranian breed is from 2 November 1764, in a diary entry in James Boswell’s Boswell on the Grand Tour: Germany and Switzerland. Additionally, the breed was referred to in Thomas Pennant’s A Tour of Scotland from 1769.
Pomeranians were first brought to England in 1767 and the breed’s evolution was heavily influenced by the British Royal Family. In 1912, two Pomeranian dogs were among only three dogs to survive the sinking of the Titanic.
They are compact but sturdy dogs, weighing in at anywhere from 1.9-3.5kg. The breed has a top coat that forms a ruff of fur on the neck, which they are well known for. Modern Pomeranians come in almost any colour, but early ones typically featured white, black or brown coats. They have a double coat and breeders recommend that they are groomed daily.
Pomeranians are usually a very friendly, playful breed of dog and they make excellent family companions. However, they can be aggressive with other dogs and they will need to be trained to live with other animals.
The breed can be somewhat defensive of their territory and as a result they may bark when someone comes to the door. This breed needs early training and socialisation to prevent them from becoming dominant.
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