If you had to guess, how many dog breeds do you think there are? The answer is a tricky one because it depends on who you ask. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are 193 dog breeds. The AKC recognizes new breeds periodically, though, so that number is subject to change. Other organizations identify as many as 340 breeds. In reality, there are likely well over 1,000 dog breeds worldwide. Why the difference? Why are some dog breeds recognized over others? Let’s discuss how dog breeds are classified.
What ARE Dog Breeds?
All dogs are the same species: Canis familiaris. Despite being one species, dogs range in size, appearance, weight, and a host of other factors from one breed to another. While most of us can identify at least a few dog breeds, we may have trouble articulating just what constitutes a breed. Traditional breeds were developed for specific purposes in specific areas, like guarding flocks, protecting property, or hunting. As humans improved each breed further and further for their tasks through artificial selection, they developed specific traits and characteristics that set them apart from other dogs. Most traditional breeds have lineages going back hundreds or even thousands of years.
As humans have become more adept with breeding dogs for specific characteristics, more breeds have developed. Once a breed has a “standard,” precise measurements and classifications that breeders can reproduce in offspring, that breed can apply for official recognition by an established organization. Plenty of breeds are not officially recognized, however, and they are still popular. Examples of popular unrecognized breeds include:
Dog Breed Classifications
The AKC classifies dog breeds based on the job for which they were originally bred. The categories are as follows.
Humans created breeds in the sporting group to assist in hunting. Some breeds are retrievers that retrieve game, especially downed birds and waterfowl, for their human partners. Others like setters, spaniels, and pointers could identify, flush out, and retrieve pheasants, quails, and other game birds. Due to their job, sporting group breeds tend to have thick, water-resistant coats and webbed feet that allowed them to swim and retrieve birds even in cold weather. Popular sporting group breeds include the Labrador Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, and German Shorthaired Pointer.
Unlike sporting group breeds, who assist with hunting, hound group breeds have a much more active role. These breeds actively pursue quarry during a hunt and may even bring down the kill for their human companions. Hound breeds are further divided into sight hounds and scent hounds, but both are perfectly built for their jobs. Most sight hounds have long legs, wide, accurate vision, erect ears, and explosive speed and agility. Contrarily, scent hounds are equipped with some of the strongest noses in the dog world, often with long drooping ears that stir a scent up into their faces. All hounds have a very strong prey drive, stubbornness, and determination. Popular dog breeds in the Hound group include Bloodhounds, Greyhounds, and Wolfhounds.
Dog breeds in the working group include some of the world’s oldest, most ancient breeds. Most of these breeds were created to assist humans in some way. These jobs could consist of guarding livestock, property, or people, pulling carts, or performing other everyday jobs. Many of these breeds still work in these fields today. Working group dogs are generally imposing in appearance, with large, muscular bodies, and independent, intelligent natures. Popular breeds of working group dogs include the Great Dane, Rottweiler, and Boxer.
Humans bred terriers to pursue vermin like rodents. Since these animals tend to burrow underground, terrier breeds were bred to pursue them there. Short-legged terriers like the Dachshund can fit into underground burrows to find and kill their prey. Terriers with longer legs could dig into these burrows after their quarry. Some breeds in this group later began to perform other jobs, most notably the “bully breeds” that became popular for bull or bear-baiting. Popular terrier group breeds include the Dachshund, Boston Terrier, and Bull Terrier.
The toy group receives its name due to the stature of the breeds that inhabit it. Another name for the toy group breeds is lap dogs; these dogs are tiny enough to fit most people’s laps. Most of these breeds developed for this very purpose, some as many as 2,000 years ago! That’s right; pugs have been cuddling humans since as long back as 400 BC. Breeds in the toy group are small, observant, loving companions. Their diminutive size makes them ideal for any family but especially those who live in cities or apartments. Popular toy group breeds include the Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, and Pug.
Breeds in the herding group have one job: to herd. Their job was, and often still is, to move livestock from one place to another for their shepherding humans. These breeds are highly intelligent, capable of working in sync with their humans and independently too. Some herding breeds have graduated to herding people as police or military dogs. Herding group breeds are very trainable but also high energy; they need a job to do. Popular herding breeds include the German Shepherd, Border Collie, and Welsh Corgi.
Non-Sporting Group of Dog Breeds
The non-sporting group is like the miscellaneous group: the catch-all for breeds that don’t fit into any of the 6 other groups. As a result, they’re a patchwork of different breeds that don’t share common characteristics besides adorable wet noses! Popular non-sporting group breeds include Bulldogs, Poodles, and Dalmatians.
Dog Breeds For All
All these dog breeds have different appearances, temperaments, and personalities. This variety is great because this means that there’s probably a dog breed for you no matter your circumstances or lifestyle.
What breed is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!