There are so many unique dog breeds that you’d never come across at the local park. A lot of them are endangered, foreign, or simply hard to find. These are my favorites, and I find them all fascinating in their own way.
This ball of fur was, and still is, used to protect monasteries and homes in Tibet. With a thick coat and weighing in at 100 to 160 pounds, these dogs were bred to survive the harsh winters of Central Asia.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
This canine with an amazing afro originated in Scotland during the 1700s. The breed is a mix of the Skye Terrier and the now extinct Scotch Terrier, giving the dog its unique look. Both farmers and gypsies used the dog to hunt rats and badgers because of their short legs. The animals remain rare, and only a few hundred get registered every year.
These fluffy beasts are a cross between a Newfoundland, St. Bernard, and a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, with males reaching up to 170 pounds. According to legend, they were bred to look like the lion featured on the crest of their hometown, Lionberg, Germany. Only eight of these gentle giants were left after the Second World War.
Portuguese Water Dog
These dogs are known for having beautiful curls, as well as being amazing in the water. They were originally bred on the shores of Portugal and used to herd fish into nets, retrieve lost tackles, and acted as couriers from ship to ship. In the 1930s, the breed was on the brink of extinction until a wealthy Portuguese merchant started a breeding programme, though they still remain rare.
Löwchen translates to “Little Lion” in German, and it’s one of the rarest breeds on the planet, originated as far back as 1442. This magnificently elegant and loving dog acted as a companion for the wealthy elite of France and Germany and has been found historically across paintings and tapestries.
This Belgian dog is the descendant of small terrier-like dogs that were used to hunt rodents. Griffons are affectionate, charming, curious and known for their almost human expression. The World Wars nearly wiped out the breed, and by the end of the WWII, Belgium had no Griffons left. The breed remains extremely rare.
New Guinea Singing Dog
Also known as the “singing” or “stoneage dog,” this breed was in complete isolation for more than 30,000 years, only to be discovered in an excursion high into the Papua New Guinea mountains in 1950. As their name suggests, they love to sing, and when they get together, they howl in different pitches, almost like a barbershop quartet. There are less than 100 outside of their natural habitat, where they’re almost impossible to track down. Since they haven’t been domesticated for long, they’re not recommended for most families.
Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless Dog)
The Xoloitzcuintli has existed for more than 3,000 years and can be traced back to ancient Mexico. Hairlessness gave these canines an advantage in tropical regions and they were quickly domesticated as home and hunting companions. The animals can be found in art from the Colima, Aztec and Toltec civilizations.
Vlcaks are as close as most can get to owning a wolf. This breed has only been in existence since 1955, when German Shepherds were bred with wolves. While they are just as obedient and friendly as German Shepherds, they maintain their wild nature and love to be members of a pack.
These herding dogs were bred for the Alps and have evolved to possess thick dreaded coats, which don’t shed and require surprisingly little care. These gentle giants are obedient, observant and patient. They usually form close bonds with their owner, though they can be shy in the company of strangers.
Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen
Grand Bassets earned their extravagant name by helping French aristocrats in their hunting trips. Now, the breed serves as a magnificent companion. These short-legged dogs are about 50% longer than they are tall.
You’ve probably already guessed it, but Heelers are thought to be the descendents of Welsh Corgis and Manchester Terriers. They have the same herding instincts as their ancestors and were bred to herd cattle but also make great house pets.
These rare herding dogs, native to Hungary, are priceless to those lucky enough to own them. Mudis are extremely intelligent, powerful, courageous and most importantly, loving. Perhaps their most notable feature is their wavy, sheep-like coat.
These elegant canines were a popular choice amongst Russian aristocracy, and they didn’t make it outside of Russia until the 1990s. Standing 8 to 10 inches tall and weighing 3 to 6 lbs, they’re around the same size as a chihuahua, sporting magnificently long hair from their ears.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog
If bears are a problem in your day to day life, then you need to get a Caucasian Shepherd Dog. Weighing in at between 110 and 200 lbs, these intelligent giants are used to protect livestock and their owners from bears and wolves in Georgia.
The “Viking Dog” has been around for more than a millenium. It was originally bred to herd cattle in Scandinavia, catch vermin, and guard homes with its deceptively ferocious bark. Centuries of domestication have created a loving dog that strives for human attention and praise.
After years of defending flocks of animals in Slovakia, the Slovensky Cuvac has developed into a natural guardian of its pack, whether they be human or otherwise. Although they may look like they’re all fur, the cuvac is naturally very muscular, and their weight is mostly muscle.
Although they may look intimidating, Neapolitan Mastiffs are 150 pounds of love. The breed was only found in the Campania region of Southern Italy for more than 2,000 years. In the past, they were used in Roman arenas, now, they serve in the police force and army where their size and intelligence makes them invaluable.
No, that’s not a lamb. Surprisingly, these adorable dogs have strong jaws and were bred to kill rats and fight other dogs, before the practice was outlawed. Today, Bedlington Terriers remain energetic rascals, requiring training to get along with others.
Bouvier Des Flandres
Bouviers were originally bred as working dogs by Belgian monks. That work ethic and loyalty to humans remains, with a history of pulling ambulances and finding wounded soldiers during the World Wars. Legend has it that one of these animals bit the hand of Adolf Hitler.
Otterhounds were bred in the United Kingdom during the 19th century to hunt otters. When Otter numbers in the UK fell, so did breeding of this gorgeous dog, and now, only around 1,000 Otterhounds remain in the world.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
Leopard dogs were the first dog to be bred in North America and were used in hunting and herding. Just like their names suggest, these dogs are known for their leopard-like patchwork coats. They have a reputation of being extremely friendly with humans.
Lapphunds have been herding reindeer in Lapland for more than 7,000 years. These elegant dogs have extremely big hearts and are incredibly rare with only 5 to 10 in the United States.
Salukis are one of the oldest breeds on the planet, dating back to 6000 BC. Their beauty was so revered in Ancient Egypt that many were mummified alongside Pharaohs. In muslim regions, the Saluki was considered noble while other dogs were seen as unclean.
Karelian Bear Dog
In their homeland of Finland, these hunting dogs are regarded as a national treasure. As their name suggests, they’re used to hunt bears and attract an animal’s attention, while a human hunter goes in for the kill. If trained correctly, they can also be loyal and obedient members of a human family.
Catalburuns are fairly unknown outside of Turkey and one of only three breeds with a split nose. Its nose is thought to be one of the best for tracking.
Chinese Cresteds are hairless, except for their feet, head and tail. What they lack in a coat, they make up for in personality. These dogs are alert, charming, agile and lovable as well as affectionate and playful with children. Though they don’t molt much, they require special care, especially in the extreme cold and warm.