I have a dog that could be considered rare.
I must admit, I like having a dog that is uncommon. She certainly isn’t the right breed for everyone, but then, no dog is. All dog breeds have their own traits and characteristics that should be considered when getting a dog, not just their appearance. My dog is a Dogo Argentino. (The breed only became recognized by the AKC this past year.) It is interesting how people react to a dog breed they don’t recognize. Almost everyone wants to guess what kind of dog she is. Some people guess that she is an American Bulldog; others think she is a White Lab. But many people think she is a giant Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix because of her square jaw.
Really, we are so used to the few dozen well-known breeds that we don’t even stop to think how many dog breeds there actually are. Of course, some breeds are more common in their county of origin. And some are uncommon because they are working dogs that aren’t suited to life other than on a farm. But the most common pet breeds are found all over the world. The World Canine Organization currently recognizes 360 breeds of dogs. The American Kennel Club now recognizes 195 breeds, with one or two new ones added each year.
Here’s the A to Z (really to Y!) of rare dog breeds that are recognized by the AKC. How many of them have you heard of?
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Instagram via @hoobynooThis adorable little breed is part of the Toy Group of dogs. They weigh between 7 and 10 pounds. According to the AKC, they are “loyal, curious, and famously amusing; this almost-human toy dog is fearless out of all proportion to his size. As with all great comedians, it’s the Affenpinscher’s apparent seriousness of purpose that makes his antics all the more amusing.”
The breed was developed in Germany, and has been around since at least the 15th century. They were originally bred to be ratters in homes, stores, and stables. Nowadays, like most toy dogs, they are companion dogs.
While the Affenpinscher was officially recognized by the AKC in 1936, it’s a breed that most of us are not familiar with. If you are a dog show afficionado, you may remember in 2013, an “Affen named Banana Joe delighted America by winning the Westminster Kennel Club’s Best in Show.”
American Hairless Terrier
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Instagram via @schmutznasenHairless dogs are not a common sight. Although we may have seen pictures of this type of dog, we may have never seen one in person. The American Hairless Terrier comes from Louisiana. Hairless dogs can be a good choice for people who are allergic to dog fur. This breed is typically smart, inquisitive, and playful, according to the AKC. They can weigh between 12 and 16 pounds, and they are fearless protectors, despite their small stature. They are said to be active dogs, typical of the terrier group.
Basset Fauve De Bretagne
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Instagram via @doris_the_fauveThis breed has roots going back to the 1500s in France. But in the U.S., the AKC recognizes it in its Foundation Stock Service. This means that its resources can be used to track breeding, but it is not a recognized breed at this time.
The history of this hunting dog is reported by the AKC as follows: “Up until the French Revolution, only the aristocracy were allowed to keep hounds and hunt with them via horseback. In 1789, aristocratic privileges were abolished, allowing anyone to own and hunt a hound. Most peasants, however, did not own a horse, necessitating a shorter-legged, closer-ranging hunting companion. Thus, the Basset was developed. How the Basset breed was formed is a matter up for debate, but most likely smallest bred to smallest over an extended period of time.
“By the 19th century, hound packs were made up exclusively of Bassets to hunt rabbits, hare, fox, roe deer and wild boar. Though it was rumored that both the Grands and Bassets nearly became extinct during WWII, it was confirmed by leading French Fauve Expert Mme. F Corbeau of the French Club du Fauve de Bretagne that the breed remained strong in popularity by French huntsmen.
“The breed still remains a popular, versatile hunting hound and family dog in France, is gaining popularity in the United States and has breed clubs in numerous countries.”
Perhaps we will be seeing more of these in the future.
Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound
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Instagram via @bavarian_mountain_hourThis medium-sized pup can range anywhere from 37 to 66 pounds, according to the AKC. They report them to be “calm and balanced, devoted to its owner, and reserved with strangers. He is a sound, self-assured, unafraid, biddable dog, neither shy nor aggressive.”
The breed was developed for hunting, as the name suggests. It was specifically created “to fill this need of a lighter, more agile hound.”
According to the AKC: “In the 1870s, Baron Karg-Bebenburg, Reichenhall, crossed a Hanoverian Scenthound with a red Mountain Scenthound to achieve what became the Bavarian Mountain Scenthound. In 1912, the Club for Bavarian Mountain Scenthounds was established in Munich, Germany and is the only recognized club for the breed in that country. Today, these dogs are the quintessential hunting companion for professional hunters and gamekeepers. Though still rare, there is growing interest in this breed, with clubs in multiple countries including Great Britain and the United States, as well as Germany.”
Central Asian Shepherd Dog
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Instagram via @dog.white.knightHere’s another breed you have probably never encountered. According to Petguide, “The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is one of the oldest of dog breeds in the world with a history spanning back more than 5,000 years. It is not a breed created by man and are instead a breed that originated as a result of their climate and circumstance.
“The Central Asian Shepherd Dog is a large and powerfully built dog. Its legs are well-boned and muscular. Its back is broad and powerful. The dog’s head is large and its short, powerful neck has an abundance of dewlap. Central Asian Shepherd Dogs come in long and short coat varieties. The most common colors for this breed are white, fawn, black and brindle.”
These giant dogs can weigh up to 176 pounds. They are strong willed, and not suitable for inexperienced dog owners.
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Instagram via @ordonwachtelThe Deutscher Wachtelhund is another breed that is part of the AKC Foundation Stock Service and not a fully recognized breed.
According to the Deutscher Wachtelhund of North America, “The Wachtelhund is a medium-sized gundog, thick boned, muscular, with long thick wavy hair. Wachtelhund history dates back to the 1700s. It is a versatile breed only owned by hunters, gamekeepers, and professional hunters in Germany. It has vibrant and friendly personality, but is an obsessive scent follower with bloodhound-like persistence. The Wachtelhund is easily trained to hunt all type of game (feathered and fur). It is a great retriever for dense undergrowth and makes an excellent water dog.”
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Instagram via @evas_dogo_cooperThis is the breed of dog that I have. As you would guess from the name, the breed originated in Argentina.
Dogtime describes Dogos as follows: “The Dogo Argentino, sometimes called the Argentinian Mastiff or the Argentine Dogo, is a strong, athletic, and loyal breed. They can be both fierce hunters and gentle protectors of their humans. They have a high prey drive, a strong will, and, at times, a distrust of strangers and other animals, all of which require an experienced dog owner to handle the breed.
“Dogo Argentino puppies need lots of physical activity and mental stimulation along with patient training, or else they can become bored and destructive. Dogo Argentinos are often used to help with big-game hunting, though they are also trained for police work, search and rescue, military work, and as service dogs.”
You might have seen Dogos on TV in recent years, on the HTV show Good Bones, and on Showtime series Ray Donovan.
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Instagram via @ceeskolkmanHere is a breed that has been around since the 1600s, but you’ve probably never heard of it. It originated in the Netherlands as a hunting dog. According to the Drentsche Patrijshond Club of North America, “The Dutch Drent breed club has founded the Drent breed on three “pillars”: hunting, pet qualities, and watch dog. During the breed’s long history, the Drent had to pull triple duty. Not only was the dog expected to help put meat in the pot, it was expected to warn of visitors to the farm or estate, and to be a pet ‘par excellence’ for the family. This is what makes the Drent such an ideal hunting dog for us in the U.S. Not only are they intelligent enough to be useful in hunting a variety of game, they are also marvelous additions to the family. The Drent is a true versatile hunting dog.”
Entlebucher Mountain Dog
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Instagram via @nala_entlebucher_mountain_dogThe Entle, as it is affectionately called, is a medium-sized pup. Vetstreet says: “The athletic and physical Entle makes an excellent family dog; he is known for his extreme devotion to his family. He is a great watchdog, as he is aloof with strangers and has a big bark for his size. Self-assured and determined, he is intelligent and thrives on being with his people.”
They also say, “His greatest happiness is being part of an active family that loves him and considers him worthy of doing a job, whether that is practicing his training every day, competing in agility, helping parents watch the kids, or being a therapy dog. Any type of job will do, but he has to have one.
“Being a watchdog is one way the confident and determined Entle contributes to his family’s well being. Typically he barks only when he has reason to, and not just for the sake of hearing himself. He’s wary of strangers, and territorial, making him an excellent watchdog. His bark is pretty big for a dog his size, which adds to his prowess at this job. Because of his protective nature, he should be socialized to many people and places when he is quite young.
“The Entlebucher needs a lot of exercise. He was bred to herd cattle, and in his current role as companion, he gets by with hours of playing hard with balls or running around. Whatever is chosen as his activity, he needs a lot of it.”
Estrela Mountain Dog
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Instagram via @lord_fariaThese large dogs can weigh up to 130 pounds. Petguide provides the following description of the breed: “Also known as the Cao da Serra de Estrela, the Estrela Mountain Dog is a large breed native to the Estrela Mountains in Portugal. This breed has been used to guard homesteads and herds for centuries and, because of its size, it is a formidable opponent to even large predators. Though this breed may look intimidating, he is loyal and affectionate with family — it also does well as a guard dog. If you are looking for a breed of dog that will protect your family and your property, especially your children, the Estrela Mountain Dog may be a good option for you.”
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Instagram via @kayatheshepherdThese adorable dogs are about 23 to 28 pounds of cute. Vetstreet has this to say about this rare breed: “The Finnish Spitz barks. That’s the first thing you should know about him. He was developed to bark and that’s what he does. He uses many different sounds to communicate, and ‘talking’ to you will be an important part of his life. Get this dog only if you are willing to teach him when it’s okay to bark and when it’s not. On the plus side, he’s an excellent watchdog and will always let you know if someone is approaching the house or something out of the ordinary is going on.
“This is an active dog that needs daily exercise that will challenge him physically and mentally and prevent him from becoming destructive or noisy in an attempt to entertain himself. Plan to exercise him for 20 to 30 minutes at least once a day. He performs well in dog sports such as agility, flyball, obedience and rally, and is a sturdy and tireless playmate for kids.
“This intelligent and highly trainable dog responds well to positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise, and food rewards, but he is an independent thinker. Don’t expect unquestioning obedience from him and you won’t be disappointed. Keep training sessions short and fun so he doesn’t get bored.”
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Instagram via @glitch_the_dogHere is what Dogtime says about this unusual breed: “The German Spitz is one of the oldest dog breeds originating from Europe. Attentive, energetic, and devoted, these pups have some of the best qualities among any dog breed around.
“These adorable pooches can make great apartment dogs due to their small stature and are suited for any type of household or family, though they have a tendency to be yappy. If you want an energetic ‘firecracker’ dog who will keep you on your toes, alert you to any potential dangers, and love you unconditionally, this may be the right dog for you!”
Glen of Imaal Terrier
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Instagram via @jill_the_glenThese cute pups are true Terriers; they are hardy and resilient. According to the Glen Imaal Terrier Club Of America, they were bred to be silent working dogs. The breed is described as stubborn and independent. They can weigh between 32 to 40 pounds, and stand about 14 inches tall.
The GITCA also says: “Glens tend not to be hyper. Many, in fact, could easily be considered bona fide couch potatoes, yet they can be extravagantly silly and full of pluck, finding pleasure in the most peculiar (to us) preoccupations. Some entertain themselves by just running in circles. They are adoring of children, but it should be remembered that a 35-pound, well-muscled dog can easily knock over a young child. It is unlikely that such a youngster could control a Glen on a lead.
“Simply put, Glens are most often quite easy to live with, and they are extremely easy to love. While not constantly demanding attention, they adore human contact and return the gesture with gentleness and forbearing.”
Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen
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Instagram via @zorrothegbgvThe Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen is a rough-coated scent hound from France, as you would guess from the name of the breed. Chances are, you’ve never seen one in person. There are fewer than 400 of these dogs in the U.S., according to the AKC.
The breed was recognized by the AKC in 2018. These pups weigh between 40 and 45 pounds when they are full-grown. In an AKC article introducing the breed, Corey Benedict, president of the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen Club of America, says: “They are bred to hunt in packs in France, so they should get along with other pets. They love kids, but being a hound means they have to be kept in a fenced-in area or on a lead. Their temperaments are more laid-back than those of their cousins, the PBGV (Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen.”
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Instagram via @reikarikiThese medium-sized dogs can weigh around 44 pounds for females and up to 66 pounds for males. So, although they look something like a Shiba Inu, they are larger. They are an ancient breed that originated in Japan.
According to Primitive Dogs, “The Hokkaido Dog is a powerful, faithful and sturdy-looking working dog with strong hunting instincts. He is very similar to the Kai Ken, Kishu or Shiba Inu both in personality and appearance. In its native country, this breed has always been highly prized for its undisputed loyalty, high trainability, insane bravery, and protective nature. On top of that, Dō-Ken is wild, vigorous, hardy, tough, alert, but at the same time gentle, playful, docile, and eager to please. So, as you can see, this is truly a dog of many qualities. In the past, Ainu Dogs were mostly used for large game hunting and guarding, while today they are primarily used as watchdogs and family companions. Indeed, this dog makes a wonderful companion that is incredibly loyal and submissive to its human family. He will naturally be devoted and affectionate to all members of the household, and will enjoy and cherish every moment spend with his loved ones. However, as it is case with many other breeds from the Far East, Hokkaido Ken creates strongest bonds with his primary owner, to whom he will be extremely devoted until the end of his life.”
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Instagram via @iristhehovawartThis is another reportedly ancient breed — it comes from Germany, and its name means “yard or farm watcher.”The AKC recognizes the breed with the Foundation Stock Service.
According to the AKC, the Hovawart can weigh between 65 and 90 pounds. They describe the breed as follows: “The Hovawart is a medium-temperament working dog with versatile usage and has a very good nose. He is kind, has an even disposition and protective instinct, is self-confident, and has the ability to take stress. His balanced body proportions and special devotion to his family make him an outstanding companion, watch, guard, tracking and rescue-dog.”
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Instagram via @gingahoundsHere is what Your Purebred Puppy has to say about these exotic-looking dogs: “The Ibizan Hound, affectionately called ‘Beezer,’ belongs to a family of dogs called sighthounds. The slender, long-legged sighthound is a hunting breed that spots the movement of prey across a vast distance, and runs it down with lightning speed.
“Once past the boisterous puppy stage, the sleek Ibizan Hound is quiet, gentle, and relaxed indoors and can be a couch potato.”
They further describe the hound’s nature as follows: “Sighthounds are very different from other kinds of dogs. They won’t try to haul you around on the leash like many other breeds do; instead they might display passive resistance by bracing their legs and refusing to move at all. Ibizan Hounds are independent thinkers, so you need to rely on establishing the right leader-follower relationship where your Ibizan Hound understands that you mean what you say.”
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Instagram via @sjaakietdraakieThis German-bred terrier weighs between 17 and 22 pounds. Animalso sums up the breed as follows: “The Jagdterrier (also known as German Hunt Terriers or Deutscher Jagdterriers) is a fierce and tenacious hunter capable of challenging not only common prey animals like game, wild boars, foxes, weasels, and badgers, but also dangerous prey like bobcats and cougars. They also hunt for squirrels and raccoons too through tree hunting.
“Judging his hunting skills by its height and weight is a huge mistake. On the field, the German Hunt Terrier is a bright, determined, robust, brave, and unrelenting hunter. Bold, steady, and confident, he will not back down from any challenge. This dog is hugely intent in the hunting pursuit. Basically, out in the field, he rocks!”
This relatively new breed was developed in the early 1900s. The AKC recognizes this breed in their Foundation Stock Service.
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Instagram via @crispbeanAnother Japanese dog breed, the Kishu Ken can vary in weight from 30 to 60 pounds. This breed is also listed with the AKC Foundation Stock Service. It’s one of six Spitz-type dogs from Japan. According to The Nihon Ken Forum (a discussion group for all six Japanese Spitz-type dogs), there are very few breeders of these all-white dogs outside of Japan.
Here is how the AKC describes the breed: “The Kishu Ken is a great dog for an active person and has the ability to be an easy-going house dog when they are not out and about. They are medium-sized, well balanced, and their muscles are well developed. They have pricked ears and a curled or sickle tail. Kishus are very loving and affectionate with their families and need to be included in activities. They are great with kids if raised with them, but they are often aloof with strangers. Kishu Ken have high prey drives and might like to give chase to small animals. If he is raised with a small animal such as a cat, he could do well with them, but most Kishus can’t help but give in to their instincts.”
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The AKC describes the breed as “a medium to high energy dog. Intelligent, alert and friendly, they are quick to learn new tasks. A sturdy little dog with a short, weather-resistant coat of black and tan or liver and tan, they are affectionate with their owners, always happy, talkative, and always ready for a walk. Their small size is what gives them their charm.”
These dogs are indeed rare. According to the AKC, “In 2003, the breed was placed on the Endangered Breeds list of The Kennel Club, U.K, due to the small number of dogs composing the gene pool and the risk of several inherited diseases.”
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Instagram via @toportyugramThese all-black dogs from Hungary look like a curly haired Spitz. They weigh up to 29 pounds and stand between 15 and 18 inches tall. This medium-sized dog was originally bred for herding.
According to Petguide, “The Mudi is an exceptional companion as well as intelligent. Few people have even heard of the breed but that is for a good reason; this dog is a rare breed. There are actually less than a few thousand existing today. Fortunately, enthusiasts who love this breed are changing that.
“The Mudi (pronounced Moody), is a hardworking herding dog. Because he considers his family his flock, he is rather aloof and watchful when strangers are introduced. This breed usually makes good watchdogs.”
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Kooikers are a Spaniel-type dog from the Netherlands. The AKC has the following to say about the breed: “In its homeland, the Netherlands, the Kooiker’s job was to lure ducks into a cage, the kooi, from where the hunter fetched the ducks and brought them to market. Today, there are still a few kooien operating, where ducks are lured, banded, and released for research. In the U.S., it is a companion animal, well suited to agility, rally, obedience, barn hunt, dock diving, etc.”
Get ready to see more of these dogs, because they’re now officially a member of the American Kennel Club’s companion events family, which means plenty more of them will be popping up in Best in Show rings and dog sports.
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Instagram via @gilberttheotterhoundThe AKC describes the Otterhound as follows: “Big, boisterous, and affectionate, the Otterhound was bred in medieval England for the now-outlawed activity of otter hunting. This scarce breed is known for his dense shaggy coat, webbed feet, acute sense of smell, and affinity for swimming.”
They further state: “These big, bouncy hounds were ideally suited for otter hunting. OHs are built to be expert swimmers, from the top of their rough, waterproof coat to the bottom of their big webbed feet. A broad chest and powerful shoulders allow them to swim all day without tiring. Their large black nose is amazingly sensitive and could follow an otter’s underwater scent trail over great distances. And the OH’s size and strength enabled them to take on a sharp-toothed, razor-clawed otter that might weigh 20 pounds.”
Peruvian Inca Orchid
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Instagram via @rebecca_and_dogsThe unusual-looking Peruvian Inca Orchid is a dog you would remember if you were to see it. Although they do come with fur, they are most recognizable as one of very few hairless breeds. In Peru, the breed is commonly known as the “Calato,” which in Quechua, the language of the Incas, translates to “naked dog.”
This breed has been around for hundreds of years. Vetstreet recounts the history as follows: “When Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru, one of the amazing discoveries they made was the presence of hairless dogs in Incan homes, lounging in orchid-scented luxury. They called the dogs ‘perros flora,’ or flower dogs and reported that the hairless dogs were highly valued and allowed out only at night so they wouldn’t become sunburned. They were sequestered as well from the coated dogs, which were kept indoors at night so the hairless dogs could have the moonlit nights to themselves. The resulting small gene pool probably contributed to the missing teeth, linked to the hairless gene, that are often seen in the hairless variety.
“The interesting hairless dogs from Peru were first brought to the United States in 1966. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1996, and it is part of the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous Class, the last stop before full recognition. The Peruvian government declared the breed a national patrimony in 2001.”
Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog
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Instagram via @mioriticuzunuThis unusual breed hails from Romania. According to Dog Breed Info, they are: “vivid and balanced; alert and vigilant, disciplined and very attached to its owner, but suspicious with strangers. Fearless and very courageous, he is the perfect protector of his owner and the herds. He is a vigilant, courageous and dominant dog, though he obeys his owner with calm and discipline. An incorruptible guard and a wonderful pet. A very goodflock guard, very brave, and an efficient fighter against possible attackers (bear, wolf, lynx). When raised as a working livestock guardian it will not be trustworthy with unknown people. It loves children very much. The objective in training this dog is to achieve pack leader status…The humans must be the ones making the decisions, not the dogs. That is the only way your relationship with your dog can be a complete success.”
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Instagram via @anne.brittaThe Segugio Italiano is a rare dog pretty much anywhere except in Italy. Dogzone has this to say about the breed: “The Segugio is an Italian scent hound that has been on the trail of wild boar in its homeland for at least the last 2,000 years, and remains a very popular breed there today. Don’t be surprised, however, if you’re not familiar with the Segugio, for not a single one has been registered in the United Kingdom in the past 10 years, meaning anyone wanting to acquire one of these beautiful dogs will need to source it from abroad. As a hound, it has a strong urge to hunt, but it is now just as often kept as a pet, and it is a kind, gentle character that is suitable for any home without small pets. As one might expect from a pack animal, it is very sociable with other dogs.
“Part of the Segugio’s hunting technique involves baying loudly and melodiously when on a scent trail. In this way, it can startle any prey in hiding, causing them to run in front of the hunter’s gun. It can also use this voice to good effect as a watch dog, but its musical qualities might not be appreciated by neighbors, so the Segugio should not be left alone and bored, when it is most likely to start singing. It is a breed intended for long periods of vigorous exercise, and must be afforded the same when living as a pet in order to prevent obesity and frustration setting in. Remarkably, there are no recognized inherited health problems in the Segugio Italiano, and it has a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years.”
Treeing Tennessee Brindle
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Instagram via @northboundhoundNever heard of this breed? You aren’t alone. This unusual dog has its roots in the Cur dogs of the Appalachian Mountains. The breed received Foundation Stock Status from the AKC in 1995.
“If you’re looking for a dog that is courageous, intelligent, and makes an excellent companion, the Treeing Tennessee Brindle could be for you,” according to Dogster. “The Treeing Tennessee Brindle is an affectionate and laid-back dog who is good around children. They make enjoyable living companions who love their families and prefer to be around everyone (though they will likely just be lying at someone’s feet).
“Although the Treeing Tennessee Brindle may seem almost lethargic in the house, it needs a moderate amount of exercise to stay healthy. They love being outdoors, so activities such as camping and hiking will create a strong bond between you and help keep your Treeing Tennessee Brindle happy.”
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Instagram via @wobke_wetterhounThe rare Wetterhoun is another one of many breeds that almost became extinct during World War II. Fortunately, the Wetterhoun is increasing in numbers, but it’s still considered a rare breed.
According to Petguide, “The name of this breed comes from the Dutch for ‘water dog’ and the breed was developed more than 400 years ago in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands. This breed is also sometimes referred to as the Otterhound or the Dutch Spaniel, though it is technically not a type of spaniel. The Wetterhoun is thought to have descended from the now-extinct Old Water Dog and it may have been crossed with an indigenous Frisian breed. Throughout its history, the Wetterhoun has been used as a gun dog, a watch dog, and a water retriever.”
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Instagram via @luna_the_xoloThe Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced “show-low-eats-queen-tlee”) has a look as distinctive as its name. This ancient breed is reportedly more than 3,000 years old. They are the dogs of the ancient Aztecs. The breed comes in three sizes (toy, miniature, and standard), and they can either be hairless or have a very short coat.
“Both varieties come in dark colors, ranging from black, gray-black, and slate, to red, liver, or bronze,” according to the AKC. “The face is thoughtful and intelligent, and a Xolo’s forehead will wrinkle when he’s deep in thought. The Xolo’s graceful, elegant body is surprisingly strong and rugged.”
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Instagram via @canilyalumeHere is the description of the Yakutian Laika given by Dog Lime: “The Yakutian Laika is a medium-sized dog breed that is bred in the Yakutia region of Russian Land Siberia. They were used as a sled dog and still today in some parts of the world they work as a sled dog. They were also used as a hunting dog and herding dog in the mountain region.
“Although the Yakutian Laika was used as a working dog in the past, now they make an excellent family companion. They are a very hardworking, active dog at the same time playful with the family members. As a working dog, they do best if kept in an open house with space for them to roam.”
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