There are about 400 recognized dog breeds today and a great number of new breeds in development.

There is truly a dog to fit every requirement for size, color, skill, adaptation, character, and more. There are dog hotels, dog vacations, dog whisperers, dog doctors, the list goes on. Dogs today are a multi-billion-dollar industry. The bottom line is that (generally) people love dogs and, in return, dogs (generally) love people. They are surely the most loyal, devoted, forgiving, affectionate, and nonjudgmental companions, although they may not be the cleanest, most obedient, or quietest!

  • Primitive Dogs and Sight Hounds

    The first breeds that helped man, appearing around 5000 B.C., are even found in cave drawings. These are the most ancient breeds: the first dogs to differ from wolves.

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  • Sporting Dogs

    Naturally alert and active, Sporting dogs love to be outdoors. Bred for hunting, they need a lot of exercise. Sporting dogs love people and make great companions.

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  • Herding and Guarding Dogs

    Herding and Guarding dogs were bred to assist with the movement and protection of livestock. Energetic, smart, and serious, they are protective and make excellent watchdogs.

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  • Scent Hounds

    Scent Hounds are hunting dogs that primarily use scent rather than sight. Built for endurance rather than speed, they can be loud and single-minded when they are following a scent.

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  • Spitz-Type Dogs

    Generally from the Arctic or Siberia, Spitz dogs usually have long, thick fur, pointed ears and muzzles, and curly tails. Spitzs specialize in hunting, herding, and pulling sleds.

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  • Terriers

    Typically small, wiry, active, and fearless, terriers were bred to control small nuisance animals by following them into their burrows. Now, most terriers are loyal and affectionate family pets.

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  • Companion and Designer Dogs

    These dog's only job is to keep people company. Often miniature versions of larger dogs or artful breed combinations, they are unsuited to living outdoors and prefer to be lapdogs.

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  • Mutts

    Mixed breed dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Appearance, intelligence, and temperament are based on their breeding stock. Mutts are less likely than purebreds to be susceptible to health problems.

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The Wolf Within

Dogs are members of the large Canidae family, which is divided into Canini(related to wolves) and Vulpini(related to foxes), all of which share some basic behaviors. Wolves, jackals, and coyotes are the domestic dogs' closest relatives, and they are all members of the genus Canis; they all share the same number of chromosomes and are able to interbreed. Genetic evidence indicates that our modern dogs, in all their incredible variety, trace back to the Gray Wolf, Canis lupus, although there is continuing debate over precisely how, where, when, and why domestic dogs evolved from these wild relatives.

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About Breeds

The oldest dog types are thought to have developed as early tribal groups migrated from central and eastern Asia, taking their dogs with them. The dogs evolved in response to their geographic environments and new functions. Although no written records exist from these early times, people probably began to breed their dogs for certain characteristics such as hunting ability, guarding ability, herding skills, and even companionship. This gave rise to early types like the Molosser, ancestor to the mastiff breeds and famed for its use in warfare.

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Kennel Clubs and Breed Standards

By the 1800s, it had become fashionable to own dogs of specific breeds, even though the term "breed" was still used loosely. The first official dog show was held in Birmingham, England, in 1859, with classes for pointers and setters. The same year, another was held that included spaniels, and the following year, hounds were added. At this time, there was still no formalized way of judging a dog, and no breed standards.

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Dogs in Fashion

The old adage "all men are equal, but some are more equal than others" could well be applied to dogs. Throughout history, there have been some breeds or types that have stood apart from the others. Among the most notable were the sight hounds. Historically, Greyhounds and other "elite" sight hounds were wholly the preserve of the most important members of society. They were highly prized for hunting (Alexander the Great liked them because they could keep up with his horse), and unlike most other hunting dogs, the sight hounds were not kept in kennels; instead, they were afforded lavish treatment and typically kept indoors. Of course, it helped that they are renowned for their affectionate temperament. They were so respected that they were given as diplomatic gifts to dignitaries across Europe; and they were especially popular in Spain, Italy, and France, where they changed hands for vast sums of money. In the eleventh century, it was made illegal for "commoners" in England to own them.

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Licensed from ContentOro, Inc. and used under license from Moseley Road Inc.—Dogs Unleashed, by Tamsin Pickerel