Dogs come in many shapes and sizes. From tiny teacup Chihuahuas to giant Great Danes, they display a variety of traits that reflect their purposeful breeding or natural tendencies. With the distinct dividing lines between each breed, some of them have become coveted for their beauty, work ethic, or even simply their rarity. Kennel clubs across the world recognize some obscure and unusual breeds. Some of these dogs are quite desirable – and thus fetch a very high price. They may be remnants of an old breed that nearly died out, or they could even be from a new breed altogether. It is generally pretty interesting to learn about some of these rare breeds. If you are looking into adopting a rare dog – or if you are just curious about these coveted canines – you should consider learning a bit of the history and facts behind each of these breeds. Read on to learn about the Top Twenty Rare Dog Breeds.
The Xoloitzcuintli – also known as the Xolo or the Mexican Hairless Dog – is an ancient breed. Remains of dogs of this breed have been found in tombs that date back to at least 3500 years ago. The indigenous people who kept these dogs thought of them as protectors who would keep away evil spirits (not to mention physical intruders). They were even sacrificed when their owners perished. The belief was that they would guide their late owner’s soul to the afterlife or underworld. This Mexican breed is incredibly rare. In fact, they nearly went extinct before the World Canine Organization realized that the breed itself was at stake. They quickly organized a program that consisted of ten Xolos at its core. These ten are the ancestors of nearly all modern Xoloitzcuintli. Despite this last-minute revival of the breed, they remain quite rare throughout the United States. However, they are no longer in danger of becoming extinct, thankfully.
The Catahola Leopard Dog – also known as the Louisiana Catahoula or the Catahoula Cur – was originally named after the Catahoula Parish of Louisiana. They have an uncertain past, but there is speculation that they are the descendants of native North American dogs and the canines brought over by European immigrants and explorers. Either way, this is a pretty cool breed that has even been named the state dog of Louisiana. Despite the Catahola Leopard Dog being a state dog breed, many people aren’t even aware of its existence. It doesn’t rank very highly on the most popular breeds in America. Plus, they are quite hard to obtain due to their relative rarity. A purebred Catahoula Cur with the relevant paperwork could fetch thousands of dollars.
The history behind the Bedlington Terrier breed is quite interesting. They are named after Bedlington, a small mining town in northeast England. Originally, these dogs were bred to hunt. Eventually, they were also trained to hunt down vermin in the mines – left unchecked, these populations could contribute to the spread of disease. Plus, they would gnaw on supports, compromising the integrity of the mine. Bedlington Terriers quickly became a favorite after they were introduced as vermin hunters. The Bedlington Terrier breed is another one that is hard to find. Most Americans haven’t even seen one of these dogs in person – let alone owned one. Though their popularity is increasing in the States, thereby decreasing the breed’s relative rarity, they still remain quite difficult to find on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Even in England, Bedlington Terriers are rather uncommon. This contributes to high adoption fees. However, an owner of a dog of this breed will have the pleasure of owning one of the best, most loyal, gentle, and friendly dogs in the world.
Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound
Among the rarest of breeds is the Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound. They have only been spotted in Bolivia and have only made it into popular press a few times. The first known report was from the early 20th century, created by explorer Percy Fawcett. This breed stands apart from the rest due to their ‘double nose’. This looks almost exactly like a normal dog nose, but the nostrils are divided by skin and fur. The story goes that this helps them have a greatly-improved sense of smell. This breed is almost unheard of. It is recognized by no major kennel club and has a mysterious past that can only be speculated on. There are very few of these dogs in the States – if there are any at all – and they are among the least common canines in the world. Despite this, they are actually quite prevalent in their homeland. However, nearly every example of the breed lives in Bolivia with very few ever being exported.
This distinctive looking breed originated near Bergamo, a city located near the Italian Alps. It was first used to help local farmers herd their livestock. The breed is best-known for their thick, abundant coat that forms into ‘dreadlocks’ or ‘flocks’. This helps to keep them warm in the unforgiving atmosphere of the Alps. It also provides another function – protecting the dog from predators. Bergamasco Shepherds make excellent working dogs and great pets. Bergamasco Shepherds are quite hard to find. Prized for their herding ability, most of the dogs of this breed out there today are still living in the Italian Alps region. There is not much information available about how many dogs of this breed are living outside of their original area. However, one survey in the United Kingdom found that there were only about ten of these dogs living in the entire country.
Swedish Lapphunds are famous for being directly descended from a wolf hybrid, which is traceable to a single maternal line that formed right after the dog was domesticated. They are native to Scandinavia and were used by tribal people for hunting for thousands of years. They also are good herders and incredibly resilient working dogs. They even have a weatherproof coat that keeps the cold, harsh climate of their Scandinavian home from affecting them during the winter months. These Spitz dogs are not well-known outside of Sweden. Even inside of their native country, only around 1200 of these dogs exist. Thus, they are nearly impossible to obtain unless you have very deep pockets. If you do manage to come across a Swedish Lapphund that you get along with, don’t hesitate to adopt it. They are great dogs for working, hunting, competing, and just being a member of your family.
Originating in the Fertile Crescent, the Saluki has been known for at least 6000 years. The very first depictions of Saluki-like dogs can be found on ancient Mesopotamian pottery. As time passed, they began to make their way along the Silk Road (a trade route between China and Europe that passed through the Middle East as well) and grow in popularity. Some of the most famous generals and monarchs in the history of the world kept Salukis as pets and companions. This breed is rare today due to the near-extinction event that they suffered during World War Two. Some Western breeders would euthanize entire kennels during air raids, so that they wouldn’t need to die from starvation or bombs. Breeding was minimal, and just barely sufficient for keeping the Salukis from perishing entirely. After the war, breeding operations were able to kick back into gear. Though they remain rare – with only 1-2 thousand in the United States – they are slowly coming back in terms of numbers and popularity.
Peruvian Inca Orchid
Peruvian Inca Orchids (a known subset of Peruvian Hairless Dogs) are one of the many breeds of hairless dogs that originated in South America. However, these dogs predate the “Inca” designation in their name by hundreds – or thousands – of years. It is also interesting to note that they would not have done well in the main part of the Incan Empire. As hairless dogs, the mountainous, cold regions of the main part of the Empire would be deadly. However, this breed can thank the Inca for one thing: after they conquered the dog’s native region, human consumption of this breed was banned entirely (though it was common before). The Inca Orchid subset of the Peruvian Hairless can be traced back to descendants of only 13 dogs. They were only recently recognized by the World Canine Organization and other clubs (such as the American Kennel Club). They remain quite rare – particularly due to the Spanish conquest of Peru, during which many of these dogs were killed. It was the rural dwelling Incas that ended up saving the breed as we know it today.
An ancient Hungarian sheepdog, the Puli was first use for herding and guarding livestock. They would often work in tandem with larger dogs, serving as a sort of ‘alarm’ system. This breed is quite distinctive due to its herding instincts and long, corded fur. They make excellent pets, working dogs, and even show dogs. However, they are quite rare in the United States. Mostly every Puli in the United States today can be traced back to four purebred dogs imported by the Department of Agriculture in 1935. They were attempting to determine which herding dogs could perform the best without ever turning on their own livestock – a serious problem at the time. However, this program was short-lived due to the outbreak of WWII. The Puli were auctioned off – and form the backbone of the US line. Because it was such a short time ago, the breed hasn’t become too widespread and remains an uncommon sight in the States.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
A Scottish breed, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier was first observed during the 1600s in use during the hunting of otters and badgers. They do not have a traceable genetic line. However, there is some evidence that they are directly descended from dogs owned by Willie “Piper” Allan’s estate. Allan died in 1779, leaving his dogs to his son. The breed remained relatively unknown until Sir Walter Scott published Guy Mannering. In this novel, a character named Dandie Dinmont was a breeder of specialist terriers – and thus lent his name to this Scottish breed. These terriers are among the rarest canines on the planet. Very few are ever registered with kennel clubs. This could possibly be due to widespread outbreeding that muddles their genetic line. Either way, if you want to adopt a Dandie Dinmont Terrier, you may have a lot of trouble locating one – particularly in the United States. However, if you’ve got your heart set on a Dandie Dinmont, you will end up getting a friendly, docile, and spunky little dog.
Russkiy Toys – also known as Russian Toy Terriers and Toychiks – are a tiny breed that originated in Russia. They are descended from English-style terriers and were originally bred to serve as a companion for Russian nobility. However, this close link to aristocracy was a key cause of their diminished popularity during the October Revolution. Directly after WWII, only a single dog was shown at a show in Saint Petersburg; very few of these dogs were purebred (let alone had pedigrees). The breed was eventually revived from the few remaining dogs after the war was over. The rarity of these dogs speaks for itself. They are not often seen outside of Russia and were only recently recognized by the World Canine Organization and the American Kennel Club (2006 and 2008 respectively). The American Rare Breed Association also includes the Russian Toy Terrier on its list of the rarest breeds in the country. This organization is dedicated to raising awareness of uncommon dog breeds like this one.
Otterhounds were first observed in Britain in the 19th century. They quickly became popular as hunting dogs with their size, intelligence, stamina, courage, and several other great traits lending themselves well to hunting game like otters. However, as otter numbers began to drastically decline, many people elected to stop hunting them. Thus, a lot of Otterhound packs were disbanded, and the breed began to disappear. The Kennel Club in Britain has recognized the diminishing numbers of the Otterhound. They even included them on the list of Vulnerable Native Breeds to bring attention to these dogs’ plight. There are, after all, only around 600 of these dogs worldwide. They are thus coveted and expensive pups – much more so than some other breeds.
The first African breed on our list is the Azawakh. They were originally used by nomadic tribes in the Saharan and sub-Saharan parts of Africa as guard and hunting dogs. They were especially prized for their incredible speed and hardiness. These dogs love to hunt in packs. Azawakhs also guard in tandem – one will bark, and the others will soon join it to take down the intruder. They are also fiercely loyal and loving companions. Azawakhs are almost never seen outside of Africa. Though there are a few groups that have devoted themselves to spreading the word about this breed, they only recently achieved American Kennel Club recognition. It is not easy to find a dog of this breed in America. Your best bet, should you want an Azawakh, is to try to find a club who can help you import one – and be prepared to write a big check for it.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog
One of the most ancient mountain-dwelling dog breeds is the Caucasian Mountain Dog. They have served as guard dogs since ancient times. This particular breed was very popular in Georgia – especially among shepherds, who essentially depend on them to ensure protection of their livestock. Caucasian Mountain Dogs have also been show dogs since the early 20th century. Caucasian Shepherd Dogs are relatively popular in Russia. However, they are not common at all in the United States. While a pup in Russia might cost an average buyer between $500 and $800, depending on the line, the same dog would bring at least $2000 in the States according to enthusiasts in the show dog scene. As they become more popular, the price should be driven down. For now, however, they remain rare everywhere except for Russia and Georgia.
This breed, named after their city of origin (Brussels), originated as a breed that was kept in livestock stables to keep rodent populations down. They have been depicted as early as 1434 in the painting “The Arnolfini Marriage” by Jan van Eyck. This tiny breed was also quite popular among nobility for some time. In the modern world, Brussels Griffons are among the most uncommon breeds. Besides a brief period of popularity in the 1950s, they haven’t ever been significantly sought after by the public. However, they could be on the rise soon due to the greatly increased interest in toy-sized dogs. Plus, a Brussels Griffon appeared in a film called As Good as it Gets in 1997 – raising awareness of the breed.
One of the most interesting breeds on the planet is the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. They were first created in 1958 and were the result of a Carpathian wolf being crossed with a German Shepherd. Initially, the pups of this breed were nearly impossible to train. However, subsequent generations were bred with German Shepherds in order to decrease the wolf-like traits that they displayed. Due to their unique breeding, they have always been difficult to obtain outside of the Czech Republic. Plus, you must keep in mind that these dogs have not been around for too long and are thus not very numerous. Contributing to their incredible rarity is the prevalence of the breed – it is likely that less than 500 of these dogs exist on the entire planet. Many of them may not even be purebred due to a 2017 scandal in which wolves were being illegally imported to breed with Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs in an attempt to improve their bone structure.
Karelian Bear Dog
The Karelian Bear Dog is an ancient breed that has existed since the Stone Age. They have been companions to humans since early times and are especially popular for their hunting instinct. They could be used for hunting small game such as squirrels. However, their name is not an overstatement – these dogs were often used in pairs to distract brown bears while their hunters set up the kill. Karelian Bear Dogs have even been used in Yosemite National Park in bear control applications. Karelian Bear Dogs are excellent companions and hunters. However, they are nearly impossible to find outside of their native Finland. This is due to the ‘national treasure’ status of the breed in their home country, combined with a lack of awareness about the breed in other areas. Though they are recognized by the AKC, they are not in the least bit popular in the United States.
Portuguese Water Dog
Portuguese Water Dogs date back to canines kept by the Goths – a set of German tribes. This type of dog was brought to the Iberian Peninsula during the raids by the Visigoths and has remained there ever since. The very first description that matches the modern breed was in 1297, when a monk wrote an account of a drowning sailor who was rescued by a black dog with a long, rough coat and a tail tuft. The relative rarity of the breed can be mostly attributed to their close brush with extinction. Had it not been for the efforts of a wealthy businessman named Vasco Bensaude, Portuguese Water Dogs may have been another extinct breed. Though they are not super popular anywhere in the world, and are still somewhat limited in number, they are great dogs for families and fishermen. Just make sure you have a place to let them swim.
Another Hungarian herding dog is the Mudi. They date back to the 15th century and have always been used to herd and protect flocks of sheep. They can handle hundreds of them – up to 500 sheep have been herded by a single Mudi. Many of these dogs were killed or allowed to die during the Second World War, causing the breed to come close to extinction. The Mudi breed has since been reestablished. However, they have only been recognized by a single Kennel Club (as well as the World Canine Organization) and remain quite rare. They are basically unheard of anywhere except their native country. Mudi dogs are good companions, workers, and showdogs. They can also participate in many canine sports – but you still have to obtain one first, which could be a challenge.
New Guinea Singing Dog
It is not often that you hear a dog sing. However, should you head to the island of New Guinea, you might catch sight of a New Guinea Singing Dog. These pups have a unique vocalization that sounds like a singing voice. They are sometimes considered to be wild dogs but are often quite friendly and gentle with humans. Thus, many experts consider them to be feral domestic dogs. Not many are actually kept as pets – they have a tendency to escape from enclosures and make their way back into the wild, despite their friendliness. Their behavior and low numbers make the New Guinea Singing Dog one of the rarest in the world. They have not yet been fully domesticated and are rare to see in the wild. However, a few of these dogs hang around villages, offering protection in exchange for food. In addition, some are kept in zoos. They are not recognized by any canine organization and are undoubtedly the rarest breed of dog in the entire world.