Dog breed

Dog breed
Chihuahua mix and purebred Great Dane

Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock.[1]

The term dog breed is also used to refer to natural breeds or landraces, which arose through time in response to a particular environment that included humans, with little or no selective breeding by humans.[2] Such breeds are undocumented, and are identified by their appearance and often by a style of working. Ancient dog breeds are some of the modern (documented) descendants of such natural breeds.



Dog breeds are not scientifically defined biological classifications, but rather are groupings defined by clubs of hobbyists called breed clubs. A dog breed is represented by a sufficient number of individuals to stably transfer its specific characteristics over generations. Dogs of same breed have similar characteristics of appearance and behavior, primarily because they come from a select set of ancestors who had the same characteristics.[3] Dogs of a specific breed breed true, producing young closely similar to the parents. An individual dog is identified as a member of a breed through proof of ancestry, using genetic analysis or written records of ancestry. Without such proof, identification of a specific breed is not reliable.[4] Such records, called stud books, may be maintained by individuals, clubs, or other organizations.


In biology, subspecies, race and breed are equivalent terms. Breed is usually applied to domestic animals; species and subspecies, to wild animals and to plants; and race, to humans.[5] Colloquial use of the term dog breed, however, does not conform to scientific standards of taxonomic classification. Breeds do not meet the criteria for subspecies since they are all considered a subspecies of the gray wolf; an interbreeding group of individuals who pass on characteristic traits and would likely merge back into a single homogenous group if external barriers were removed. The recognition of distinct dog breeds is not maintained by a scientific organization; they are maintained by a number of independent kennel clubs that need not apply to scientific standards and are often inconsistent. For instance, the Belgian Shepherd Dog is separated into four distinct breeds by some clubs, but not in others. Further, some groups of dogs which clearly share a persistent set of characteristics and documented descent from a known foundation stock may still not be recognized by some clubs as breeds. For instance, the feist is a hunting dog raised in the Southern United States for hunting small game. Feists have a consistent set of characteristics that reliably differentiate them from other dog types and breeds. However, the United Kennel Club recognizes one breed of feist, the Treeing Feist, while the American Kennel Club does not recognize any feist breed.

A dog is said to be purebred if its parents were purebred and it meets the standards of the breed. Purebred dog breeders of today "have inherited a breeding paradigm that is, at the very least, a bit anachronistic in light of modern genetic knowledge, and that first arose out of a pretty blatant misinterpretation of Darwin and an enthusiasm for social theories that have long been discredited as scientifically insupportable and morally questionable."[6] Morally questionable policies regarding purity of breed include obligatory surgical procedures to spay or neuter animals in numerous contexts. The American Kennel Club, for instance, allows mixed-breed dogs to be shown but requires these animals to be altered. It does not make such requirements for purebred dogs. California Assembly Act AB 1634 was a bill introduced in 2007 that would require all non-working dogs of mixed breed over the age of 6 months to be neutered or spayed.[7] The bill was morally controversial, leading the American Kennel Club to fight the bill.[8]

The clear genetic distinction between breeds of dog has made dogs of specific breeds good subjects for genetic and human medical research. "Using the dog as a discovery tool" in studying how cancer affects specific breeds may lead to identifying "susceptibility genes that have proved intractable in human families and populations."[9]

History of dog breeds

Spanish water dog (Perro de agua español). There are many different theories as to its origin

Pariah dogs originally established themselves near human populations,[10] developing and maintaining themselves without further selection. They do not carry any specialized working dog functions. Working, hunting and other functional breeds most likely appeared when there was a demand for certain traits and humans were able to devote time and resources to perfect those traits.

Initial dog selections centered on helpful behavior such as barking at unfamiliar creatures and people, guarding livestock, or hunting game. Some dog breeds, such as Saluki[11] or New Guinea Singing Dogs , have been bred for thousands of years. Some working dog breeds such as German Shepherd or Labrador Retriever[12] were established in the last few hundred years. More recently, dogs have been selected for attractiveness and distinctive features, resulting in a vast variety of breeds. Similar dog breeds are classified by dog registries in Dog Breed Groups.

Groups of individuals that have dogs of the same breed often unite into national breed clubs, describing their dogs in specific language by writing a breed standard.[13] Breed standards prescribe the most desirable specimen attributes and working abilities for purebred dogs of that breed as well as undesirable traits. National breed clubs promote their breeds via the local breed registry and international organizations. Dogs recognized by the main breed registries are said to be "purebred".

Development of dog breeds

For the history and development of the dog, see Origin of the domestic dog, Ancient dog breeds, and Dog type.

There is much speculation but little evidence about why canids came to live with or near humans, possibly as long as 100,000 years ago.[14] With the beginnings of agriculture around 12,000 years ago, humans began making use of dogs in various ways, resulting in physical differences between dogs and their wolf ancestors.[15] In earlier times, little was written about dogs, although there were known dog types or landrace dogs, which developed over time with minimal human intervention, to fit in with the environment (including human culture) in which the dogs lived or live.[16][17] Dog breeds in the modern sense date only to the accurate documenting of pedigrees with the establishment of the English Kennel Club in 1873, in imitation of other stud book registries for cattle and horses.[18]

Many dog breeds today have names of original landrace types, such as the Border Collie. Other landrace types, such as retrievers, have been made more uniform in appearance through selective breeding, and developed into a variety of distinctive breeds.[19] Varieties of purebred dogs kept for working purposes can vary in appearance from purebred dogs of the same breed kept as showdogs and pets.[20]

New dog breeds are being continually created. They are either accidentally or purposely crossbred from existing breeds, developed for a specific style of work, or created just for marketing purposes. Recently discovered semi-feral and landrace types such as the New Guinea Singing Dog have been documented and registered as breeds for purposes of preservation. The Canadian department of agriculture has strict standards for the documenting of what it calls "emerging breeds".[21] Many registries which require minimal documentation are available for registering new and existing breeds of dog.[22] In general, a dog can only be guaranteed to be of a specific breed if it is documented in the stud book of a major dog registry or breed registry.[23]


Dog breeds can now be analyzed through genetics. Genetic markers (microsatellite markers and single-nucleotide polymorphisms) have been analyzed and a representative sample of 85 breeds were placed into four clusters, each cluster having shared ancestors. Cluster 1 is thought to be the oldest, including African and Asian dogs. Cluster 2 is mastiff type dogs; cluster 3 is herding dogs, and cluster 4 modern hunting type dogs (mostly developed in Europe in the 1800s.)[24]

  • Note: Relationships uncovered through genetics may not match "official" breed histories. The following breed lists are based on genetic research, not traditional beliefs about dog breeds.

Dog breed documentation

Stud books

Dog breeds are documented in lists of antecedents called a stud book.[26]

Dog breeds that have been documented may be accepted into one or more of the major registries (kennel clubs) of dog breeds, including the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (covering 84 countries), The Kennel Club (UK), the Canadian Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Clubs International, the Australian National Kennel Council and the New Zealand Kennel Club, and other national registries. The registry places the breed into the appropriate category, called a Group. Some Groups may be further subdivided by some registries. When the breed is fully accepted, the stud book is closed and only dogs bred from dogs in the stud book will be accepted for registration.[27] These dogs are referred to as purebred.

Dog breed clubs, especially of dogs bred for a particular kind of work, may maintain an open stud book and so may not be included in major registries. The dogs are still considered a breed. An example of this would be the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America.

Some dog breeds fit the definition of breed, especially breeds that develop naturally on islands or in isolated areas, but are few in number or have not been sufficiently documented to be registered with one of the major registries. An example of this would be the Kintamani Dog and other rare or independent breeds.

Breeds of dogs can be deliberately created in a relatively short period of time. When they breed true and have been sufficiently documented, they can be accepted by major registries. An example of this is the Cesky Terrier.[28]

Breed standards

Each dog breed has a written Breed Standard, a list of attributes that standardises the appearance of the breed, written by the breed's founder or breed club. Dog are judged in Conformation Dog Shows on the basis of how closely the individual dog conforms to the breed standard. As the breed standard only covers external aspects of the dog's appearance, breeding working dogs for show competition may cause appearance to be emphasised to the detriment of working ability.

Groups of dogs mistaken for breeds

Groups of dogs that may be mistaken for breeds include working dogs that are categorized by working style rather than appearance, although they may be of various ancestry and may not breed true. The difference between a named group of working dogs and a breed of dogs can be unclear. Examples would be the huntaway and other livestock dogs of New Zealand, the feist dogs of the southern United States, and the Patagonian sheepdogs of Argentina, which are collies mixed with other working dogs.[29]

Landrace dogs are another grouping that often have been named but are not always considered breeds.[30] "Landrace" is a term used for early types domesticated animals, including dogs, where isolated populations of dogs are selected according to human goals; developing over time rather than through modern breeding techniques.[31] An example of a landrace dog would be the dog described as 'Basset' as early as 1585.[32] The landrace Basset was developed into the modern breeds of Dachshund and Basset Hound, as well as modern day terrier breeds.[33] A Labrador is a type of dog.

Another group of dogs that may be mistaken for breeds are the progeny of intentional crossbreedings of two purebred dogs. The popularity of these crosses are often the result of fads. Examples include the Puggle and the Labradoodle.[34]

A black first-generation Labrador/Poodle cross puppy (informally referred to as a Labradoodle) only a few days of age.

Mixed breed dogs may be offered a form of registration to allow them to participate in organized dog events. Often given the name All-American or AMBOR dog, the name does not signify that dogs so registered are a breed. Dogs must be spayed or neutered to be registered.[35]

Individual dogs or small groups of dogs may use an existing breed name or be given an invented breed name and listed with little or no documentation for a fee with "registry" companies with minimal verification requirements. The dogs are then bred and marketed as a "registered" breed, sometimes as a "rare" or new breed of dogs.[36]


See also

  • Category:Dog breeds.


  1. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged.. The Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff PA. Springfield, Massachusetts, USA: G&C Merriam Company. 1967. pp. 274. "A breed is a group of domestic animals related through common ancestors and visibly similar in most characteristics, having been differentiated from others by human influence; a distinctive group of domesticated animals differentiated from the wild type under the influence of man, the sum of the progeny of a known and designated foundation stock without admixture of other blood." 
  2. ^ Coppinger, Raymond & Lorna Coppinger. Dogs. Scribner 2001, ISBN 0-684-85530-5, Chapter 3, "Natural Breeds", p. 85. "Natural breeds can arise locally with no human interaction"
  3. ^ Donna L. Morden; Seranne, Ann; Wendell J. Sammet; Gasow, Julia (2004). The joy of breeding your own show dog. New York, N.Y: Howell Book House. ISBN 0764573020. 
  4. ^ Lynn Marmer (1984). "The New Breed Of Municipal Dog Control Laws:Are They Constitutional?". first published in the University of Cincinnati Law Review. Retrieved 04/10 2008. "The court found it was impossible to identify the breed of an unregistered dog." 
  5. ^ Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary: "Breed is usually applied to domestic animals; species or variety to wild animals and to plants; and race to men."
  6. ^ Budiansky", Stephen (2000). The Truth About Dogs; an Inquiry into the Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits, and Moral Fiber of Canis familiaris. New York, U.S.A.: Viking Penguin. p. 35. ISBN 0-670-89272-6. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Canine Genetics Offers New Mechanisms for the Study of Human Cancer", by Edouard Cadieu and Elaine A. Ostrander, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 16, 2181–2183, November 1, 2007. Published Online First November 2, 2007; doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-2667
  10. ^ "Information and facts on partnership between dogs and humans". 1984. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  11. ^ Allan, Ken; Allan, Diana (1999). THE COMPLETE SALUKI (Book of the Breed). Ringpress Books. ISBN 186054195X. 
  12. ^ Heather Wiles-Fone; H. Wiles-Fone (2003). The ultimate Labrador retriever. New York, N.Y: Howell Book House. ISBN 0764526391. 
  13. ^ The Complete dog book: the photograph, history, and official standard of every breed admitted to AKC registration, and the selection, training, breeding, care, and feeding of pure-bred dogs. New York, N.Y: Howell Book House. 1992. ISBN 0876054645. 
  14. ^ Carles Vilà (et al.) of the University of California, California, USA, has studied archaeological evidence (fossil bones) indicating that canids could have been living with humans 100,000 years ago."Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog". Science Vol. 276. no. 5319. 1997. pp. 1687–1689. doi:10.1126/science.276.5319.1687. Retrieved 04/20 2008. "The sequence divergence within this clade suggested that dogs originated more than 100,000 years before the present." 
  15. ^ Christine Mlot (June 28, 1997). "Stalking the Ancient Dog". Science News Online. Retrieved 04/20 2008. "When we became an agricultural society, what we needed dogs for changed enormously, and a further and irrevocable division [between dogs and wolves] occurred at that point." 
  16. ^ 1 Catherine Marley. "What is a "Landrace"". The Lhasa Apso Information Source. Archived from the original on 12/04/2008. Retrieved 04/08 2008. "These animals developed their "type" from adaptation to a mix of function and the demands of the particular physical environment." 
  17. ^ Johan Gallant; Joseph Sithole (1999-01-01). "Description of the AFRICANIS landrace". Breeders in Africa website. Retrieved 04/08 2008. "The people to whom these dogs traditionally belong do not tend to make body contact with them. However their settlements are seldom deserted from humans, other dogs and livestock, ensuring adequate socialization and environmental adaptation." 
  18. ^ The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. New York: Howell Book House. 1995. pp. 8. ISBN 0-87605-624-9. "In the strictest sense, dog breeds date back only to the last couple of decades of the nineteenth century, or to more recent decades in this (the twentieth) century but distinct types of dogs have existed centuries earlier." 
  19. ^ D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM. "Livestock Guard Dogs: What is a Breed, and Why Does it Matter?" (essay). Kangal Dogs website. Archived from the original on 20/10/2004. Retrieved 04/08/2004. "The level of uniformity varies from breed to breed as the breeders' associations decide what to include and what to exclude." 
  20. ^ Diane Jessup. ""Different" breeds with the same name". Retrieved 04/09 2008. 
  21. ^ "Animal Pedigree Act 1985". Department of Justice, Canada. Retrieved 04/09 2008. 
  22. ^ Diane Blackman. "Getting a dog tips-Red Flags, Breeders you probably want to avoid" (website). Dog Play. Retrieved 04/09 2008. "Be especially cautious of registries that complain of some imagined difficulty or expense in registering dogs through AKC." 
  23. ^ "Purebred dog registrations". Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Retrieved 04/09 2008. "Many puppy mills and backyard breeders are registering their dogs with invalid, Internet based registries." 
  24. ^ a b c d e Ostrander, Elaine A. (September–October 2007). "Genetics and the Shape of Dogs; Studying the new sequence of the canine genome shows how tiny genetic changes can create enormous variation within a single species". American Scientist (online). pp. also see chart page 4. Retrieved 09/22 2008. 
  25. ^ The Akita breed was left out of the American Scientist article from the reference cited within it without explanation. With Akita, the number of breeds is 85, matching the article's count. Parker, Heidi G.; et al. (21 May 2004). "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog" (PDF). Science 304 (5674): 1160–1164. doi:10.1126/science.1097406. PMID 15155949. Retrieved 20 May 2009. 
  26. ^ American Kennel Club. "AKC Glossary". Retrieved 03/26 2008. "A listing of dogs that have sired or produced a litter that has been registered with the AKC. With this information, a person can use Stud Book volumes to trace a dog's lineage and to produce pedigrees." 
  27. ^ American Kennel Club. "AKC Glossary". Retrieved 03/26 2008. "A dog whose sire and dam belong to the same breed and who are themselves of unmixed descent since recognition of the breed." 
  28. ^ KLUB CHOVATELÙ ÈESKÝCH TERIÉRÙ (KCHCT). "History of Cesky Terrier" (in Czech, English). Retrieved 03/26 2008. 
  29. ^ Rorem, Linda. "Herding Dog Breeds - Stockdog breeds". Herding on the Web. Retrieved 03/26 2008. 
  30. ^ "How to find a farm collie or shepherd". 2001. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  31. ^ Don Bixby (2003). "Types of Breeds". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  32. ^ Don Bixby (2003). "History of the Basset Hound". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  33. ^ Marvin, John T. (1982). "2". The New Complete Scottish terrier (Second ed.). New York, New York: Howell Book House Inc.. pp. 18. ISBN 0-87605-306-1. 
  34. ^ Trivedi, Bijal (February 9, 2004). "What's a Labradoodle—Designer Dog or Just Another Mutt?". National Geographic Channel. Retrieved 03/26 2008. 
  35. ^ United Kennel Club. "UKC Registration, Limited Privilege". Retrieved 03/26 2008. [dead link]
  36. ^ Wray, Michelle (2000). "Puppy Mills : What They Are and What You Can Do About Them". DORG Magazine. Retrieved 2008-03-26. "The AKC has now started requiring DNA testing for breeding dogs and puppies, which increases the costs to the miller dramatically, and vastly increases the chances of them getting caught for their dirty dealings and losing AKC privileges. Does this deter the millers? Not really. They just turn to different registries, like the Continental Kennel Club (CKC), America’s Pet Registry (APR), and others. Purebred papers from these sources are not worth the paper they’re printed on. Millers don’t even have to prove they own the dogs they bred, or that they are the breed they claim. These registries will even register mixed breeds" 

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