Dog breed

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Chihuahua mix and purebred Great Dane

Dog breeds are dogs that have relatively uniform physical characteristics developed under controlled conditions by humans, with breeding animals selected for phenotypic traits such as size, coat color, structure, and behavior.[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.


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, produce young that are very similar to their 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.


Three generations of "Westies" in a village in Fife, Scotland

Kennel clubs provide the recognition of distinct dog breeds, but there are many independent clubs with differing, and sometime inconsistent standards and they need not apply scientific standards. 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 their parents were purebred and if the dog 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."[5] 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 doesn't 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.[6] The bill was morally controversial, leading the American Kennel Club to fight the bill.[7]

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."[8]

History of dog breeds[edit]

Tesem, an ancient Egyptian sighthound

Archaeology has revealed dog remains of various sizes but there does not appear to have been distinctive breeds until 3,000-4,000 years ago when greyhound-type dogs were depicted on pottery and paintings in Egypt and Western Asia. Mastiff-type dogs were kept for guarding and hunting, and short-legged dogs were also bred. By Roman times, most of the breed-types known today were well-defined and their qualities and functions recorded. Dog breeds proliferated in Europe during the Middle Ages 700 years ago.[9] The Pekingese is thought to have been first bred in the Imperial Palace in Beijing during the eastern Han Dynasty (25-221).[10] Most modern dog breeds are the products of the controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era (1830-1900).[11][12]

For early depictions of dogs in art, see early history.

Development of dog breeds[edit]

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.[13][14] 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.[15]

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.[16] Varieties of purebred dogs kept for working purposes can vary in appearance from purebred dogs of the same breed kept as showdogs and pets.[17]

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".[18] Many registries which require minimal documentation are available for registering new and existing breeds of dog.[19] 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.[20]

Genetic evidence of breeds[edit]


Shar Pei

Shiba Inu

Chow Chow

Akita Inu


Siberian Husky

Alaskan Malamute

Afghan Hound


other breeds in the study

Cladogram of 9 breeds that are genetically divergent from others[21]

Ancient breeds[edit]

In 2004, a study looked at the microsatellites of 414 purebred dogs representing 85 breeds. The study found that dog breeds were so genetically distinct that 99% of individual dogs could be correctly assigned to their breed based on their genotype, indicating that breeding barriers (pure-bred breeding) has led to distinct genetic units. The study identified 9 breeds that could be represented on the branches of a phylogenetic tree which grouped together with strong statistical support and could be separated from the other breeds with a modern European origin. These 9 breeds have been referred to as "ancient breeds", as opposed to modern breeds, because historically it was believed that they had origins dating back over 500 years. The study found that the Pharaoh Hound and Ibizan Hound were not as old as believed but had been recreated from combinations of other breeds, and that the Norwegian Elkhound grouped with the other European dogs despite reports of direct Scandinavian origins dating back 5,000 years.[21]

Dog types[edit]

The spread of modern dog breeds has been difficult to resolve because many are the products of the controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era (1830-1900).[22][23] In 2010, a study looked at 48,000 Single nucleotide polymorphisms that gave a genome-wide coverage of 912 dogs representing 85 breeds. The study found distinct genetic clusters within modern dogs that largely corresponded to phenotype or function. These included spitz-breeds, toy dogs, spaniels, scent-hounds, matiff-like breeds, small terriers, retrievers, herding dogs, scent-hounds and sight-hounds. There were 17 breeds that conflicted with phenotype or function and these were thought to be the result of crossing some of the other phenotypes. As in a 2004 study that found 9 "ancient breeds" to be genetically divergent, the study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern breeds: the Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, chow-chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. The study also found that the Basenji had recent admixture with Middle Eastern wolves, and that there were 3 well-supported groups that were highly divergent and distinct from modern domestic dogs. These were an Asian group (Dingo, New Guinea singing dog, chow chow, Akita and Shar Pei) that showed past admixture with Chinese wolves, a Middle Eastern group (Afghan hound and Saluki), and a northern group (Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky).[24]

See further: Dog type

Basil breeds[edit]

In 2012, a study looked at 49,000 Single nucleotide polymorphisms that gave a genome-wide coverage of 1,375 dogs representing 35 breeds, 19 wolves, and previous published genetic signatures of other breeds, giving a total of 121 breeds covered. The study found a deep genetic split between old-world and new-world wolves, and confirmed the genetic divergence of 13 breeds from a 2010 study plus another 3 - the Eurasier, Finnish Spitz and Shiba Inu. The study referred to these 16 breeds as basil breeds, as opposed to ancient breeds, as they exhibited genetic divergence but not all of them were historically considered to be "ancient breeds". The study found that modern breeds only emerged in the 19th Century and that claims of their antiquity are based on little or no historical or empirical evidence. The study indicated that throughout history, global dog populations experienced numerous episodes of diversification and homogenization, with each round further reducing the power of genetic data derived from modern breeds to help infer their early history. Of the basil breeds, the American Eskimo Dog and Eurasier were the very recent product of cross-breeding other basil breeds. Most basil breeds have hybridized with other lineages in the past, and if those other lineages were other basil breeds then a basil genetic signature remains. The combination of introgression and past population bottlenecks suggested that basal breeds have little or no genetic connections to their ancestral populations and that their genetic distinctiveness does not signify ancient heritage. They are distinctive from the modern breeds because the genetic heritage of the modern breeds has become blurred due to admixture, and the basal breeds have mostly avoided admixture with them due to geographic or cultural barriers.[25]

Dog breed documentation[edit]

Stud books[edit]

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[edit]

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 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.[29] 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".

Groups of dogs mistaken for breeds[edit]

Groups of dogs that may be mistaken for breeds include working dogs that are categorized by working style rather than appearance, even though 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.[30]

Landrace dogs are another grouping that often have been named, but they're not always considered breeds.[31] "Landrace" is a term used for early types of domesticated animals, including dogs, where isolated populations are selected according to human goals; developing over time rather than through modern breeding techniques.[32] An example of a landrace dog would be the dog described as 'Basset' as early as 1585.[33][citation needed] The landrace Basset was developed into the modern breeds of Dachshund and Basset Hound, as well as modern day terrier breeds.[34][citation needed]

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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37]


Main article: List of dog breeds


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Irion, D (2003). "Analysis of Genetic Variation in 28 Dog Breed Populations With 100 Microsatellite Markers". doi:10.1093/jhered/esg004. 
  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 0-7645-7302-0. 
  4. ^ Lynn Marmer (1984). "The New Breed Of Municipal Dog Control Laws:Are They Constitutional?". first published in the University of Cincinnati Law Review. Archived from the original on 2000-09-26. Retrieved 13 December 2013. The court found it was impossible to identify the breed of an unregistered dog. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Cadieu, Edouard; Ostrander, Elaine A. (2007). "Canine Genetics Offers New Mechanisms for the Study of Human Cancer". Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 16 (11): 2181–2183. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-2667. 
  9. ^ Clutton-Brock, J., 1995. Origins of the dog: domestication and early history. In:Serpell, J. (Ed.), The Domestic Dog, its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 7-20
  10. ^ doi:10.1126/science.167.3926.1713-a
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  11. ^ Wilcox, Bonnie; Walkowicz, Chris (March 1995). Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (Print) (5th ed.). Neptune City, NJ Lanham, MD: TFH Publications, Inc. p. 912. ISBN 0793812844. 
  12. ^ American Kennel Club (2006). Complete Dog Book. Ballantine Books; 20 edition. ISBN 0345476263. 
  13. ^ 1 Catherine Marley. "What is a "Landrace"". The Lhasa Apso Information Source. Archived from the original on 2008-04-12. Retrieved 13 December 2013. These animals developed their "type" from adaptation to a mix of function and the demands of the particular physical environment. 
  14. ^ Johan Gallant; Joseph Sithole (1999-01-01). "Description of the AFRICANIS landrace". Breeders in Africa website. Archived from the original on 1999-08-24. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 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. 
  15. ^ Clark, Annie Rodgers; Brace, Andrew H. (1995). The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. New York: Howell Book House. p. 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. 
  16. ^ D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM. "Livestock Guard Dogs: What is a Breed, and Why Does it Matter?". Kangal Dogs website. Archived from the original (essay) on 2004-10-20. Retrieved 13 December 2013. The level of uniformity varies from breed to breed as the breeders' associations decide what to include and what to exclude. 
  17. ^ Diane Jessup. ""Different" breeds with the same name". Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "Animal Pedigree Act 1985". Department of Justice, Canada. Retrieved 9 April 2008. [dead link]
  19. ^ Diane Blackman. "Getting a dog tips-Red Flags, Breeders you probably want to avoid" (website). Dog Play. Retrieved 13 December 2013. Be especially cautious of registries that complain of some imagined difficulty or expense in registering dogs through AKC. 
  20. ^ "Purebred dog registrations". Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Retrieved 13 December 2013. Many puppy mills and backyard breeders are registering their dogs with invalid, Internet based registries. 
  21. ^ a b Parker, H. G.; Kim, L. V.; Sutter, N. B.; Carlson, S; Lorentzen, T. D.; Malek, T. B.; Johnson, G. S.; Defrance, H. B.; Ostrander, E. A.; Kruglyak, L (2004). "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog". Science 304 (5674): 1160–4. Bibcode:2004Sci...304.1160P. doi:10.1126/science.1097406. PMID 15155949. 
  22. ^ Wilcox, Bonnie; Walkowicz, Chris (March 1995). Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (Print) (5th ed.). Neptune City, NJ Lanham, MD: TFH Publications, Inc. p. 912. ISBN 0793812844. 
  23. ^ American Kennel Club (2006). Complete Dog Book. Ballantine Books; 20 edition. ISBN 0345476263. 
  24. ^ vonHoldt, Bridgett; Lohmueller, Kirk E.; Han, Eunjung; Parker, Heidi G.; Quignon, Pascale; Degenhardt, Jeremiah D.; Boyko, Adam R.; Earl, Dent A.; Auton, Adam; Reynolds, Andy; Bryc, Kasia; Brisbin, Abra; Knowles, James C.; Mosher, Dana S.; Spady, Tyrone C.; Elkahloun, Abdel; Geffen, Eli; Pilot, Malgorzata; Jedrzejewski, Wlodzimierz; Greco, Claudia; Randi, Ettore; Bannasch, Danika; Wilton, Alan; Shearman, Jeremy; Musiani, Marco; Cargill, Michelle; Jones, Paul G.; Qian, Zuwei; et al. (2010-03-17). "Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication". Nature 464 (7290): 898–902. Bibcode:2010Natur.464..898V. doi:10.1038/nature08837. PMC 3494089. PMID 20237475. 
  25. ^ doi:10.1073/pnas.1203005109
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  26. ^ American Kennel Club. "AKC Glossary". Retrieved 13 December 2013. 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 13 December 2013. 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 and English). Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  29. ^ 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 0-87605-464-5. 
  30. ^ Rorem, Linda. "Herding Dog Breeds - Stockdog breeds". Herding on the Web. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  31. ^ "How to find a farm collie or shepherd". 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-04-11. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  32. ^ Don Bixby (2003). "Types of Breeds". Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  33. ^ Don Bixby (2003). "History of the Basset Hound". Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  34. ^ Marvin, John T. (1982). "2". The New Complete Scottish terrier (Second ed.). New York, New York: Howell Book House Inc. p. 18. ISBN 0-87605-306-1. 
  35. ^ Bijal P. Trivedi (February 9, 2004). "What's a Labradoodle—Designer Dog or Just Another Mutt?". National Geographic Channel. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  36. ^ United Kennel Club. "UKC Registration, Limited Privilege". Archived from the original on 2006-02-05. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  37. ^ Wray, Michelle (2000). "Puppy Mills : What They Are and What You Can Do About Them". DORG Magazine. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 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 

Further reading[edit]

  • Alderton, David (September 2008). Encyclopedia of Dogs (Hardcover). Bath: Parragon Inc. p. 384. ISBN 1407524380. ISBN 9781407524382. 
  • Coile, D. Caroline (April 1, 2005). Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds: Profiles of More than 150 Breeds (2nd ed.). Barron's Educational Series, Incorporated. p. 368. ISBN 9780764157004. 
  • De Prisco, Andrew; Johnson, James B. (1993). Canine Lexicon. T. F. H. Publications. p. 886. ISBN 3-929545-60-8. ISBN 978-3-929545-60-9,. 
  • Kister, Kenneth F. (1994). Kister's Best Encyclopedias (2nd ed.). Phoenix: Oryx. pp. 329–330. ISBN 0-89774-744-5. 
  • De Vito, Dominique (September 1, 2005). World Atlas of Dog Breeds (Print) (6th ed.). Neptune City, NJ Lanham, MD: TFH Publications, Inc. Distributed in the U.S. to the Bookstore and library trade by National Book Network. p. 960. ISBN 0793806569. ISBN 978-0793806560. 
  • DK Publishing (July 15, 2013). The Dog Encyclopedia (Hardcover) (1st ed.). DK Adult. p. 360. ISBN 1465408444. ISBN 978-1465408440. 
  • Wilcox, Bonnie; Walkowicz, Chris (March 1995). Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (Print) (5th ed.). Neptune City, NJ Lanham, MD: TFH Publications, Inc. Distributed in the U.S. to the Bookstore and library trade by National Book Network. p. 912. ISBN 0793812844. ISBN 9780793812844. 

External links[edit]