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It’s estimated there are between 200 and 500 different dog breeds found in the world today, and many of these breeds may be more unique dogs that you haven’t heard of before. It might seem impossible to try and keep track of all the different breeds out there, which is why our guide is here to help.
Below, we give you insight into some of the most rare dog breeds around today so you can expand your knowledge and learn about these unique pups.
What Makes a Dog Breed Rare?
There are a couple of different factors that might determine whether or not a dog is considered rare. For the most part, dog breeds become rare if their intended purpose, the purpose they were bred for, is no longer around. Many different hunting and working breeds may have disappeared over the centuries due to modern advancements in technology and equipment, resulting in less of a need for certain breeds.
Another common reason for dogs to be considered rare is if there simply aren’t many of them around in the world anymore. This typically happens if the dog breed is highly localized or specialized for a local function and native to a specific area of the world. These dog breeds may become less rare if they experience a boost in popularity for any reason, but for the most part, they will stay a unique or uncommonly encountered breed.
Who Determines if Dog Breeds Are Rare or Not?
In the United States, the American Kennel Club is generally accepted as the authority on dog breeds and which ones are considered official breeds or which ones might be more rare. Other such kennel clubs exist across the globe, such as Britain’s Kennel Club, the Federation Cynologique International, and Europe’s Continental Kennel Club. These organizations recognize between 190 and 360 breeds, with additional breeds existing in the world today that aren’t registered as official kennel club breeds in any continent.
These organizations are generally considered the authority on which dog breeds are most populous or popular in their specific countries or parts of the globe, and if one of these organizations determines that a breed is rare or simply doesn’t recognize a breed because there are not enough members of it around today, then you can be fairly certain that the specific dog breed in question is rare.
Rare Dog Breeds From Around the World
Below, we list some of the rarest dog breeds from around the world, according to American Kennel Club registries and other documentation of dog breeds. Of course, our list isn’t comprehensive, and there may be other rare dog breeds out there, but the ones we have listed below are some of the most notable.
Bred in Norway to specifically hunt puffins, the Norwegian Lundehund is one of the rarest dog breeds around today. This dog is easily recognized by the six toes that they have on each paw, a genetic trait that helps them climb rocks and slippery inclines where puffins typically live for hunting purposes.
The Norwegian Lundehund almost went extinct around the twentieth century when new techniques and technological advancements were made in the field of puffin hunting, but the breed experienced a resurgence and now boasts a population of approximately 1,400 members today.
Characterized by dense, curly hair, the Lagotto Romagnolo is an Italian breed initially bred and used for hunting. This water dog’s main task involved swimming into the water to retrieve waterfowl for their human hunting companions. Much like the Norwegian Lundehund, this dog breed also faced extinction due to the decreasing popularity of water dogs and new advancements in waterfowl hunting techniques.
Around 2009, enthusiasts of this breed made a concerted effort to keep the breed around, and it has recently become more popular for truffle hunting. This breed’s curly, dense coat helps to stop thorns and brambles from scratching it, and its hunting genetics serve it well in this position. Around 500 members of this breed exist in the United States.
True to their name, otterhounds are water dogs that were historically used to hunt otters. They have a place in English royal history, with King John and many other estates hosting packs of these curly-haired dogs, but this breed did experience a dip in population due to a ban on otter hunting in the United Kingdom in 1979.
Populations of the otterhound struggled to recover after this loss in popularity, and there are approximately a thousand members of this breed around today, with several breed enthusiasts helping to encourage the slow and steady growth of the otterhound.
The Mudi is a type of Hungarian herding dog that was recently recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2022. This dog was popular historically and helpful with herding activities, but massive numbers of this breed’s population were killed during World War II and the Nazi invasion of Hungary.
In recent years, the Mudi has received dedicated efforts to bring it back from the brink of extinction, and they are commonly seen working as farm dogs or rescue dogs today. The Mudi also finds itself being a valued family pet in Hungary and surrounding areas.
New Guinea Singing Dog
The New Guinea Singing Dog is a very rare breed and one that is not fully domesticated. Recent estimations believe that around two hundred members of this breed exist in zoos or other areas of captivity around the world, though data from 2016 found around a dozen of this dog breed in the wilds of New Guinea.
The New Guinea Singing Dog gains its name from the wide range of barks and howls they use to communicate, with the sounds that this dog produces holding an impressive variety of pitch and tenor. Domesticated species of the New Guinea Singing Dog do risk becoming inbred due to the lack of variety in the genetic pool, and there are likely greater populations of this dog in the wild than in domestic areas.
Similar in appearance to sighthounds like the greyhound and whippet, the Azawakh is a West African breed that holds its origins in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. The Azawakh is lean and muscular, and their coat ranges in color, with red or brown being the most common. Originally used for hunting, this dog is very loyal, and they were introduced to America around the 1980s, gaining recognition by the American Kennel Club in 2018.
The Skye Terrier is a small dog that is characterized by being low to the ground with a longer body. They have long silky fur that requires regular brushing and grooming, and they were historically used to hunt foxes. This breed is very loyal and affectionate, though they have been marked as one of the most endangered breeds in the United Kingdom, with only three to four thousand members of this breed remaining in the world.
The Skye Terrier is a Scottish breed that was once highly favored by Queen Victoria and Mary Queen of Scots.
With distinctive shaggy fur, the Bergamasco sheepdog is a herding dog that has its origins in Italy, with more ancient roots going back to the Middle East and the dog breeds that Romans used to trade. The Bergamasco sheepdog is adapted to climbing the Italian Alps as part of their herding and guarding duties, and they are a very protective and loyal dog breed.
Similar to the Mudi, this dog breed experienced a drop in popularity and population numbers around the time of World War II, but breed enthusiasts have worked tirelessly to bring the numbers of the Bergamasco sheepdog back to normal in recent years. This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2015.
With a long history that likely dates back to the Phoenicians and 800 BC, the Ibizan hound hails from the Mediterranean isle of Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. This dog breed was historically used for hunting rabbits, and they do fall into the sighthound category of dogs, which is why their appearance is similar to the more common greyhound. Ibizan hounds are known for their energetic spirits and their love of chasing any small animal that catches their eye.
Ibizan hounds are frequently seen as both family pets and hunting dogs, and they were brought to the United States in 1950. The American Kennel Club recognized this breed in 1978, and they are still one of the rarest dog breeds to encounter today.
American English Coonhound
American English coonhounds are known for their loud ringing bark, their hunting persistence, and their historical use of hunting raccoons. This breed has a lineage in the foxhounds that were brought to the United States around the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and they are still used by hunters today to assist with tracking and hunting raccoons, cougars, and bears.
This breed is fairly strong-willed, and while they can be affectionate, they are not quite as devoted or loyal as some other types of hound dogs. They have a very high prey drive, thrive in a pack, and need lots of exercise to stay happy.
Similar in appearance to the Bergamasco sheepdog, the fur of the Komondor hangs in round dreads called cords, and they have a notably shaggy appearance. The Komondor dog breed is native to Hungary, first appearing around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Their white coloration and shaggy fur enable them to easily blend in with the sheep they are herding, and this breed is known for being protective and loyal.
Komondors were killed in large numbers during World War II as they often guarded farms and families and needed to be removed before German invaders could capture a location. This dog breed is known to be fearless when herding or protecting their animals and families, and their size and strength allow them to push over even large predators when needed.
The Komondor has been declared a Hungarian national treasure and preservation efforts are being made to preserve this dog breed for years to come.
The Canaan is the national dog of Israel, and they are the oldest breed of pariah dog, a type of dog that is half-wild and free-roaming, still found around the Middle East today. The Canaan was historically utilized for guarding camps and livestock, and they have a history that dates back over 9000 years.
After World War II, the Canaan became more popular as a guide dog, as they are fairly loyal and intelligent, allowing them to be easily trained. Today, there are around two to three thousand Canaan dogs around the world, with many of them completing tasks such as herding, guarding, and acting as messengers.
The Biewer terrier is a distant relative of the Yorkshire terrier, and this small dog does bear some resemblance to the Yorkshire. The Biewer terrier is considered a toy breed due to its small size, and it has long, silky fur that needs to be brushed regularly. Biewer terriers came into existence in 1984 after Yorkshire terrier breeders Werner and Gertrud Biewer noticed the existence of the piebald gene in some of their puppies.
Selective breeding was carried out to develop this coat coloration, and after several decades, genetic testing confirmed that the Biewer terrier was far enough removed from the Yorkshire terrier to be considered its own breed. The American Kennel Club recognized this dog breed in 2021.
The national dog of Finland since 1979, the Finnish Spitz is notable for its distinctive red coat and fluffy fur. The Finnish Spitz has a history that dates back around three thousand years to trading with central Russia. This dog breed has been historically used for hunting, and they are a bark-pointer, which means they bark at game and draw its attention, allowing hunters to approach unnoticed. The Finnish Spitz is prized for its barking abilities, and their barks sound rather like a yodel.
The Finnish Spitz is generally considered friendly and good with children, and while they are used for hunting to this day, they are also a common family dog in Finland and surrounding areas. It is very uncommon to find this breed for adoption in the United States.
The Cesky terrier is also known as a Czech terrier, and it originated in 1948 as the Czech breeder, František Horák created a cross between the Sealyham Terrier and the Scottish Terrier. The original purpose of the Cesky terrier was hunting, and they were created to be able to hunt effectively in the forests of Bohemia, a historical region in the Czech Republic.
The Cesky terrier found its way to the United States in 1980, and enthusiasts of this breed formed a club to show support and attempt to grow its numbers. And while the Cesky terrier was registered with the American Kennel Club in 2011, they still remain relatively rare, with approximately 600 members of this breed remaining across the United States today.
FAQs About Rare Dog Breeds
It’s common to have questions when it comes to rare dog breeds. We answer your most frequently asked questions about rare dog breeds below in order to shed more light on these unique dogs.
Can I Adopt a Rare Dog Breed?
It may be possible to adopt a rare dog breed, but that might not be an easy feat depending on where you live in the world and how rare the dog breed you are interested in actually is. Some of the dogs on our list are very localized breeds, and you might not be able to find anyone willing to breed them or sell you a dog.
If you want to adopt a rare dog breed, your best option is to contact reputable and ethical breeders who might know where you can find one of these unique pups to add to your family.
Where Can I Encounter a Rare Dog Breed?
If you’re a dog breed enthusiast and simply want the chance to meet a rare dog breed, your best option is likely a dog show. Dog shows encourage attendance from a variety of owners and their dogs, and you may be able to meet more rare dog breeds here.
Alternatively, if a rare dog breed you are interested in is very localized and native to a specific location, you may want to add one of these countries or towns to your next international vacation in order to catch a glimpse of one of these rare pups.
Are There Efforts To Increase Rare Dog Breed Populations?
The preservation of certain dog breeds and their genetic traits is a popular topic these days, and the Institute of Canine Biology can shed more light on whether or not specific steps are being taken to increase rare dog breed populations. For the most part, rare dog breed populations remain about constant, but as more information about these dogs is published, these dog breeds may become more popular and experience a surge in population.
Does the American Kennel Club Register New Breeds?
The American Kennel Club has registered hundreds of dog breeds over its existence, and new dog breeds are added from time to time. Most recently, the rarer breed Mudi was added along with the Russian Toy. Individuals and dog breed enthusiasts who are interested in getting breeds officially recognized by the American Kennel Club can review its guidelines for becoming recognized.
In general, the process of becoming an American Kennel Club-recognized breed takes a few years to complete and requires participation in frequent dog shows to display the breed.
Is It Expensive To Adopt a Rare Dog Breed?
Adopting a rare dog breed might not be a possible feat, but if you find a breeder willing to help you obtain this dog, you can be fairly certain it won’t be cheap. Common dog breeds that are popular today, such as the golden retriever or the French bulldog, will typically sell for a few thousand, so you can expect that a rare dog breed or a unique dog breed that comes from another country will be expensive to adopt.
Make sure when adopting a rare dog breed that you ensure the breeder is reputable and ethical and that you follow all state or country guidelines when adopting an animal.
Exploring the Wide World of Dog Breeds
In today’s world, hundreds of dog breeds exist, and some may be rarer than others. Our guide gives you insight into some of the most rare dog breeds in the world and their histories so you can explore more about the wide world of dog breeds and settle your curiosity about these unique pups.