So many dog breeds have obvious name origins. The German shepherd, for instance, traces its roots to Germany; the shih tzu means “lion dog” in Chinese. But that’s not always the case. There are plenty of dog breeds whose names, for whatever reason, don’t quite live up to the reality and history, of the breed. From fuzzy geography to ancient mythology, read on for some of the most interesting dog breed misnomers.
1. Pharaoh Hound.
It was long thought that the Pharaoh Hound had its origins in ancient Egypt; the pictures of dogs on the pyramids look strikingly similar to the breed. At some point thousands of years ago, the mythology goes, the Pharaoh Hound was brought across the Mediterranean Sea to the tiny island of Malta. DNA testing, however, has disproven this story — the breed’s lineage doesn’t trace back anywhere off the island.
2. Great Dane.
You’d think the Great Dane would be from Denmark, but you’d be wrong. The breed has a long and storied history in Germany, where it’s referred to as the Deutsche Dogge, or German Mastiff. The gentle giants were named by the influential French naturalist, Comte de Buffon, who, it’s thought, first came across the breed in Denmark, who was distinguishing the large breed from a much smaller breed he had named le Petit Danois, or a small Dane. For reasons unclear today, the misnomer stuck.
3. Australian Shepherd.
It may be called the Australian Shepard, but this dog breed has its origins in the United States by way of Europe, not the Outback. The most likely explanation for the “Australian” moniker? The dogs, bred as sheep herders in the Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain, first emigrated to Australia with their Basque shepherds. They then made their way to the ranches of the Western United States. Quite the cosmopolitan pooches!
4. Miniature Pinscher.
Miniature Pinschers certainly look like smaller versions of Dobermans, but in reality, the two breeds are only distantly related.
5. Labrador Retriever.
North America’s most popular dog breed isn’t from Labrador at all. The breed actually traces its roots across Canada’s Strait of Belle Isle from its namesake Labrador, on the island of Newfoundland. Originally bred as water dogs, the Earl of Malmesbury brought the breed back to England, and was also responsible for re-christening the breed.
6. Tibetan Mastiff.
One of the most expensive breeds on the planet, the Tibetan Mastiff likely dates back to the Stone Age. The breed stayed isolated from the world outside of their native Himalayas, where they were kept as guard dogs, until well into the 19th century. When westerners first took an interest in the breed, they called it a, “mastiff” — a term often used at the time for any large dog — even though Tibetan Mastiffs are not, in fact, Mastiffs. They do, however, belong to the same category of dog breeds as the Mastiff.