7 Fascinating Dog Breeds You Might Not Know Exist

If you’re not a canine connoisseur, there probably are several dog breeds you haven’t heard of. But it’s worth getting to know some of the less common breeds. You probably won’t see many of the following canine representatives around town — at least according to the American Kennel Club’s ranking of the most popular dog breeds. Nonetheless, these seven dog breeds have some fascinating stories.

1. Azawakh

The Azawakh is a rare sighthound who originated long ago in West Africa. “The dogs have accompanied the wandering Touareg people for centuries and were kept as hunting and guard dogs as well as valued companions, sharing the tents of their people,” according to VetStreet. “Little else is known of their history.”

Azawakhs tend to be aloof and quiet, yet very loyal and protective of their families. They also have a strong prey drive and might not be able to live with small animals, cats or even small dogs unless they’re well trained and socialized. Because they’re from the desert and have thin skin and low body fat, Azawakhs don’t do well in cold climates. But thanks to their sleek bodies, their flowing gait is certainly something to see.

2. Canaan dog

Canaan dog outside in snowCredit: Matilda/Wikimedia Commons

The Canaan dog — who originated in what’s now primarily Israel, Lebanon and parts of the surrounding countries — is one of the oldest dog breeds still in existence. “Artifacts going back some 4,000 years bear inscriptions of dogs that look much like Canaans, but exactly when the breed was developed is one of those canine milestones that has vanished in the rearview mirror of history,” according to the American Kennel Club. “We can assume that for thousands of years these dogs were shepherd’s assistants whose tasks included herding, droving, and guarding.”

In 70 A.D., Romans destroyed Jerusalem, which scattered the residents and their flocks. Many Canaan dogs escaped to the desert, where they lived wild and largely unchanged until they were domesticated again in the 1900s. And though they’re generally affectionate with their families, they still retain a confident, intelligent and alert disposition that helped them through their wild days.

3. Cirneco dell’Etna

two Cirneco Dell'Etna puppies in grassCredit: nickp/Getty Images

The exact origin of the Cirneco dell’Etna is unknown, though “it is likely that the breed has existed in Sicily since its ancestors arrived on its craggy shores some 3,000 years ago in the holds of ships piloted by those master traders of the ancient world, the Phoenicians,” according to the AKC. Also known as Sicilian greyhounds, these small dogs are skilled, rugged hunters. “He stalks silently — so much so that he can even sneak up on birds,” VetStreet says.

As companions, Cirnechi aren’t usually found outside of Italy. (The U.S. only has about 200 or so.) Their athleticism allows them to excel in dog sports. But they typically aren’t so friendly to cats or other small animals unless they’re well socialized. They’re also expert jumpers and diggers, so it’s key to make sure a fenced yard can hold them, especially when their chase instinct is triggered. These dogs love to play and to be around people, and they’re even somewhat more trainable than the typical sighthound — as long as you use plenty of positive reinforcement.

4. Harrier

a portrait of a harrierCredit: cynoclub/Getty Images

The harrier is another rare breed whose origin is a bit of a mystery. “There are probably more theories about Harrier origins than there are Harriers in the United States,” the AKC says. “Among the agreed-upon facts of this old breed is that they were bred for hunting hare (the breed name is based on the word ‘hare’) and that the first packs appeared in England sometime in the 1200s.” They’re often mistaken for a larger (and more athletic) beagle or a smaller English foxhound, and in fact a common belief is they descended from foxhounds.

Like most other hounds, harriers are friendly, energetic dogs. And because they originated as pack hunters, they tend to dislike being left alone. “A Harrier does best when he has human or canine company all the time,” according to VetStreet. “He’s vocal and will tell you all about his day in great detail.”

5. Norwegian lundehund

Norwegian lundehund on grassCredit: CaptureLight/Getty Images

The Norwegian lundehund is the least popular dog breed on the AKC list. And that’s a shame because these canines have some truly fascinating features. “They have feet with at least six fully functioning toes and extra paw pads, an ‘elastic neck’ that can crane back so the head touches the spine, ears that fold shut, and flexible shoulders that allow forelegs to extend to the side, perpendicular to the body,” according to the AKC. Lundehunds come from an island off the Norwegian coast, where they were bred to hunt puffins on the rocky cliffs — which is where their unique physical characteristics came in handy.

As companions, they’re typically happy and outgoing with their families, but they can be wary of strangers. They also are curious dogs and will use their athleticism to explore places in your house you never thought a dog could reach. Plus, some tend to be pack rats, hiding objects and even food around the house. “Don’t be surprised to find kibble or other treats beneath your sofa cushions, inside your shoes or under your pillow,” VetStreet says.

6. Otterhound

Large otterhound sitting down in front of a wooden fence with mouth open and tongue sticking outCredit: LourdesPhotography/Getty Images

The otterhound’s story began in medieval England, where fishermen had to compete with river otters for their catch. So the otterhound was developed to keep the competitors at bay. Although the background of the original otterhound is unknown, today’s big, shaggy dogs likely “descend from Bloodhounds; various rough-coated French breeds; … and the now-extinct Old Southern Hound,” VetStreet says.

Eventually, the otter population dwindled so much that hunting them became illegal. Thus, the otterhounds were out of a job, and their numbers declined, as well. Today, “the Otterhound is more rare than the Giant Panda,” with fewer than 800 left worldwide, according to the AKC. But the people who know these dogs appreciate them for their friendly and rambunctious personality, keen sense of smell and webbed feet that help to make them expert swimmers.

7. Sloughi

sloughi portraitCredit: predrag1/Getty Images

You might have heard of a saluki. But what about the even less popular sloughi? “The Sloughi, Saluki, and Azawakh look similar, but they come from different geographic areas and are distinct breeds with different standards,” according to VetStreet. Sloughis were developed in North Africa thousands of years ago to be a skilled hunting companion.

Their long and lean body is built for speed, and they still retain a strong prey drive. But these dogs also are very affectionate and develop close bonds with their families. Plus, they’re highly sensitive animals, who absolutely must be trained using positive reinforcement (which is ideal for any dog). But if you keep them well socialized and healthy, and they should be happy companions for many years.

Main image credit: animalinfo/Getty Images

83 comments

Christine V
Christine V3 months ago

Cool

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Beryl L
Beryl L3 months ago

Beautiful dogs thank you for the story

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Hannah A
Hannah A3 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 months ago

The ones I find most beautiful are the harrier and the sloughi.

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Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 months ago

Very interesting.

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer4 months ago

Great photos. Thanks

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Carole R
Carole R4 months ago

Interesting and very cute.

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Clare R
Clare R4 months ago

beautiful creatures

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danii p
danii p4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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danii p
danii p4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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