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If you combine all the national and international dog breed registries, and account for estimates on dog breeds that aren’t officially recognized by any registry yet, but do have their own breed clubs, you come up with nearly 400 unique dog breeds in the world today. That is a ton of breeds roaming the earth, and that doesn’t count for things that many people are starting to consider breeds in their own right, like Labradoodles and Yorkiepoos. If you take into account cross breeds and flat out mutts, you get a huge rainbow of dogs. I’d never be able to cover them all in our Breed of the Week column, which I usually limit to AKC-recognized breeds just for simplicity’s sake.
But did you know that the world used to have even more dog breeds? In fact, there are dozens of dog breeds that are extinct these days, after cross breeding, lack of popularity, wars, or other disasters caused the breed to simply be phased out. While some of these dogs have offspring that are very similar to the extinct ancestor, others are so odd that it’s kind of hard to imagine them ever being a real dog. Today I wanted to introduce you to some canine history with this list of extinct dog breeds, and a little bit of information about how they went extinct in the first place.
Before I start though, I do want to mention that there’s good reason for knowing this information. The fact is that there are some dog breeds out there today that are on the brink of going extinct just like these breeds on this list. It may not be a crisis to anyone – after all, there are hundreds of other breeds – but I think it would be a shame to lose any more unique dogs than we have to. The dogs that are in most danger of disappearing today include:
Otterhounds: Estimates suggest that there are about 600 Otterhounds left in the world.
Bloodhound: Believe it or not, less than 100 Bloodhounds were registered with the AKC in the last three years.
Skye Terrier: A relative of the Scottie and the Westie, this terrier is on its way out.
Curly Coated Retriever: Looking something like a poodle and a retriever mix, this independent breed is dwindling fast.
English Toy Terrier: These dogs look a lot like mini Dobermans, but less than 80 were registered with the AKC in the last two years.
Smooth Collie: Lassis’s short-haired cousin is also in danger of dying out.
Glen of Imaal Terrier: If you’ve never heard of this one, you’re not alone. This dog is similar to Scotties and Westies, but also quickly dwindling.
So if you have the desire to save some of canine history, consider looking for one of these rare dogs next time you want a new furry companion.
Now let’s look at those dog breeds that weren’t quite so lucky:
Let’s start with an ancient breed from Aristotle’s time. This Greek breed is thought to have been a fighting dog that went to battle with soldiers, and may also have been used to protect herds of goat and sheep. These were big, muscular dogs that eventually became part of the lineage of dogs like the Mastiff, the Rottweiler, and the Great Dane. Some of the statues from ancient Greek artists depict this dog as almost lion-like in size, with some pretty fierce expressions. In other words, you would have needed an extremely heavy duty leash to keep this dog by your side.
Did you know that the Beagle and the Coonhound share the same ancestor? Before either of those breeds came into being, the Talbot Hound was the dog of choice for sniffing out small prey like foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and so on. According to the paintings that we have, this dog was almost pure white, and although it was a great scent hound, it was said to be a pretty slow runner. Eventually the dog was cross bred with Bloodhounds (also on their way out) and that led to the Beagle and the Coonhound as we know them today. With their amazing noses and their penchant for finding things, this would have been the type of dog to love hide and seek treat puzzles.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, the Coast Salish indigenous peoples were quite a bit different from the Plains Indians that you probably picture when you think of Native Americans. One unique fact about this group was that they raised a small, white, fluffy dog called the Salish Woolly Dog, and sheared them like sheep to use their hair in blanket weaving. For many centuries, the dog was kept apart from other dogs to keep the the breed from cross breeding and losing that prized coat; but eventually, sheep wool became cheaper to use, so the use of the dog breed was phased out. At that point, the dogs were bred with other dogs, and the breed was lost.
(4) Old English Bulldog
Today’s English Bulldog is a squat, muscular, but somewhat lazy companion that likes nothing more than to hang out in a bachelor pad. But its direct ancestor, the Old English Bulldog, was a much larger dog, tall and very muscular, that was bred for bull-baiting. Bull-baiting was a sport in which a bull and several dogs fought for the amusement of the crowd, if you were wondering. The classic Bulldog under-bite was even more pronounced in this older breed, almost comically so. The eventual outlawing of bull-baiting, and the cross-breeding of this breed with others, led to this dog fading away.
(5) Turnspit Dog
Of all the extinct dogs I researched for this post, this one has to be my favorite. This was a short-legged little dog that looks something like a Dachshund in the pictures, that had two unique jobs. The first was to run on a big wheel in butcher shops or restaurants, which turned meat on a spit – thus the name. The second was to warm up the feet of people in churches. Can you imagine a stranger life? Spend your weekdays running on a big hamster wheel, and then your weekends napping on the cold feet of praying parishioners. This breed went extinct because people found more efficient ways to cook meat and warm their feet, but if ever a breed deserved a treat, this one was it!
Unfortunately, many dog breeds that are extinct today had pretty rough lives when they did exist. The Cordoba Fighting Dog was bred in Argentina for dog fights, Rather than going extinct due to legal repercussions for dog fighters, which would have been the best outcome, breeders stopped breeding this dog because it was too aggressive. The dogs were so aggressive that they didn’t even want to mate – they just fought each other. Considering how hard it was to get them to breed at all, breeders moved on to other dogs. This is a sad example of how aggression can absolutely be trained and bred into dogs, and how ultimately, it is human action that makes a dog dangerous to be around. This would have been one breed that would have needed muzzling in many situations.
This dog hailed from Germany, and is often depicted as having a short snout and a brindled coat. These traits were passed down to this dog’s descendant, the modern Boxer! Janice and Leroy owe their good looks to this older breed, who basically just went extinct due to crossbreeding. Breeders did this intentionally, wanting to combine the best traits of the Bullenbeisser with a few other breeds, so they must have seen something special in this dog.
(8) Moscow Water Dog
Here’s another sad one, sorry folks. The Moscow Water Dog was actually one of the shortest lived dog breeds there ever was. Shortly after World War II, dog breeders developed this breed to be sort of super soldiers and rescue people out of the water. The goal was to take the excellent swimming ability of some breeds, mix it with the search and rescue ability of other breeds, and throw in a dash of endurance and tenacity from yet more breeds. The dog was a fluffy black breed that looked something like a Bernese Mountain Dog, but sadly the breed ended up gaining some aggressive traits during all this crossbreeding. After one too many water rescues turned into people getting bitten by the dog, the breed was abandoned. Maybe they should have just stuck to water Frisbee!
This dog is an interesting one in that it had a conflicting personality. It was bred in Tahiti to hunt bears, and was by all accounts a totally fierce hunter. However, with people, this dog was said to be so incredibly gentle that you’d never even know they were hunters. They had big fluffy coats, with characteristically poofy tails and a bit of a mane, and were usually white and black. It’s not really said why these dogs went extinct, but I for one think that they would make great pets today.
(10) Paisley Terrier
An ancestor to the ever-popular Yorkie, the Paisley Terrier was a small dog with a long, silky coat that was primarily a companion and a show dog. These dogs were quite pampered, much like Yorkies today, and were especially recognized for having such long hair that their features were totally hidden. This breed could have used some hair bows to see, in other words. The breed simply disappeared after crossbreeding led to the much more popular Yorkie.
This dog had a very interesting look, and I can’t say that it reminds me of anything we have today. The Alpine Spaniel is an ancestor of the St. Bernard, but rather than the big-headed, almost lumbering look of that breed, the Alpine Spaniel was sleeker and more pointed in appearance. It had a long, curly coat that was developed to withstand the cold Swiss Alps, where it usually worked as a search and rescue breed. Unfortunately, the breed was wiped out by disease.
(12) African Hairless Dog
Here’s a really interesting breed! The African Hairless Dog was thought to be magical, and people in various African countries would sleep with the dog to heal various aches and pains. Now, it could have just been the fact that the dog was warm, but this translated into healing powers for those who kept them as companions at the time. The dog is extinct today, but some canine historians think it is an ancestor of the Chinese Crested.
One more weird one before we go. The Kuri is a very strange-looking little dog, with a foxy face and a fierce expression. Despite the somewhat mean look, these small dogs were used for both their fur, like the Salish Woolly Dog, and for meat, in 13th century New Zealand. The dog was allowed to cross breed with local dogs soon after arriving in Europe, and that led to the breed’s eventual extinction. There are actually three Kuri dogs that are taxi dermied that remain in museums in New Zealand.
While dog breeds going extinct is pretty sad, in the long run it has led to some of the most beloved breeds that we have today. It has also ensured that certain breeds that are popular today don’t have aggressive tendencies, so it may be best to look at this as a natural process of developing excellent human companions. Looking back at the history of dogs can be a lot of fun, but just remember that this isn’t a long-gone worry. Some dog breeds that are great companions today are still in danger. If you love your Bloodhound, or you have an interest in helping out a lesser-known breed from the list above, be sure you check into breed clubs next time you want a new pal.