10 Dog Breeds You’ve Never Heard Of
A Labrador Retriever or Beagle isn’t for everyone.
Some people want something different—an exotic breed, the only one in town. They’re the dogs you won’t find walking on a leash or frolicking in the dog park. In fact, they may never have set paw in your country before. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most uncommon canines.
Used by Norwegian farmers to hunt Puffins, this dog’s agility allows him to scale and tunnel into the crevices of steep vertical cliffs. It doesn’t hurt his rock-climbing ability to have 6 toes on each foot, either. He can also “tip” his head backwards so the top of his head touches his back bone. And he can “close” his ears by folding them forward or backward.
This breed may look scary—there’s a reason why it’s called a mastiff, with its massive size, loose skin, and thick facial wrinkles—but he’s a gentle giant. From his origins in the south of Italy, the Neapolitan Mastiff is used primarily as a watch dog. He’s always on alert, loves kids, and is known for large amounts of drool.
Now that’s a mouth full! Pronounced “show-low-eats-queen-tlee,” the Xoloitzcuintli is also called Xolo for short but you may have heard it referred to as the “Mexican Hairless.” Some are these dogs are completely hairless while others have mohawks or a light coat. This breed comes in three sizes: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. A native of Mexico, the Xoloitzcuintli was used as a source of warmth in ancient Aztec times and were believe to cure many types of disease and illness.
Unless you’re from West Africa, you’ve probably never heard of the Azawakh. These dogs are a bit timid, but they’re also agile, gentle, and affectionate. Used to hunt gazelles for nomads in the Sahara, this sighthound can reach running speeds of 40 miles per hour. Another interesting fact: in Africa, the Azawakh can’t be bought—they can only be given as a gift, which explains why you don’t see many in North America.
Originating from the province of Friesland (located in the north of the Netherlands), there are only a few thousand Stabyhoun dogs in existence. A cuddly and friendly breed, the Stayboun was bred to hunt and guard. As a sporting dog, the Stabyhoun loves to keep busy on land or in water. In the winter, he can also be used as a sled dog.
New Guinea Singing Dog
Everything unique about this breed can be found in its name! Found in New Guinea, this breed likes to sing you the song of its people. But it’s not just its unique vocalization that’s helped this dog make a name for itself—these dogs are also considered to be intelligent and physically strong. Catching a glimpse of the dog in its wild habitat is rare, although there is a captive-bred line used as companions.
You may mistake the Swedish Vallhund as a variety of Corgi but this dog is a breed all its own. Also known as the Viking Dog (due to the fact that the breed originated in the time of Vikings), the Västgötaspets were used to herd cattle and hunt vermin. They make wonderful family pets and have either a curly, Spitz tail or a bob.
The epitome of a shaggy dog, the Bergamasco Shepherd hails from the Italian Alps near Bergamo, where it was originally used as a herding dog. This breed’s most recognizable feature is its coat that grows into felt-like mats. A social and friendly dog, the Bergamasco Shepherd is an outstanding sheep herder. Because of its wooly coat, this dog will blend into the flock of sheep its protecting. How’s that for intelligent camouflage?
Finnish Karelian Bear Dog
Although you may not have heard of this dog before, the Finnish Karelian Bear Dog is considered a national treasure in its home county of Finland. Used to hunt moose, lynx, wolf, and reindeer, these dogs are actually used in Yosemite and Glacier National Parks to control bears. If you’ve got a Karelian Bear Dog, you’re probably in great physical health—this breed never seems to stand still.
Peruvian Inca Orchid
One of the rarest (and strange looking) breeds in the world, the Peruvian Inca Orchid is Peru’s national dog. Also known as the Peruvian Hairless Dog, this breed comes in small, medium, and large sizes and can be born with or without hair. This ancient breed was used as hunters and messengers, as well as royal bed warmers.