Dog Breeds have been around for years, but where did they start and what actually makes a breed? Read on to find out..
Dog breeds are, simply put, certain types of dogs which have distinctive looks and temperament. These characteristics are outlined in each breed’s respective breed ‘standard’ and when a male and a female of the same breed are mated, the resulting litter should produce pups that will turn to the standards set out in their breed’s breed standard. Well that’s the basics of it anyway!
The shaping of ‘dog breeds’ first came about thousands of years ago by humans selectively breeding dogs of a certain type together with other dogs of the same or similar type. This was done in an effort to produce dogs that would resemble their parents both mentally and physically, and the reason they were doing this was because back then, dogs were needed to do specific jobs, to work. As different kinds of dogs were better at certain types of work – different dog breeds began to materialise.
Small feisty and tenacious dogs made good ratters for example - they kept the food stores disease-free by removing rats quickly and efficiently. Slightly larger more agile dogs were used for herding, helping farmers control and move their stock. Large dogs were used to pull heavy carts, and at night time, were used as guard dogs (no alarms or cameras in those days!).
As humans evolved, so did our requirements of dogs, and the creating of new dog breeds began to accelerate – dog breeds for mountain rescue, dog breeds for hunting, dog breeds for guarding, dog breeds for herding, in fact dog breeds for almost any kind of job you can think of. There’s no wonder dogs are regarded as mans best friend –not only were they used as entertainment (Grrrr) and sometimes companionship, but they also helped our ancestors survive, thus helping us get us this far.
Dog Breeds as we know them today
More recently you can find dog breeds for specialist police work, dog breeds as guide-dogs, but the biggest most recent change of dog breeds in our time… dog breeds as treasured companions – and it was only a matter of time before the world of dog fanciers was born. With all these wonderful breeds, dog fanciers went about standardising them by forming clubs and writing out clear guidelines of what each breed should strive for in both looks and temperament… the breed standard. Shows were organised and a respected and experienced judge would decide which dogs were the best example of their breed based on the standards set out in its breed standard, and the top dogs were awarded trophies and ribbons. The show world quickly became popular with both men and women as there was an abundant variety of dogs that appealed to both sexes.
A dog breed to suit everyone
There are hundreds of different dog breeds today and there is normally one dominant registry per country that registers the majority of them – The Kennel Club (KC) in Britain and the AKC in America for example. Their job is to register each litter and record its pedigree as these records are invaluable to help trace health defects or other illnesses, and vital in helping breeders work towards producing even better examples of the breed.
Well, now you know a little more about how dog breeds came about we can get into a little more detail… We already know that dog breeds are pedigree dogs (that is, dogs with a known pedigree) and were created by selective breeding up to the point where two dogs of the same breed could be bred together to produce more dogs of the same type, conformation and temperament (a ‘breed’).
There are 7 main groups that dog breeds are split into: the Hound Group, the Working Dogs Group, the Terrier Group, the Gundog Group, the Pastoral Group, the Utility Group and the Toy Group. Each breed is put into the various groups based on what it was originally bred for, so for example, all dogs bred as Gundogs were put in the Gundog group, most Terriers in the Terrier group etc (For more info about each group see our Dog Breeds section). If a dog couldn’t easily be placed in one of the groups, it usually ended up in the utility group.
New dog breeds?
So what about breeds that are not listed in any groups? Are they breeds at all? Well in all honesty, you should be wary of anyone who claims they have a breed that you know is not recognised by one of the major registries, particularly the main registry in the country the breed is meant to originate from. Unfortunately there are unscrupulous breeders trying to pass off ‘designer’ breeds by crossing all sorts of dogs (pedigree or otherwise) without proper planning or health checks and giving them names and labels - so it’s something to be aware of. If you are interested in a genuine new or imported breed, it’s always best to research the breed beforehand otherwise you can’t be sure what you might really end up with. Do some searches for these breeds in the forums as you will more than likely find other people have asked about such breeds too.
To learn more about the many different breeds out there, take a look at our Dog Breeds section which includes breed notes about the most popular dog breeds in the UK.