20 Rare Dog Breeds That People Are Unlikely To Have Heard Of

Images: Kara.Kinley / erik forsberg

Dogs are one of the most popular pets in the entire world. In the United States alone, there are over 89 million canines, meaning that they outnumber children. However, while pooches may be a common sight in our homes and on our streets, some breeds are so rare that they are practically unheard of in the United States. So, without any further ado, let’s shine a light on some of the unsung beauties of the dog world.

Image: Corinne Benavides

20. Azawakh

This majestic breed comes from the Sahelian zone in Africa and takes its name from the Azawagh Valley, which lies between Niger, Algeria and Mali. Throughout West Africa, the desert-dwelling sighthound has traditionally served as a guard dog as well as a hunting dog and is easily recognizable thanks to its thin body and elegant long neck.

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19. Dalmachshund

Part Dalmatians, part Dachshund, dogs don’t come much more precious than the Dalmachshund. The insanely cute canines are small in stature and boast daintily dappled coats that set them apart from your average wiener. Both Dalmatians and Dachshunds are playful and loving which presumably makes the Dalmachshund the perfect family pet.

Image: erik forsberg

18. Samoyed

Not only is this dog totally adorable, its beautiful appearance also serves an important purpose. The Samoyed’s thick coat of double-layered white fur came in handy in Siberia – where the breed originates from. But while the canine might look cute its smiling face belies its killer instincts. That’s because Samoyeds were traditionally bred to hunt in the punishing Russian tundra.

Image: Lucas

17. Xoloitzcuintli

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Not only does the Xoloitzcuintli boast an unpronounceable name, but the Mexican hairless dog is also one of the most unusual hounds around. The dog’s name derives from the Aztec words for “dog” and “god” and, to this day, some Mexicans still believe that the animals’ warm skin has healing properties. But while there’s no evidence that the Xoloitzcuintli can make you better, its wide-eyed expression is guaranteed to make you smile.

Image: Petful

16. Komondor

Otherwise known as Hungarian sheepdogs, Komondors tend to resemble a household mop but in the best possible way. The breed’s distinctive coat is made up of tight circles which eventually form long cords of hair, not unlike dreadlocks. In the dogs’ native Hungary, they are considered national icons and in 2004 the Hungarian parliament passed legislation to protect the breed from modification.

Image: Jens Schott Knudsen

15. Chow Chow

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In northern China, where the Chow Chow comes from, the breed is known as the “puffy-lion dog” and it’s not hard to see why. The cuddly canine boasts an epic mane and adorable doe eyes. However, while the breed might look like the ideal snuggle buddy, many Chow Chows have an aggressive nature and can grow overly protective of their favorite human.

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14. Afghan Hound

With its glossy, long locks and sleek physique, the Afghan Hound wouldn’t look out of place in the pages a beauty magazine. But while the dog might appear to enjoy the finer things in life, that’s not necessarily the case. Thanks to their iconic mane, the hounds are comfortable on the chilly Afghan mountains and have even been known to take on leopards in the past.

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13. Tibetan Mastiff

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When Italian explorer Marco Polo came across Tibetan Mastiffs in the 1200s, he said they were as “tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion.” These giant fluff-balls have been known to grow as large as 20 stone but they are pretty much gentle giants – especially when it comes to family. Having guarded humans for centuries, the dogs are great protectors and loving, too.

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12. Basenji

Clever and cute, Basenjis like to keep their owners firmly on their toes. The dogs’ wrinkled brows add to their mischievous demeanor while their small, stocky bodies are always poised to play. Interestingly, the breed is known as the “barkless dog,” because while it emits a number of vocalizations, a typical woof is not among them.

Image: Corinne Benavides

11. Bedlington Terrier

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With their pale, wooly fur, Bedlington Terriers tend to look more like lambs than any other dog breed. But while they may appear small and fluffy, these tenacious dogs are no pushovers. Both fast and fearsome, the breed makes an excellent hunter and is even said to be a fan of fighting. That said, in domestic environments, Bedlingtons are soft and gentle and are particularly good with children.

Image: Noël Zia Lee

10. Finnish Spitz

With its pointy ears, thick coat and fluffy tail, the Finnish Spitz is reminiscent of a fox. Boasting the honor of being Finland’s national dog, the Spitz was originally bred for hunting and is still used to catch some varieties of game today. At home, the dogs are friendly companions but will protect their loved ones if needs be.

Image: Harold Meerveld

9. Caucasian Ovcharka

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The Caucasian Ovcharka – or Caucasian Shepherd Dog – is a Russian bear-hunting dog. So, while the breed may look cuddly, they should be approached with caution. Without proper training, these dogs are easily aggravated and may snap at anyone that they see as a threat. With that in mind, Caucasian Ovcharkas require huge amounts of socialization in order for them to realize that humans are friends and not foes.

Image: Kara.Kinley

8. Pumi

The sweet Pumi is a form of sheep dog hailing from Hungary. They are naturals when it comes to herding animals and are also ridiculously cute. In fact, their floppy ears and mischievous facial expressions could melt even the coldest of hearts while their thick, curly fur can keep the chill off for good.

Image: via Wikipedia

7. Russian Toy

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The Russian Toy is a tiny dog breed originating from the English Toy Terrier and akin to the Chihuahua. While the breed is desirable today, it has been threatened with extinction twice. One such occasion occurred during the 1920s, when the Russian Toy’s association with royalty meant that it fell out of favor during Communism’s advance in their native land.

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6. Pharaoh Hound

Despite its name, the striking Pharaoh Hound has nothing to do with Ancient Egypt. Instead, the breed has its roots in Malta where it as known as “Kelb tal-Fenek,” or “rabbit dog” in English, no doubt on account of its oversized, pointed ears. And just when you thought these pooches couldn’t get any cuter, Pharaoh Hounds are also known to blush. As a result, their ears and nose may go a beautiful deep shade of pink when happy, content or excited.

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5. Otterhound

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With just 600 Otterhounds worldwide, the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom recognizes them as a Vulnerable Native Breed. The dogs first emerged in northern parts of England during the early 1800s and are easily recognizable thanks to their large heads and rough fur. It’s this distinctive oily fur, along with its webbed paws, that allow the Otterhound to hunt both on land and in water.

Image: Petful

4. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

As if this breed’s name wasn’t unique enough, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s distinctive mop of hair sets the it apart from the crowd. Named after a character in Sir Walter Scott’s tome Guy Mannering, the breed is said to be the gentleman of terriers thanks to its calm nature. Unfortunately the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is among one of the rarest dog breeds, both in the U.K. and the U.S, so spotting one of these cuties might be a challenge.

Image: Darkangels

3. Swedish Lapphund

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Almost as elusive as the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is the Swedish Lapphund. It’s believed there are only 1,200 of these dogs worldwide and most of their population remains within their native Sweden. The dogs were originally used for guarding reindeer and hunting by Lapland’s Sami population. The Lapphund is known as the “the black beauty of Norrland” thanks to its impressive mane and handsome face.

Image: Elisabeth Maus Pisula

2. Slovensky Cuvac

Not only are Slovensky Cuvacs gorgeous to look at, these dogs also make perfect companions. Loyal to a fault, the breed will go out of its way to protect its humans even if that means fighting off wolves and bears. Slovensky Cuvacs have been used as guard dogs for centuries. As such, they are always alert and ready to pounce.

Image: Visa Kopu

1. Hovawart

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The stunning Hovawart looks like a golden retriever sporting the tan and black markings of a Rottweiler. Loyal, affectionate and playful, these dogs make the perfect family pet and are good around children. Despite the Hovawart’s positive attributes, the breed was nearly wiped out in the 1200s but thankfully, today their numbers are back on track.

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