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14 Ancient Dog Breeds: With Pictures & Facts

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

alaskan malamute in the forest

14 Ancient Dog Breeds: With Pictures & Facts

Some studies suggest that dogs began domestication around 40,000 years ago, while DNA analysis shows a date of about 130,000 years ago when dogs began their transformation from wolves.1, 2 As time went on, breeds came and went, as some became extinct and others were developed into different breeds altogether. But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that some breeds have the fortitude to stand the test of time, and today, we’re going to take a look at several of them.

The 14 breeds below are ancient, with some coming into existence as far back as 58,000 years ago! Read on to learn the interesting histories of these 14 breeds.

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How Are Ancient Dog Breeds Classified?

In an article about ancient dog breeds, we wanted to focus on dogs that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years. Their exact date or place of origin may be unknown, but they’re linked back to a certain period thanks to something like ancient art depictions or DNA testing.

The 14 Ancient Dog Breeds

1. Akita Inu

akita inu dog
Image Credit: Malen Billoni Ahum, Pixabay
Place of Origin: Japan
Approximate Year of Origin: 8000 BC to 200 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting

While the Akita Inu’s precise time of origin is uncertain, archaeological finds suggest that a dog known as Matagi-Inu lived between 8000 BC and 200 BC. Matagi-Inu is believed to be an ancestor of the Akita. Though these ancient dogs are smaller than the Akita Inu we know and love today, there’s no denying the rich history and lineage of the breed.

2. Basenji

Basenji outdoor
Image Credit: Verbitskaya Juli, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Congo
Approximate Year of Origin: 6000 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting

The Basenji has been identified as a basal breed, predating the emergence of modern breeds in the 1800s. They are believed to be related to dogs of Ancient Egypt, with tomb paintings, inscriptions, and evidence indicating that Egyptians used breeds like the Basenji to herd cattle. It is widely believed that this breed was used as inspiration for the canine head of the Anubis, the ancient Egyptian God.

3. Greyhound

brindle greyhound dog standing in flower field
Image Credit: Natallia Yaumenenka, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Likely Egypt
Approximate Year of Origin: 3000 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting

While no one knows for certain the exact origin of Greyhounds, dogs that closely resembled the breed were favorites of the Egyptian Pharaohs, making them one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They were so highly valued and celebrated that the birth of a Greyhound was just as important an occasion as the birth of a son. They were prized as royalty and lived in special kennels.

4. Chinese Shar-Pei

Head of Shar Pei brown adult Chinese purebred dog standing
Image Credit: Cavan-Images, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: China
Approximate Year of Origin: 200 BC
Original Purpose: All-purpose

There are no records that indicate the origin of the breed, though it resembles an unwrinkled guard dog kept in China during the Han dynasty (202 BC to 9 AD). The Chinese Shar-Pei bears a strong resemblance to statues dating back to ancient times, and many manuscripts make references to “wrinkled dogs”. A Shar-Pei was likely originally a peasant’s dog and was meant to be versatile for hunting, herding, and guarding.

5. Chow Chow

chow chow dog walking outdoor
Image Credit: Oral Zirek, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: China
Approximate Year of Origin: 200 BC
Original Purpose: All-purpose

The Chow Chow is much like the Chinese Shar-Pei in many ways. They were depicted in artifacts from the Han Dynasty, though evidence suggests the breed goes back even further than that. They have had many roles over the years, including acting as hunters, guardians, haulers, and companions for Chinese nobles.

6. Greenland Sled Dog

Greenland Sled Dog
Image Credit: Needpix
Place of Origin: Greenland
Approximate Year of Origin: 7500 BC
Original Purpose: Sled pulling

The Greenland Sled Dog looks much like a Husky and Alaskan Malamute, but genetically speaking, it’s very different. They had to adapt to harsh Arctic conditions, eating extremely high-fat diets and pulling sleds in low-oxygen environments. A recent study found that the lineage is closely linked to their ancestors found on Zhokhov Island in Siberia 9,500 years ago.

7. Afghan Hound

Afghan Hound
Image Credit: David Raihelgauz, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Afghanistan
Approximate Year of Origin: 4000 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting

The Afghan Hound’s origin is a little fuzzy, though they have been identified as a basal breed, predating the emergence of modern dog breeds. This is one of the oldest sighthound breeds, with genetic testing tracing them back to the wolf with very little genetic divergence.

8. Saluki

Image Credit: Svetlay, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Arabian Peninsula
Approximate Year of Origin: 6000 to 7000 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting

The Saluki is an ancient breed that can be traced back to Egypt. Dogs bearing a strong resemblance to the Saluki can be seen on Egyptian graves and even in wall carvings of the Sumerian empire as old as 6,000 to 7,000 BC. It wasn’t until the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (1550 to 1292 BC) that the Saluki-like dogs rose to great prominence.

9. Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff
Image Credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Tibet
Approximate Year of Origin: 58,000 years ago
Original Purpose: Guardian

The Tibetan Mastiff may very well be the oldest dog breed in the world. Stone age cave drawings in the Himalayan Mountain range show that the Tibetan Mastiff’s ancestors have been present for thousands of years. DNA studies suggest that the Tibetan Mastiff genetically descended from wolves 58,000 years ago, compared to other dog breeds whose DNA can be traced to wolves 42,000 years ago.

10. Shiba Inu

shiba inu dog standing on the road
Image Credit: OlesyaNickolaeva, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Japan
Approximate Year of Origin: 290 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting

The Shiba Inu is another basal breed predating modern dog breeds. Dogs that looked like the Shiba Inu were seen in dogū (small humanoid animal figurines) made during the Jōmon period in prehistoric Japan (between 14,000 and 300 BC).

11. Samoyed

Samoyed dog howling outdoor
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Siberia
Approximate Year of Origin: 1000 BC
Original Purpose: Working

The Samoyed may date back to 1000 BC, but the breed hasn’t changed much in appearance or temperament since. They were named for the nomadic Samoyede people living in the tundra of northern Russia and Siberia. They were used for a variety of purposes, including herding, hunting, and sand sledding.

12. Pekingese

Image Credit: T Den, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: China
Approximate Year of Origin: 200 BC
Original Purpose: Companionship

The Pekingese is an ancient breed that was once only allowed to be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. They were considered sacred animals and may date back as far as the Han dynasty. Some historians believe there is a correlation between the arrival of Buddhism in China and the development of the Pekinese.

13. Xoloitzcuintli

Xoloitzcuintli breed mexican hairless dogs
Image Credit: Kalinina Maria, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Mexico
Approximate Year of Origin: 1480 BC
Original Purpose: Watchdog

Experts believe that the ancestors of the Xoloitzcuintli accompanied early migrants from Asia around 3,500 years ago. Ceramic sculptures of hairless dogs have been found in 2,000-year-old tombs in Mexico, which shouldn’t be a surprise as Xolos were sometimes sacrificed and buried alongside their owners to act as guides for their journey to the underworld.

14. Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute dog stands on green grass against the background of a flowering tree
Image Credit: Hanna Borysenko, Shutterstock
Place of Origin: Likely the Bering Strait
Approximate Year of Origin: 2000 BC
Original Purpose: Hunting; sled pulling

The Alaskan Malamute is believed to have descended from the domesticated wolf dogs that migrated with their hunter owners from the Bering Strait into North America over 4,000 years ago. They are one of the oldest sled dog breeds of the Arctic, and their name “Malamute” is inspired by the Alaskan Inuit tribe Mahlemiut, who likely played a big part in developing the breed.dogster paw divider


With so many new “designer” breeds coming out, it can be hard to remember some of the oldest dog breeds. But this article highlights their origins, purpose, and how long they have graced the Earth. Mixed-breed dogs might even have DNA from one of these canines. Dogs have such an incredible history.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

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