When you learn that a friend has a Labrador Retriever, it’s easy to conjure up an image of the dog — largish, goofy, short fur, cheery look, and likely shaking water off his solid frame. You can also almost surely bet that your friend’s Lab is friendly, playful, and full of energy. But if your friend told you she has a Xoloitzcuintli, a rare hairless breed, you might not even know that is a dog, much less be able to pronounce its name.
Rare dog breeds often get overlooked by dog lovers because, well, they’re rare. According to the Urban Dictionary, “rare” is defined as “being uncommon, but with a positive connotation,” as in a “rare gem” or a “rare book.” Rare dog breeds exemplify this positive meaning. Indeed, these breeds, though less known than their AKC-registered cousins, are a mix of many sizes, looks, and temperaments. Aficionados will also tell you that some of these breeds fit the definition of “rare” as in “badass.”
What Makes a Dog Breed Rare?
Defining a rare dog breed is simple. If you’re a devoted dog lover and haven’t heard of it, it’s likely a rare breed. Here are some other things to look for:
- Its numbers are small but a distinct set of characteristics has been developed across the breed.
- It is not accredited by a kennel club, nor does it have its own breed club.
- It is not known by the general dog-loving public.
- It is considered too “exotic” or too “nervous” or too “antisocial” or too “anything” for the general public.
- It is considered too “badass” for the general public.
Why a Rare Dog Breed Is a Good Fit for Many Dog Lovers
There are many benefits to owning a rare dog breed. Though it isn’t as easy to guess about their temperament and health, you do have the parents and, hopefully, records of past generations to observe.
Rare dogs are either very healthy or have a genetic fault that is usually very clear and is being bred out. Dog lovers who want a breed that has a particular strength do well with rare dogs, which are often at the breeding stage of focusing on one or two traits. Owners of rare dog breeds will also tell you that you get the benefit of a dog community with similar goals, without the hassles of a too large, bureaucratic club.
And there’s always the novelty of owning a rare breed, so be prepared to brag a lot to curious passersby.
Why Are Some Dog Breeds Rare?
At one time, every current popular dog breed was considered rare. But some rare dog breeds stay in that category for longer periods of time or, maybe, forever.
- Time: Usually it takes a certain number of generations before it is recognized as a breed by kennel clubs or the AKC.
- Politics: The dog breeding business is like any other — it takes schmoozing and lots of martini lunches to popularize a breed with “those who count.”
- Funds: When a dog breed is still rare, a breeder does not make as much on selling offspring as a breeder of a well-known breed does.
- Limited marketing: Although there are rare dog breed shows around the country, including the big one in New York City in the fall, there are fewer opportunities for rare dog breeders.
- Conformity: A group of dogs from related litters does not a breed make, even a rare breed. To declare dogs a “breed,” standards must be established where common traits emerge in each dog and stability of body and temperament are the priorities. Records also must be kept.
Top 10 Rarest Dog Breeds
- Azawakh: This African Sighthound only numbers in the low hundreds. He is even more svelte than a Greyhound and usually works in packs.
- Catalburun: This Turkish Pointer has a very unusual characteristic — a split-nose. This oddity indicates good hunting skills to their owners.
- Tibetan Mastiff: This huge dog (easily around 160 pounds) with a lion mane is a danger to his prey. He is, however, also a good companion dog.
- Carolina Dog: Another American original, this breed is found in the Southern states and is thought to have crossed the Bering Straight thousands of years ago. His nickname is the American Dingo.
- Peruvian Inca Orchid: Also known as the Peruvian Hairless Dog, this dog with the speckled skin and Mohawk is as old as the Incan Empire.
- Fila Brasileiro: This dog looks like a goofy hound, but he is really a fierce tracker of his prey. He falls in the category of “too badass” for most people to be comfortable with.
- Stabyhoun: This large dog from Friesland is very hearty and works well independently. About 2,000 Stabyhouns exist.
- Tosa: This is another “badass” breed, which is often called the Japanese Fighting Dog. He is still used for fighting but can also make a good all-around guard dog.
- Thai Ridgeback: Of Thai descent, this dog has an eerie gray/black/purple coat that is so short he often looks hairless. Fearless and noble, the Thai Ridgeback has a ridge of hair along his back.
- Chinook: One of the only truly American breeds, the Chinook was developed in the early 1900s as a sled dog. He makes a good companion animal and is versatile in his work.
Rare dog breeds offer more variation for dog lovers. They also tend to need more training and a decidedly alpha owner, so experienced dog owners will be the best match. It’s always exciting to see a new, unusual breed (or an unusual mutt); it’s a reminder that we are all a mixture of backgrounds — “uncommon but with a positive connotation.”
Do you own a rare dog breed? Let us know in the comments!