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Will Dogs Ever Go Extinct? Why Some Breeds Disappeared

Written by: Grant Piper

Last Updated on April 6, 2024 by Dogster Team

dogs sitting for a portrait at the park

Will Dogs Ever Go Extinct? Why Some Breeds Disappeared

In 2023, 21 different animals were delisted from the Endangered Species Act because they were officially declared extinct 1. This is part of an ongoing trend where humans are causing animals to go extinct at an alarming rate. This has made some people wonder if their beloved dogs could ever go extinct. People love dogs, and the idea that dogs could one day go the way of the Dodo bird and disappear forever is horrifying to many.

But how likely is that? Will dogs ever go extinct? Not likely. Very few animals that have been kept so heavily by humans have ever gone extinct. There are still ample dog populations, both wild and domesticated, and there is a concerted effort to continue breeding and maintaining dog populations. That means that dogs as a whole are very unlikely to go extinct, but individual dog breeds can go extinct.

Why Dogs Probably Won’t Go Extinct

There are two key reasons why dogs are very unlikely to ever go extinct. First, there are massive numbers of dogs around the world. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are roughly 90 million companion dogs in the United States alone.

According to the World Animal Foundation, there are an estimated 900 million dogs in the world. That is a lot of dogs. Those numbers do not accurately account for wild dogs, stray dogs, and dogs in remote populations. Millions upon millions of dogs are born every single year, and many of those dogs go on to live fruitful lives and reproduce themselves.

The other reason why dogs are unlikely to ever go extinct is because they are heavily domesticated. Humans love dogs. They are constantly breeding new dogs. They are actively involved in supporting and growing domesticated dog populations around the world. With such heavy engagement with local dog populations, it is extremely unlikely that dogs will ever go extinct as long as humans are around.

golden retriever dogs running at the park
Image Credit: Kitreel, Shutterstock

Species vs. Breed

One misconception that many people have is that dog breeds are their own separate species. But that is not the case. Every domestic dog breed that you are familiar with is all part of the same overarching species, Canis familiaris, and this species encompasses hundreds of different breeds.

However, individual dog breeds can go extinct through various means. Even if multiple dog breeds go extinct, it has little bearing on the overall status of the species as a whole. It can be sad when a dog breed goes extinct, but individual breed populations do little to affect the overall species of Canis familiaris. Your favorite dog breed could one day be in jeopardy of disappearing, but dogs overall likely never will.

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Why Some Dog Breeds Go Extinct

Numerous dog breeds have gone extinct throughout the years. This can be sad for local populations and fanciers of these breeds. So, how does a dog breed go extinct? There are a few ways in which this can happen.

American Foxhound dog standing on pathway at the park
Image Credit: Olga Aniven, Shutterstock

Small Populations

Not all dog breeds have similar populations. Some breeds have much larger populations than others. There have been a number of niche dog breeds that have been kept by small populations, like royalty, that never achieved large numbers.

Breeds with small populations are much more likely to go extinct than breeds with larger populations. If a breed starts out with a small population of, say, 500 dogs, they are more likely to be at risk of genetic issues, accidents, and low breeding rates, which can lead the dogs to disappear slowly.

Supplanted By a New Breed

One of the most common ways that dog breeds go extinct is when they are supplanted by a newer and better breed. Dog breeding is an ever-evolving art, and dogs are constantly being tweaked and bred for specific traits. Many extinct breeds were simply replaced by a new or different species that did a job better than their predecessor.

For example, the Cumberland Sheepdog went extinct in the middle part of the 20th century because it was incredibly similar to the Border Collie. Since the Border Collie had a much larger population, it slowly replaced the Cumberland Sheepdog until there were none left.

Adorable black and white Border Collie dog posing outdoors standing on fallen maple leaves in autumn
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

War and Natural Disruption

Another thing that can cause a dog breed to go extinct is war or a similar massive disruption. War is devastating for local animal populations. Both World War I and World War II decimated native dog breed populations in Europe, and many of them struggled to recover once the fighting had ceased.

Populations could also be supplanted by migrating peoples. For example, when Europeans spread throughout North America and the Pacific, they brought dogs, which slowly replaced native breeds. Other disruptions, like disease, natural disasters, and breeding issues, can also sink dog breed populations, especially breeds with small populations.

Notable Examples of Dog Breeds That Have Gone Extinct

Here are four notable examples of dog breeds that have gone extinct over the years and the reasons for their extinction. Each breed highlights one of the common reasons that dog breeds can go extinct.

Hawaiian Poi Dog

Reason for Extinction: Natural disruption

The Hawaiian Poi Dog was a dog native to Hawai’i kept by the natives for many generations. The dog served as a companion, a hunting dog, and a part of special ceremonies. The Hawaiian Poi Dog went extinct after the introduction of European dogs to the islands when they were visited and eventually absorbed by Western powers. This makes the Hawaiian Poi Dog an example of how breeds can go extinct in the face of new populations and migration.

King’s White Hound

Reason for Extinction: Small population

The King’s White Hound was a French scenthound owned by five successive French kings. The Chien Blanc du Roi, as it is known in France, was a favorite hunting dog for the French elite. However, the population was incredibly small. The dogs were kept in a single pack by the French monarchy. When Louis XV disbanded the pack in 1725, the dogs slowly faded from existence and ceased to exist. This is an example of a dog breed that vanished due to small, niche populations.

dogs running outdoor
Image Credit: GGunner, Shutterstock

Paisley Terrier

Reason for Extinction: Replaced by new breed

The Paisley Terrier was a Scottish dog that disappeared in the early 20th century. The Paisley Terrier is one of the earliest ancestors of the Yorkshire Terrier. The Paisley Terrier never spread out of Scotland to the United States, where dog breeding was more common. Instead, the dog was slowly replaced by its progenitors, who rose in popularity and made the leap across the Atlantic. The Yorkshire Terrier is still incredibly popular to this day, but it slowly replaced the Paisley Terrier, which fell as the Yorkie rose. The Paisley Terrier was outcompeted by another dog that was seen as a better companion animal.

St. John’s Water Dog

Reason for Extinction: Replaced by new breed

The St. John’s Water Dog was another dog which was replaced by different species over time. Unlike the Paisley Terrier, the St. John’s Water Dog was a working dog that was replaced by better working dogs. The St John’s Water Dog was replaced by two insanely popular and hard working breeds: the Newfoundland and the Labrador Retriever. These new breeds simply outcompeted and became far more popular than the original St John’s Water Dog, so it slowly disappeared. But humanity got Newfies and Labs as a replacement, which most would say was a fair trade.

Everything Goes Extinct Eventually

It is impossible to say that dogs won’t ever go extinct, only that it is extremely unlikely that they will in the near future. The fact of the matter is that 99% of all species to ever exist on Earth have gone extinct. Extinction seems to be a natural part of life and one fueled by natural selection and evolution. Dogs could one day go extinct like many of the species to go before them. Most people likely won’t live to see that day unless something catastrophic happens. The truth is that a nuclear war or catastrophic asteroid strike could cause dogs to go extinct out of nowhere, but these things are incredibly unlikely.

You should not worry about dogs going extinct in your lifetime, your kids’ lifetime, or even your family lineage’s lifetime. But it is possible that some time down the road, dogs will go extinct.

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Dog lovers can take a deep breath. Dogs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are hundreds of millions of dogs in the world and hundreds of millions of people who love dogs. There is nothing on the horizon that can legitimately threaten the dog species as a whole. While some dog breeds might phase out of existence, they are almost always replaced by other breeds that are more popular or better suited for the day and age. Dogs are man’s best friend, and as long as man is around, dogs will be too.


Featured Image Credit: Daria Shvetcova, Shutterstock

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