There are hundreds of dog breeds that exist, but where did they all come from? In considering the vast variety of dog builds, appearances and types, it leads one to ponder which of the breeds was the original, and which have survived the longest. Here is are ten of the oldest dog breeds, and what parts of the world they originated in.
Basenji, or the Congo Terrier – This is one of the quietest dog breeds, as they are known for barking very rarely, and only if there is great trouble or distress. Though this dog only came to America in the 1930’s, it is believed to have been kept in Ancient Egypt as a watchdog and hunter for the Pharaohs.
Pharaoh Hound – With this breed’s name is it not difficult to guess where these dogs originated. Another sleek African breed, the copper-colored Pharaoh Hound has a distinctly pointed ears, and majestic posture that has been featured in hieroglyphics and statues. (Another similar breed is the Ibizan Hound, who was also bred for hunting rabbits like his cousin the Pharaoh Hound.)
New Guinea Singing Dog –This type of canine has proven to stand the test of time, though it is still one of the rarest breeds in the world. These dogs have officially been domesticated, but they are resistant to handling. These pups are known for the complexity and depth of their vocal range, which has earned them the title of “singing dog.”
Peruvian Inca Orchid Dog –These unique hairless dogs are believed to have been around since 750 AD, having been documented in art pieces of ancient Inca and Mayan culture. The Xoloti, or the Mayan god of Death was depicted as a hairless dog similar to the Xoloitzcuintli, (also known as the Mexican Hairless dog) which is another of the world’s ancient canine breeds. The Peruvian Inco Orchid is also ranked among the rarest dog breeds in the world.
American Dingo (or the Carolina Dog) –These agile dogs have roamed plains, mountains and coastlines of North America for hundreds of years. Some authorities on the origin of dog breeds claim that these pups would have been descended from those who crossed the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago. Though they have that “all-American” domestic dog appeal about them, these nomadic dingoes are a listed as one of the rarest breeds, and some still roam the wild to this day.
Siberian Husky – The Siberian Husky (along with the Greenland dog) both have close genetic links to the Taymyr wolf, and were companion sled- dogs to Arctic tribes for centuries. Paleolithic dog skulls found seem to closely resemble those of the Siberian Husky dogs, with merely some minor size discrepancies of the teeth. The Alaskan Husky is a close cousin to the Siberian Husky dog.
Borzoi – Also known as the Russian Wolfhound, the name Borzoi comes from the Russian word for “fast.” This speedy breed is believed to have been around since the Mongols first invaded Russia around the 9th and 10th centuries. They are a close cousin of the Saluki and the Afghan hounds.
Pekingese: Originally hailing from China, the Pekingese dogs were bred to resemble the Chinese guardian lions, and were companions both in royal courts and in Buddhist monasteries. As legend goes the dog was believed to be descended from a lion and a marmoset. This breed is believed to be over 1,000 years old, and has been both a companionable lap dog as well as a final defender of their master if he were to be attacked. They have been pictured in antique artwork in both Asia and abroad.
Akita and Chow Chow – East Asian Dog breeds, both the Akita and the Chow Chow are ancient breeds. The Chow Chow, despite its wooly, lion-like appearance was found to have the highest genomic reflection of the Chinese wolf than other dog breeds in the region. This would explain not only the dogs’ original heritage, but also their protective and tenacious temperaments.
Greyhound –The Greyhound can be traced back into ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt before the breed ever came to recognition among European royalty. Once valued as rapid rabbit hunters, the Greyhounds then became prized racing dogs, and are valued for their speed to this day. With their apparent fragile appearance it might be hard to believe that these agile dogs had such resilience, yet they are among the oldest canine breeds to exist.
Other reputedly ancient dog breeds: Saluki (Africa or Iran), The German spitz (Western Europe), Afghan hound, Sharpei (Asia), Samoyed, Shih Tzu, and the Lhasa Apso.
Note: A reputable Science Magazine reported that researchers have uncovered canine skulls that might be anywhere from 16,000-40,000 years old, making this the oldest evidence of canine life in existence.