Why Are There So Many Dog Breeds?


Pug

While compiling the list of dog breeds, I was amazed at how many breeds of dog there are, and I wanted to find out why.

Dog breeds are continually appearing and disappearing, with new breeds being bred for popularity and fashion. New working breeds help with different jobs.

Currently, there are about 400 dog breeds in the World. Many dog breeds have disappeared over time, but new, different breeds have taken their place. New kinds of dog are due to the desire for something more perfect than what came before.  In this article we look at why there are so many breeds of dog.

For more information on how dogs evolved from wolves, you can find out in this article I have written here.

Parson Russell Terrier
Parson Russell Terrier

Variations In Breeds

The variety in breeds of dog has allowed individuals to differ from each other not only in color, coat type and body structure but also in size and weight.

Colors

Dogs come in many different colors, including cream, gray, gold, red, liver, blue, brown, black, tan, and many more. Many dogs come in combinations of these colors.

Coat Type

Dogs have many different types of coats. Some breeds such as the Xoloitzcuintli are hairless, whereas the Puli has a corded coat. Some breeds, such as the Dalmatian, have a short, single coat, whereas the Chow-Chow has a full double coat. Yorkshire terriers have a long-haired silky coat, whereas the Afghan Hound has a semi-long coat. Breeds such as the Fox terrier have a wire-haired coat, whereas poodles have a curly coat.

Size And Weight

There is a huge difference in the sizes and weights between different breeds. A Dachshund with a height at the withers of 20 cm can be bred, along with an almost one-meter tall Irish Wolfhound or Great Dane.

Dachshund
Dachshund

Different Uses

Humans soon learned to recognize the positive qualities of a dog breed and use them to his advantage. With a growing love for dogs, the use of them in a wide variety of human activity increased. This new popuarity led to new dog breeds that differed from others, not only in their appearance but also in their behavior.

The variations in different breeds has contributed to different jobs and uses for dogs.

Dogs were originally bred to help with hunting, but have since been used as assistance dogs, fire dogs, messenger dogs, Police dogs, Army dogs, herding, and of course, as pets.

Hunting Dogs

Initially, the vast majority of breeds originated as hunting dogs. Different breeds were needed for different weather conditions, and for different aspects of hunting, leading to the creation of lots of different types of hunting dog.

Different types of burrowing dogs have been bred, mainly because of the need to successfully end a fox hunt. Chased by tall legged hounds, the fox would disappear into a burrow, unable to be caught.  This led to the breeding of the Fox Terrier

Some hunters had Fox Terriers but did not like the white color, and the need to trim the hair. By mixing different breeds of Terriers, a new breed was created. The new breed, the Jagdterrier, was created. This breed was black with reddish-brown markings, which does not need much grooming of the fur, like a Fox Terrier.

Despite this, the Fox Terrier did not fall out of favor, as many hunters also preferred the white color on a burrowing dog, spending several hours a year to process their hair so that they have a dog to their liking. 

English Foxhound

When hunting birds, different breeds of dogs could show the hunters where the bird was hiding so that they could catch them.

Besides hunting, dogs have, from the very beginning of its coexistence with humans, also had another purpose.

Guard Dogs

For many generations, some dog breeds were friendly to people they knew, while to strangers, they were quite vicious. By the purposeful breeding of dogs that were distrustful to strangers, new, modern breeds of guard dogs were bred.

Breeds such as the Rottweiller, Puli, Komondor and German Shepherd were originally bred to be guard dogs.

Service Dogs

Dogs are extremely intelligent, and several breeds are used as assistance and service dogs in several ways.

Guide dogs assist the blind and the visually impaired. The breeds of dog used are generally Labradors, Golden Retrievers and crosses of both breeds. Labradors and Golden Retrievers were breeds chose for their easiness to train and their even temperament.

Police and Military Dogs

Different breeds such as the German Shepherd, Bloodhound, Dutch Shepherd and the Belgian Melinois have been used by the Police and Military for various activities.

Police dogs are usually male as they are generally more aggressive than female dogs. Female dogs are, however, used for tracking, rescue, and the detection of drugs or bombs.

French Bulldog

Pets

Dogs have been kept as companions for a long time, with a fossilized canine skull found in Siberia suggesting that dogs were domesticated as long as 30,000 years ago.

However, it is only from the 20th Century, that dogs were bred especially for this purpose.

Dogs are now bred for their appearance, not for their functionality, with many new breeds such as the cockapoo, the The Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen, and the The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje.

The origin of new breeds is due to the following:

  • In isolated areas, an almost completely purebred type of dog was created, characteristic of their surrounding habitat
  • Large landowners who bred dogs of different types on their estates, keeping them in relatively purebred form
  • Purposeful, deliberate crossbreeding of different breeds to create new breeds with specific exterior properties and behavior

The rapid development of biological sciences and the knowledge of the laws of genetics has introduced order into dog breeding.

Lovers of different breeds have united in societies and unions to help each other in breeding different breeds of dogs.

Poodle
Poodle

The concept of purebred breeding appeared, which strictly protected the thoroughbreds, not allowing them to crossbreed. For individual breeds, genealogical pedigree books are kept, in which registered individuals are recorded. A certificate of their origin is issued known as the pedigree.

Distribution Of Breeds

Not all dog breeds are represented in all countries. Most dog breeds are distributed only in their countries of origin and in countries joined to them. Only about one-fourth of all breeds can be found in most countries of the World. Therefore, in several countries, the majority of breeds are entirely unknown. These breeds are only seen at international exhibitions.

The distribution of a breed is due primarily to their use. In some cases, this is due to their interesting properties. Some people want a dog breed that no one else has. If they are then engaged in further breeding, then that breed will take its roots in the new country, enriching the diversity of the dog breeds.

Breeding can be unsuccessful if the breed is not popular, or the climate of the country does not correspond. Sometimes, a breed does not find enough enthusiasts so that it can further develop and spread.

What Are The Reasons for Dog Breeds Increasing?

Fashion and popularity often play a large role in the distribution. The number of dogs in the breed increases sharply, with older breeds giving way to a new fashionable, popular breed in a few years. 

However, it is not always possible to argue that the breed’s popularity is always beneficial.  

Photo of dog

Commercial, opportunistic reasons can bring unhealthy breeds if dog organizations do not intervene. Organizations need to take vigorous measures to ensure that only typical individuals are included in the breeding. They also need to check that the selection of parental pairs, regardless of demand, strictly obeys the basic requirements of selection.

Many examples throughout history prove that after the decline of a breed from popularity, only those breeds that have working, functional significance remain in high populations.

For example, if the Scottish Terrier were used for work purposes, the number of puppies registered would not have decreased to the level of a few pets. A few decades ago, it was fashionable for a lady to keep a Scottish Terrier. After World War I, the Fox Terrier became a fashionable breed. 

American Foxhound

In the 1930s, the number of records of Fox Terrier puppies was the highest of all breeds. With the lower popularity of the Fox Terrier, the number of entries in the pedigree book of this breed decreased.

The Fox Terrier has not disappeared, and for many years, their numbers have remained at the same level; a relatively high numerical level corresponding to the need for its use for hunting.

There is currently witnessing a reduction in large breeds, which are being replaced by small, short-legged ones. There are various reasons for this. In cities where the population is concentrated in high-rise buildings, small dogs are more convenient.

Caucasian Shepherd Dog

They do not need large spaces for exercise, are easier to transport outside the city, and also consume less food. The love of small breeds can be seen not only in North America but throughout the World. 

The breeding of small dogs is not associated with any danger in the disappearance of large breeds. Larger breeds move away from the cities and into the country.

Taxonomy Of Dog Breeds

 A single taxonomy of dog breeds does not yet exist. The classification of dog breeds is based on their origin or use. In different countries, the taxonomy is different and depends on how many individual breeds are represented and how they are used. 

Terrier breeds are sometimes not isolated as an independent group but are included in other groups according to the method of their use.

Karelian Bear Dog
Karelian Bear Dog

For example, the Airedale Terrier belongs to the service breeds. Fox Terriers, Jagdterrier, Lakeland Terrier, and the Cesky Terrier, together with Dachshunds form a select group of normal dogs. Some terrier belongs to the hounds, and non-hunting terriers are included in the group of indoor and decorative dog breeds.

The situation is similar for Schnauzers and Spitz. Small and miniature schnauzers are sometimes classified as service breeds. In the same way, some shepherd breeds (shepherd dogs) in some countries are classified as service breeds. This separation of breeds is artificial, and should only be used as a guideline.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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