When you look at dogs from around the world, from the petite Pomeranian to the giant Great Dane, it’s hard to believe they’re the same species. Dogs vary so much in their appearance and personality. And while some breeds have been around for thousands of years, others are younger than your grandparents.
How can this be? According to Scientific American, it largely has to do with human’s involvement in breeding, which Charles Darwin called “descent with modification.” Over time, dogs were bred for certain characteristics – usually to fulfill some function – and evolved much more quickly than they would have on their own.
The scale of this is fascinating. The website My Dog’s Name recently added a breed finder tool and in the process, the team was surprised to see the drastic differences in dogs around the world. To illustrate the point, they put together an infographic with noteworthy, distinct dogs and their home countries.
Some highlights & facts about dogs of the world
- Alaskan Malamute: Most likely a descendant of wolf dogs from the Paleolithic era, the Alaskan Malamute is the oldest sled dog and was once used to hunt bears.
- Australian Shepherd: Despite the name, the Australian Shepherd actually originated in the United States.
- Chihuahua: The Chihuahua was a prized companion of the Toltec and Mayan people – long, long before the Taco Bell mascot famously said, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell?”
- Havanese: The Havanese is the cherished national dog of Cuba and named after the capital. But did you know the breed originated in either Spain or Malta?
- Rhodesian Ridgeback: One of only a handful of dogs native to Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was used to keep lions at bay during hunting.
- Puli: Sporting some pretty sweet deadlock-looking fur, the Puli of Hungary has guarded flocks for more than 1,000 years.
- Pharaoh Hound: This breed is believed to be more than 3,000 years old and has been found in ancient hieroglyphs.
- Chow Chow: Called “puffy lion king,” the Chow Chow originated in China and Mongolia and was documented by Marco Polo. It’s also one of only two dogs with a blue tongue
- Samoyed: You’d think living in Siberia, where temperatures often drop to -60 F, would make a dog crabby, but the Samoyed has a constant smile on its face.
- Akita: The Akita of Japan is so loyal that one once returned to a train station every day for nine years after its owner died.
The history of dog breeds is fascinating. If you know your dog’s breed or breeds, you should definitely look into its history. You’ll be surprised what you find!
Does your dog’s breed have a fascinating history? Share with us in the comments!