Learn About the History of Dog Breeding and the Major Dog Breeds

Breeding relies on the science of genetics. A breeder who has the knowledge about canine genetics and health can breed suitable dogs. Hundreds of dog breeds have been developed through this process. The offspring’s characteristics in a dog’s reproduction without human intervention are determined by “natural selection.” While “artificial selection” is when dogs are intentionally bred by their owners or what we call “dog breeding” or “selective breeding.”

Dog breeding is an intended practice of mating selected dogs to maintain a distinct quality. It is also being executed to produce specific characteristics of a dog. Artificial selection in dog breeding contributes to the behavior, shape, and size of dogs.

Domesticated dogs have been developed over the years into distinct types or groups such as working dogs, sporting dogs, hunting dogs, and sighthounds. Here are the details of its developed history starting with the evolution of dogs from wolves.

Descendants of Wolves

Descendants of Wolves

For hundreds of years, researchers have debated over the history and evolution of domestic dogs. Most scientists agree that dogs are directly descended from “Canis Lupus” or the “Grey Wolf.” There has been a DNA research conducted by biologists and that shows that dogs are closely related to the Grey Wolf. In fact, the widely accepted reference source on mammal species reclassified the dog from “Canis Familiaris” to “Canis Lupus” in 1993.

Wolf and Man

Remains of dogs dating back from 10 to 15 thousand years have been found. Wolf and man had several important common things –both were hunters and hunted in packs. There is no specific research that shows how and why a man tamed a wolf. The most plausible incident that happened is that a human hunting party came across a young wolf cub and decided to take it with them. The tamed wolf would probably have had considerable value to the hunter since it can contribute to the hunter’s group with its superior hunting senses. The wolf not just helped in hunting, but it had also provided a warning system to the villager’s defenses. The evolution of dogs from wolves began.

The First Selective Breeding Process

The First Selective Breeding Process

Wolves have been a common pet since the ancient times through their common interest in hunting. But keeping a wolf that has a little help to humans is pointless. The wolves could become overly aggressive and dangerous towards humans, and such wolves were killed. Only the remaining wolves with desirable characteristics were then selected to breed. As the process progressed, the characteristics of each group of tamed wolves reflected the needs of the different group of humans it lived with. Its size, color, senses, the length or thickness of its fur and its swimming ability reflects the needs of the hunters and the environment of the wolves. Human’s dog trading occurred, and puppies were traded based on the inbred characteristics they acquire.

Different Dog Breeds

The changing requirements of man for a dog companion gave way to the birth of selective breeding. The history and the evolution of dog breeds allow us to understand how we have hundreds of unique dog breeds today. Dogs breeds are generally divided by its group, classification, and standards. Each division has distinctive characteristics, features, and traits which are perfect for their purpose.

The American Kennel Club defines 7 major types of dog breeds.  These include:

1. Hound Dog Breeds

Hound dogs were the first hunting dogs. They were the type of a dog used by hunters to track or chase a prey. Hound dogs have been selectively bred to chase a quarry by either sight or smell or combination of both senses. Hound dog breeds have three types with several breeds within each type.

Sighthounds – Sighthounds are also known as Gazehounds. Sighthounds have a vivid vision and exceptional eyesight. They are specialized in hunting their quarry by sight than by scent. They have long jaw and neck which helps them in looking for what they seek. Sighthounds have a lean muscular body, deep chest and long strong legs that help them when following a fast and agile prey. They have speed and stamina need for them to catch the intended prey. The examples of sighthounds are Greyhound and Whippet.

Scent Hounds – Scent hounds do not necessarily need to be as fast and as agile comparing to sighthounds. They do not keep their quarry in sight since they are specialized in following a scent or smell. Scent hounds have strong endurance. They can follow a scent for long distances and can across running water. Scent hounds have long ears and large noses with deep and open nostrils. Their lips are loose and moist which are designed to pick up scent particles that allow them to follow a trail of an animal. Scent hounds have bodies that are designed for endurance which is necessary when following a trail of scent. The typical example is the Bloodhound.

The Last Type of Hounds – The remaining breeds of hounds fall into this category. This type of hound dogs uses both sight and scent in following their prey. This type of hounds is difficult to classify since they are neither sight hounds nor scent hounds.

2. Working Dog Breeds

Working dog breeds were developed to perform a wide variety of tasks. Dogs in the working group are expected to do herding, rescuing and guarding. They are big in stature. Since working dogs work as a replacement for larger animals like the horse when none of such animals were available, they are considered assets to their owners.

They have an amazing physical endurance and a likable companion. These traits lead them to be recruited into service positions such as rescue dogs, bomb or drug sniffers for law enforcement agencies or helper dogs to those people who are disabled. Some examples of this type of working dogs are Mastiff, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Saint Bernard and Great Dane.

3. Sporting Dog Breeds

The term “sporting” in Sporting dog breeds means “hunting.” It is one of the oldest meaning of the English word. Sporting dogs are used to hunt as an entertainment for members of the nobility and elite classes. To assist in bird’s hunting and small games, various sporting type of dogs were developed. Sporting dog breeds are the ancestor of the modern pointer, retriever, setter and spaniel dog breeds.

Since sporting dogs are developed with energetic hunting abilities in water and field setting, most of them require regular exercise. They are active, alert and intelligent dogs. They are gentle in nature and has a high level of trainability. These traits earned them the reputation of being the best family dogs. These dog breeds include Golden Retriever, Brittany, Pointer, English Setter, and Field Spaniel to name a few.

4. Terrier Dog Breeds

Terrier Dog Breeds were originally kept to control pests such as mice, rats, rabbits, otters, stoats, and weasels. Some terrier dogs were designed to go down the holes in order to chase the European fox and other agricultural pest animals for the hunters.

Terrier dogs are typically small and have wired hair in appearance. They were very active dogs and so used to hunt small animals before, but now they make a great pet for families.

The name “terrier” comes from the Latin word “terra” meaning “earth.” It is referenced to the dogs that go underground. Nowadays, the majority of modern breeds developed from the old types of terriers are pets and companions. Only a few terrier dogs are used as working terriers and some terriers are large enough to be kept as guard dogs. Bull terrier, Australian terrier, and Welsh terrier are included in these dog breed.

5. Toy Dog Breeds

The term “toy” in Toy dog breeds refers to its appearance as they were characterized by their small size. Some of the toy dogs are from ancient lap dog types. Toy dogs are usually selectively bred as smaller varieties of larger breeds such as hunting dog breeds, or terrier dog breeds. They were bred to a small size to fit for a particular kind of work or to create a convenient size of pet. The smallest dogs belong in toy dog breeds are called” teacup” but no major dog registry recognizes the term.

Toy breeds are alert and tend to have bundles of energy so they also require training just like any other type of dogs. Though they were small in size, many of them surprisingly serve as watchdogs because of their alertness.

Aside from being having a strong protective instinct, they are also affectionate, sociable and adaptable to a wide range of lifestyles.

They can be great travel buddies because of their convenient size. They are also ideal pets for elderly people who have difficulty in handling larger dogs. Toy dog breeds are the ultimate companions. Some of them are Chihuahua, Havanese, and Maltese.

6. Herding Dog Breeds

The breeds in the herding group were recognized as part of the working group until 1983. Herding dogs are assistant of humans in the work of livestock especially cattle, sheep, goat, and reindeer. All herding breeds have an instinctive ability to control the movement of other animals. Herding dogs have innate instinct to drive other animals according to the desired direction they want them to move regardless of the size of the animal. They were bred to gather, herd and protect livestock.

Most of the herding dogs are kept as household pets and they have never been cross paths with any farm animals. Nonetheless, these dog breeds have a strong herding instinct prompts to gently herd their owners especially the children in the family.

These intelligent dogs are excellent companions and can respond greatly to training exercises. Urban herding dog owners with no access to livestock can train them through herding games. Herding instincts and trainability of herding dogs can be measured at noncompetitive tests.

Herding dog breeds are usually selectively bred depends on the changing demands of herding work, suited to specific climate or best fit to stock. Despite that, many of the herding dogs are great multi-taskers and suitable for a large variety of jobs. Some herding dog breeds are Beauceron, Briard and Border Collie.

7. Non-Sporting Dog Breeds

The non-sporting dog breeds is a large and diverse classification of dog breeds. Dogs in non-sporting dog breeds do not have an ancestry or same purpose in selectively breeding like another type of dog breeds.

Dogs in non-sporting breed vary in terms of size, coat, personality, and appearance. This group has large dogs like Chow Chow and small dogs like Bichon Frise end every size in between. Their coats vary from short to sleek to curly coats.

Dogs are man’s best friends since the early ancient times. They might have evolved over the years but their relationship to us remains closely the same.