Everything rare is more interesting, right? Well, rare dog breeds are no different!
Chances are that you have only heard of a few of the rare dog breeds listed below. The odds that you have actually seen on in person are probably even less. Some dog breeds are so rare they only exist in their country of origin.
Some of these breeds number less than 1000 animals in the world and are on the endangered species list or have been in the past.
Today, many have escaped the endangered list due to renewed interest in the conservation of the breed.
Making a list of the world’s rarest dog breeds is not an easy task. Mostly because it is hard to know for certain how many are left in the world at any given moment.
Rare Dog Breeds
Known as the American Dingo, this wild roaming dog is now bred in captivity.
They were originally known as the Common Indian Dog because explorers of the time had witnessed them living among Native Americans of the region.
At the time, no one paid much attention to the breed.
The Carolina Dog was rediscovered in the cypress swamps of the Southeastern United States in the 1970s by a research ecologist from the University of Georgia Savannah.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
The Carolina Dog isn’t the only breed hailing from the Southern States.
Named after Catahoula Parish in Louisiana, the Catahoula Leopard Dog is thought to be one of the first dogs bred in the United States.
They have a spotted or multi-color coat loosely resembling the leopard.
No one is sure of their exact origins. The best theory is that French settlers bred their dogs with Native American-owned hunting dogs.
They wanted hunting dogs that were adapted to the Louisiana swamps. Their main purpose was to hunt wild boars and herd livestock.
The Chinook was originally bred in New Hampshire as a sled dog. They are a Husky-Mastiff cross-bred for their warm double coat, strength, and speed.
They could pull heavy loads faster than an average sled dog and their size gave them the ability to intimidate unwanted wild animals on the Arctic trial.
This made them popular with northern traders until modern transportation took away their job.
Their Inuit name means “warm winter winds.” They have been brought back from the brink of extinction but still remain extremely rare.
English Foxhounds are another rare breed that has a long and rich history. Being a foxhound it is pretty clear they were bred to chase foxes and they still perform that task today.
These dogs have a rather loud bark (good for chasing animals!) and are high-energy being prey dogs. So they may take some extra patience from a good trainer.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is one rare breed! This unusual-looking small dog is so rare that some in the dog world worry it may go extinct.
If you wanted to buy a Dandie Dinmont Terrier you will probably have a very hard time finding a credible breeder to get one from.
They stand eight to ten inches tall on average and weigh around 20 pounds. If you like Dachshunds you will like the shape of a Dandie Dinmont Terrier as they seem to be longer than they are tall!
The average lifespan of a Dandie Dinmont Terrier is about 12 to 15 years if they remain healthy and are well taken care of.
A lot farther South is another rare dog, the Xoloitzcuintli (show-low-etz-queent-lee). Named for the dog-headed Aztec god Xoloti, this Mexican hairless dog is one of the world’s oldest know breeds.
It is thought to be one of the first wild dogs domesticated by people. If you look at ancient Aztec art, you will see this dog of the gods proudly displayed in statues and paintings.
Because they were considered sacred, they were often buried with their owners to protect them in the next world.
Peruvian Inca Orchid Dog
Another ancient domesticated dog, this sometimes hairless hunting dog has been around since before AD750.
They were part of the Inca, Chancay, and Chimu culture as companions and were thought to have healing properties.
Up until the Spanish conquered Peru and began breeding the dogs with their own larger ones, the Peruvian Inca Orchids were small hairless dogs.
Now they come in a range of sizes with the occasional haired pup.
It was their hairlessness that may have led to their lack of numbers. As cities began to grow, people living in urban areas thought they were diseased.
The Peruvian Inca Orchid dog is now protected by the Peruvian government.
Speaking of ancient dogs, the origins of the Canaan Dog can be traced back to the wild dogs of Biblical times.
In fact, up until the late 20th century, they were still found running wild in the Middle Eastern areas of Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Loss of habitat and a rabies outbreak has made it difficult to find in the wild. Though, some may still be used by traditional nomadic tribes of the area.
Breeding programs started in the 1930s captured and exported the dogs to other countries where they were domesticated and trained.
That is why the national breed of Israel is more likely found in Europe and North America than in their own country. It is estimated that there are less than 3,000 left worldwide.
Unlike the Canaan Dog which is rare in their home country, the Catalburun is rare outside of their home country of Turkey.
They are one of only three dog breeds in the world known to have a split nose. Other than their unique noses, they resemble most other pointers with their long-hanging ears and short coat.
Some believe the other two dog breeds, the Andean Tiger Hound and the Navarro Pointer, may have inherited the trait from Catalburuns that were taken out of Turkey in the 16th century.
No one is exactly sure of their origins. They were originally bred for hunting in Turkey where there are only about 200 remaining according to some estimates.
Since it is almost impossible to take one out of the country, don’t plan on seeing one in your neighborhood any time soon.
The unique curly coat, long ears, and face of the Bedlington Terrier give them their lamb-like appearance. However, these dogs are not lamb-like in their abilities.
They are fast swimmers and runners with amazing endurance. They are also great in the snow and can handle deep powder and ice as well as any Husky.
Traditionally they were used for catching vermin, but with these talents, it’s no wonder they found their way into other sports.
They were named for the North England mining town of Bedlington around 1825. Prior to that, they were known as the Rodbury or Rothbury Terrier.
Estrela Mountain Dog
The Estrela Mountain Dog is a rare breed of dog that just happens to be big! Standing at 25 to 30 inches tall and weighing around 80 to 125 pounds you could have your hands full with this big dog!
The good thing is these rare purebred dogs from Portugal love to please their owners and also are very protective.
The Estrela Mountain Dog will defend the homestead and while not an athletic dog they are smart and pretty fearless when it comes to intruders.
The Estrela Mountain Dog has an average lifespan of about 10 to 14 years.
Lagotto Romagnolo Dog
Another versatile breed both in and out of the water. They get their name from the Romagna sub-region of Italy.
Traditionally used as a lake hunting dog, their keen sense of smell has made them a superb truffle hunter. This truffle hunting skill both saved and destroyed the breed.
Truffle hunters would cross-breed them with any other dog with an excellent nose for truffles. Of course, since they were so good at their job, some truffle hunters never found the need to cross-breed.
Since no one else in the region cared either way about the Lagotto Romagnolo as a breed, this may have saved them from extinction.
This versatile Hungarian herding dog does it all – hunting, herding, guarding, and rodent extermination. They have a distinct curly coat that comes from adaptations of their wild ancestors.
Though, they are a relatively new breed that started in 1930 to separately breed small Hungarian sheepdogs. World War II almost eliminated the Mudi.
Fila Brasileiro Dog
Believed to have origins in the Mastiff and Bloodhound families, this large-boned, loose-skinned breed is known for its aggressive tracking ability.
The Brazilian Mastiff, as it is known, will track its prey until it is trapped and wait for the hunter to arrive. This is why they are excellent cattle dogs or for large game hunting.
Their legal status put them on the rare dog list.
Because of their aggressive nature when protecting their owners, it is illegal to own one without special permission in many countries like Norway, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
In New Zealand, male pups must be neutered. Since most countries won’t allow them to be imported, it’s no wonder why their numbers are shrinking.
Norwegian Lundehund Dog
If you ever find yourself in the midst of a Puffin hunt, this is the dog for you. They were actually developed to hunt Puffins and their eggs on rocky Norwegian cliffs.
With their unique flexibility (it can tip its head backward to touch its spine) and six toes on each foot, they are adept at climbing and getting into odd cervices.
Their specialty almost led to their extinction. Once they were no longer needed for hunting Puffins, fewer Norwegian hunters felt the need to keep the breed around.
Another casualty of job loss. As the name suggests, the European bred Otterhound was developed to hunt otters.
This large hound has webbed feet for navigating water and a rugged double coat for hunting on land.
Modern hunting practices took over reducing the need for these hounds. Once otter hunting was banned, the breed became unpopular.
This massive dog comes from the rugged mountains of Russia and neighboring countries known as the Caucasian region. Hence it is also called the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.
Their thick hair and large bodies are designed for more than surviving the harsh winters of that area. Behind that adorable face lies a fierce hunter and guard dog.
They were known for taking on wolves and bears to protect their owners and their herds.
Little is known about this rare breed. Because Tibet is so isolated, it’s not like they have been traveling the globe.
Though, there is some evidence that they were given to early travelers to the region as gifts and that is how they made their way to Europe.
This large breed dog sports a heavy double coat perfect for colder weather. Yet, they don’t shed. Instead, they drop their coat once a year.
Originating in the Friesland province of the Netherlands, there are estimated to be less than 4,000 Stabyhoun dogs in existence today.
These farm dogs were primarily vermin hunters, but they adapted well to pointing and retrieving. They are very loyal.
To prove that, their very name implies “stay with me hound”. This makes them an excellent family guard dog.
Because they were so similar to the Wetterhoun, they were often cross-bred. This is what led to their almost extinction as a breed.
Swedish Vallhund Dog
These agile farm dogs can trace their roots back to the Vikings. They are believed to be a cross between the Scandinavian Spitz and the Welsh Corgis.
A cross that was able to happen when the Vikings conquered areas of Britain. They almost became extinct in Sweden by the 1940s.
Easily recognizable by their long legs and sleek build, Azawakh dogs hail from the Saharan desert of West Africa and are also known as the West African Sighthound.
Until the mid-80s when breeders took an interest in them, they were rarely seen outside of their homeland.
They are known for their extreme intelligence and protective nature. Originally, they were used for hunting and as guard dogs.
Their long legs gave them an advantage when it comes to speed. While their long necks helped them see longer distances.
The Malaysian Telomians are wild dogs that adapted to live with the Orang Asli people in their isolated villages.
The dogs developed an amazing climbing ability due to the stilted homes built by the Orang Asli as protection from dangerous animals and flooding.
Breeders have brought them to other countries but they haven’t made it as an official breed because of their wild dog status.
Thai Ridgeback Dog
Until recently the Thai Ridgeback was only ever heard of in their country of origin. This has a lot to do with the fact that travel to the eastern part of Thailand can be difficult.
That meant it was less likely to be exported or crossbred. They were originally wild dogs that adapted to co-exist with people. However, unlike the Telomian, they were recently given official breed status.
They get their name from the unique ridge of hair that grows in the opposite direction of their coat along their back. Only two other breeds are known to have this same distinct characteristic.
Kai Ken Dog
Also known as the Tiger Dog, the Kai Ken comes from the Mount Fuji area of Japan.
They were officially recognized as a breed in the 1930s. Because of the region where they were discovered and language barriers, there is not a lot of information on their origins.
Their remote origins are also credited for their rarity even in their native country of Japan.
Related Rare Dog Questions
Does the American Kennel Club (AKC) Recognize Rare Dog Breeds?
Yes, the American Kennel Clubs website states they recognize 199 different dog breeds (as of this writing) which include many that are considered rare dog breeds.
Are There Rare Dogs From the United States?
Yes, there are several dog breeds from the United States that are considered rare but the American Foxhound is considered by many as one of the oldest breeds from the US.
It is also the official state dog of Virginia!
What is the Rarest Dog Breed in the World?
Is this a trick question! Well, because there are so many rare dog breeds and sometimes it is not really possible to know how many of a particular breed there are in existence the answer is subjective.
Having said that, I would pick the Azawakh or Norwegian Lundehund as one of the rarest dogs in the world.
For a somewhat ‘wild dog’, the New Guinea Singing Dog is a very unusual dog breed and some say there are only about 250 left, found mostly in zoos.
Given the rarity of these dogs, you can count yourself lucky if you have seen one of these dogs in person. They are probably not running around your local dog park.
Your best bet is to attend a dog show at your local Kennel Club. Your chances are still pretty slim considering some of these dogs aren’t even allowed out of the native country.