When most people hear the word “terrier,” an image of a small dog comes to mind. The Airedale Terrier is the largest of the terrier breeds and known as the “King of the Terriers.” He may be a terrier, but the Airedale isn’t small and was bred to take on some large and fierce competitors. This working dog was one of the first breeds trained and used by police in Great Britain and Germany.
The Airedale Terrier hails from the Airedale valley – a region between the Aire and Wharfe rivers in Yorkshire, England. The breed was created by working class people sometime in the mid 1800s as a common man’s sporting dog. The two breeds most prominent in the Airedale’s creation are the now-extinct Old English Rough Coated Black and Tan Terrier and the Otterhound. Even though the development of the breed isn’t well documented, other breeds used were likely the Bedlington Terrier, the English Bull Terrier and an assortment of setters, retrievers and sheepdogs. Read More »
The Glen of Imaal Terrier dog breed has several features which are considered unique by today’s standards, when it comes to terriers. One of those features is the name of the breed itself. The Glen of Imaal Terrier was aptly named to describe the location in Ireland from which it originated. This breed, like many other dog breeds, was bred for a specific purpose.
Playing on the Natural Instinct
Terriers by nature are predators, especially fond of preying on small furry things. While most domestic terriers today aren’t going to be out chasing animals for their owners, this breed was created just for that reason. In the Glen of Imaal, farmers often faced problems with things like foxes and wolves, which would make themselves at home on the farm and make large meals out of the other small creatures the farmer was trying to raise for his nourishment and livelihood. The Glen of Imaal Terrier was created in order to help the farmers manage or even eradicate this specific problem. Read More »
Before fences were used to set boundaries and contain livestock, sheep were free to roam the countryside. Unfortunately, in France farmers who allowed their flocks to roam outside their invisible boundaries were forced to pay high tariffs. Shepherds discovered that the Briard had the temperament and intelligence to work with sheep to keep them contained, but herding wasn’t the original job for this wise dog breed.
The history of the breed begins in France sometime during the Middle Ages. Depictions of large Briard-like dogs are on 8th century tapestries created during the reign of Charlemagne (742-814), and found in writings from the 12th century. Charlemagne gifted friends with Briards, and Napoleon is reported to have owned two of them. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with the breed while serving as Minister to France from 1784-1789, and had dogs imported to his Monticello plantation to tend his flock of Merino sheep. Marquis De Lafayette was a huge supporter of America during the Revolutionary War and brought Briards with him when he joined George Washington’s staff in 1777. Jefferson and Lafayette are both credited with introducing America to this excellent herding dog.
The World Canine Organization assembled a list of 339 different dog breeds that are agreed upon and recognized internationally. That’s a lot of dog breeds! But what this comprehensive list doesn’t include are the many different breeds that used to be documented, but are now extinct.
You may wonder how a dog breed becomes extinct. It’s generally at the hands of humans. We have either lost interest in preserving a certain breed or we have selectively bred that particular dog breed into a completely new breed. Here are a few interesting dog breeds that are no longer with us.
A slow and methodical tracker, the Southern Hound was one of the oldest scent and tracking breeds ever documented. This big, plodding dog with long legs and a deep voice dates all the way back to the early 1400s. Known for his ability to track trails that had already gone cold, he was an expert (albeit slow) rabbit and deer hunter. As the Renaissance was coming to an end, hunters began to favor faster prey, so fox hunting rose in popularity. Because the Southern Hound was such a deliberate, steady tracker, he wasn’t the best choice for this fast-moving sport. Looking for a speedier dog, hunters began cross-breeding Southern Hounds with quicker, lighter breeds. The result was the beginnings of modern-day scent hounds including Beagles, Bloodhounds and Foxhounds.
Have you seen the movie Because of Winn Dixie? We watched it recently and fell in love with the big, scruffy mutt that played the title role. But wait – was the role of Winn Dixie really played by a mixed breed? Many famous animal actors really are mutts. For instance, the famous Higgins of Petticoat Junction and Benji fame was a rescued shelter mutt, so it’s entirely possible that Winn Dixie was too. Curious, I decided to research it and discovered that he wasn’t a mutt at all. Even though the dog that played Winn Dixie looked like a shaggy, loveable cross between several breeds, he was actually a Berger Picard.
Pronounced “bare ZHAY pee CARR,” the Berger Picard is a rare French purebred dog whose origins date back to the ninth century. This herding breed is also referred to as a Picardy Shepherd.
The breed was introduced to northern France by the Celts in the ninth century. The Berger Picard became useful for herding sheep and cattle as well as for smuggling tobacco and other contraband across the borders between France and Belgium. In the early 1900s, the Berger Picard was considered a legitimate breed and the first breed standards were written.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about Unusual Cat Breeds. One of the breeds profiled was a hairless cat known as the Ukrainian Levkoy. While unusual, it’s not the only hairless breed in the feline family; there are several others including the Elf Cat, the Bambino, the Peterbald, the Donskoy and the Sphynx.
As unusual looking as hairless cats are, can you imagine what hairless dogs looks like? There is a dog breed called the Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican hairless that is – you guessed it – hairless. This is one of the oldest and rarest dog breeds in existence.
Many modern dog breeds are the result of crossing two breeds or some other type of manipulation by human interference. Xoloitzcuintlis, on the other hand, are considered an original breed shaped by natural selection.
The word Xoloitzcuintli is a combination of the word Xolotl, the Aztec god of fire and the deity responsible for escorting the dead to the underworld, and itzcuintli, the Aztec word for dog. You pronounce Xoloitzcuintli like this: show-low-eats-queen-tlee. The breed is also referred to as the Xolo (show-low).
These unusual looking dogs are thought of as “healing” dogs or “doctor” dogs because people with arthritis or other similar conditions find relief when they cuddle with a Xolo; apparently they give off intense body heat. I’ve even seen Xolo’s referred to as living hot water bottles. They are also said to have the magic of a healing touch, with special abilities to help people with things like rheumatism, asthma and even insomnia. Another otherworldly gift, they are said to have the power to frighten off evil spirits. Read More »
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