When you research dog breeds, you discover that little is known about the origins of most of them. The Molosser is not one particular breed but rather, a group of dog breeds. Although there is agreement on the origin of the word that defines the Molosser group, when it comes to the various dog breeds included, that’s a completely different story. An interesting mix of legend and real life are intertwined in their history, which adds to the mysticism surrounding these dogs and makes it harder to determine fact from fiction.
Generally speaking, dogs in the Molosser group are large, solidly built dogs from a variety of breeds, but all of them are believed to be descendants from the same root stock. They’re heavy boned with pendant shaped ears, a short muzzle and a muscular neck. An example of the dogs considered to be in this group include the bully breeds, mastiffs, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Doberman Pinscher, Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Chinese Shar-Pei, Norwegian Elkhound, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Komondor, Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Saint Bernard. This isn’t a complete list, but it gives you an idea of the variety of dog breeds in this legendary group. However, there is disagreement regarding some of the breeds included in the list. Read More »
The American Kennel Club is adding three new dog breeds to their pack this year, which makes them eligible to compete in the Westminster Dog Show. The new inductees – the Lagotto Romagnolo, the Miniature American Shepherd and the Berger Picard – bring the total number of breeds recognized by the AKC up to 187.
Lagotto Romagnolo – Sporting Group
Pronounced La-go-toh Roman-yolo, this webbed footed, curly double-coated dog is one of Italy’s most ancient breeds. Lagotto means “duck dog.” Also known as the Romagna Water Dog, the breed dates back to Roman times. Developed in the marshlands of Romagna in northeastern Italy, this small to medium sized dog was developed and used for centuries as a premier water dog, and has remained unchanged over the years. The Lagotto Romagnolo is believed to be the foundation stock for all modern day water dog breeds.
Sometime during the 1800s, Italy began to drain their marshlands and convert the land to farming. It caused a sharp decline in the population of the breed, as their reason for existing dried up with the marshlands when the flocks of waterfowl began to disappear. But these intelligent, clever and energetic dogs found a new purpose thanks to their super sense of smell, their digging ability, and an abundance of energy. The Lagotto evolved into one of the best truffle hunting dog breeds in Italy and elsewhere. This gentle and sensitive breed is recognized as the only purebred dog in the world specialized as a truffle hunting dog. However, these dogs have retained their water dog hunting skills and continue to be hardworking dogs on land and water.
The Lagotto Romagnolo excels in dog sports like agility and gun dog trials, and loves to swim. These dogs are quick to learn new things, but can be manipulative which makes them not such a good choice for first time dog owners. Reserved with strangers, they are extremely loyal, devoted and affectionate with their family, including children, and are good guard dogs. Always alert with a desire to dig and strong instincts to hunt, especially waterfowl, the Lagotto should not be allowed to run off leash. Fully grown adults stand 17-18 inches high and weigh around 24-35 pounds. Their coat color can be off white, brown, brown roan, orange, or brown and white. Because they are working dogs at heart, daily exercise is recommended. The Lagotto Romagnolo makes a good hiking buddy or jogging partner.
Miniature American Shepherd – Herding Group
Like Australian Shepherds, Miniature American Shepherds can have blue, brown or one of each colored eyes. A favorite breed of equestrians because of their size, it’s not uncommon to see Miniature American Shepherds at horse shows. The breed was developed in the late 1960s in California by a woman named Doris Cordova who wanted to create a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd while keeping the intelligence, energy, loyalty, dependability and easygoing temperament of the Aussie. The Miniature American Shepherd is identical in appearance to the larger breed in every way except size. Cordova began to breed the smallest Australian Shepherds from each litter. Eventually she was able to consistently produce litters of the smaller version.
Even though the Miniature American Shepherd is a small dog, 14-18 inches and weighing in at 17-30 pounds, he should not be fed dog food formulated for small breeds. The best choice for active breeds is a premium quality food like CANIDAE. This is an energetic dog who needs a proper diet that will provide him with his daily nutritional needs, along with plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
Miniature American Shepherds are intelligent, athletic, playful, protective and calm. He’s an extremely versatile herding dog for corralling smaller stock like goats and sheep, but are tenacious enough to work larger stock as well. Their small size makes them perfect traveling companions, and they are at home in a city or country setting. Their guarding instincts are strong, they are after all herding dogs, and will bark out an alert when needed. If you’re into jogging, this breed would be a good running companion. He is naturally gentle and good with children. Like any working dog, this canine is happiest when he has a job to do.
Berger Picard – Herding Group
The 2005 heartwarming movie “Because of Winn Dixie” is based on a book by Kate DiCamillo. It’s about a 10 year girl named Opal who finds comfort and a friend when she adopts a stray dog wandering around the parking lot at the local Winn Dixie store. The dog is portrayed as a mixed breed and named Winn Dixie because of where Opal found him. However, Winn Dixie is actually a purebred Berger Picard. Langley wrote a very interesting breed profile on this adorable dog breed earlier this year. You can read more about the Berger Picard here.
Dog owners have their reasons for why they picked a particular breed to bring into their home. Most dogs are friendly when they’re properly socialized to people and other animals, but there are some breeds that are considered the friendliest. Here are six of them.
The Irish Setter is a chestnut red hunting dog that was used to “set” the game for his owner. He was originally red and white with shorter legs which allowed him to crouch down low when he found a bird and wait for his owner to throw a net over both of them. Through selective breeding, the white was bred completely out of the breed as were his shorter legs. These dogs are extremely fast with a good nose to locate birds. Used to point out and then retrieve birds, the Irish Setter is also adept at tracking, agility, obedience and as a watchdog. These dogs make great family pets and are smart, high spirited, loving and get along well with other pets and kids.
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.
Once a dog breed has met the criteria and been officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, they are eligible to compete in the king of dog shows, Westminster. The 2015 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will debut two new breeds, one known as the royal dog of Madagascar, and a hunting breed from Hungary; this will increase the breeds shown at Westminster to 180.
Coton de Tulear
Pronounced coe-TAWN day two-LEE are, this rare breed originated on the island of Madagascar. The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar lies off the southeastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean where sailors, traders, slave traders and pirates were frequent visitors. The breed’s name means “cotton of Tulear” which comes from their long cotton-like coat and the port city of Tulear where the dog began.
The Coton de Tulear is a member of the Bichon family of dogs, and early ancestors of the breed traveled with Spanish explorers in the 1400s and 1500s, working as ship ratters and providing companionship for sailors. The coastal city of Tulear was an important trading port and a favorite stopping place for pirates who found shelter and provisions in the city.
A good hunting dog is an asset for hunters who need an able canine to work alongside them. Many different breeds have been used for centuries to find game – from terriers, curs and feists to spaniels, pointers and retrievers. A versatile hunting dog is capable of tracking game, pointing it out to his handler, and retrieving it on land or water. He must be able to track wounded game and be willing to work with enthusiasm. The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) is a non-profit organization that tests these special hunting breeds to protect, promote and improve versatile breeds. All of the unique hunting dogs below were developed in Europe.
Bracco Italiano – Italian Pointer – UKC recognized
The Bracco Italiano, pictured above, is one of two gundog breeds native to Italy (Spinone is the other). The breed is considered one of the oldest gun dogs and is an ancestor to many modern sporting breeds, especially European pointing dogs. Paintings and writings about the Bracco Italiano date back to the 4th and 5th centuries BC. Hunting during the Middle Ages and Renaissance era was much different than it is today. There were no guns and dogs were used to drive game into nets. Falconers used dogs to flush out game for falcons to hunt. The role of the Bracco Italiano changed after the invention of guns. Instead of driving game into nets, they became accomplished at locating, flushing, pointing and retrieving game.
Braque du Bourbonnais – UKC recognized
Native to France, the Braque du Bourbonnais (pronounced brock-do-bor-bon-NAY) is an ancient breed and considered one of the oldest European pointing breeds. Writings describing the breed date back to the late 1500s. The different pointer breeds developed in France were named after the region where they were developed. The Braque de Bourbonnais comes from the province of Bourbon in central France. Like the Bracco Italiano, it’s uncertain which dog breeds were used to create the breed, although most experts agree the Braque Francais and local hunting breeds from the region of Bourbonnais were used.
Braque Francais – French Pointer – UKC recognized
Native to France, Braque Francais actually refers to two distinct breeds similar in appearance and purpose, differing only in size and hunting style. One of the oldest pointing dog breeds, the Braque Francais is considered to be the ancestor of many European pointing breeds. The Braque Francais Gascogne, developed in the 1600s, is the larger and oldest breed. This dog was popular with wealthy hunters who had the means to care for a large dog, but the turmoil of the French Revolution (1787-1799) stripped land, power and wealth from the upper class, and the population of dogs quickly declined. During the Industrial Revolution, there was a shift from rural to urban life and a smaller version of the breed was developed in the Pyrenees Mountains – the Braque Francais Pyrenees, which is the more popular breed today.
Deutsch-Drahthaar – German Wirehaired Pointer – UKC and AKC recognized
During the 1800s, social, political and economic changes throughout Europe created a new middle class that owned land. Hunting became more of a sport and improvements in firearms created a need for more specialized hunting dogs. The Deutsch-Drahthaar (pronounced DROT-har) was developed as a versatile hunting breed to track, point and retrieve waterfowl and upland birds from land or water. The dog was also capable of hunting fox, wildcat, boar, deer, hare and squirrels over any terrain. Hunters wanted a dog with a weather resistant coat for protection from dense underbrush and harsh weather condition. The German Wirehaired Pointer is native to Germany and remains extremely popular there.
Pudelpointer – UKC recognized
Native to Germany, this rare breed was developed in the late 1800s. A cross between the Poodle and a variety of pointers, the Pudelpointer was first brought to America by Sigbot Winterhelt. In an effort to protect versatile breeds, he founded the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.
Versatile gundogs were developed as multi-purpose dogs for hunters who couldn’t afford more than one or only wanted one dog. The goal was to create loyal dogs that could work all day on land and in water, be a patient and affectionate family pet when the day was done, and guard the family and home. These breeds are intelligent, easy to train and good family pets for the right owner.
Versatile breeds recognized by the NAVHDA include the above dogs as well as the Braque d’Auvergne, Brittany, Cesky Fousek, Drentse Partridge, English Setter, French Spaniel, German Longhaired Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, Gordon Setter, Irish Red & White Setter, Irish Setter, Large Munsterlander, Picardy Spaniel, Pointer, Portuguese Pointer, Slovakian Wirehaired Pointer, Small Munsterlander, Spinone, Stichelhaar, Vizsla, Weimaraner, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and Wirehaired Vizsla.
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