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.
I doubt there were many dry eyes at the conclusion of the movie “Old Yeller.” Yeller was a Black Mouth Cur played by a Van Nuys shelter dog named Spike, a yellow Lab/Mastiff mix that was rescued from the shelter and trained by Frank and Rudd Weatherwax. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a cur is a mongrel mutt or crossbred dog. However, like the feist breeds I wrote about recently, cur dogs are uniquely American and played a crucial role in the lives of early rural settlers who developed a hardy hunting dog that helped them tame the wilderness in the South where these dogs originated. Cur breeds are considered the first true American purebreds and have their own distinct hunting style.
Humans learned many centuries ago the value of having a dog around. An early warning bark from roaming domesticated dogs would have been extremely helpful for a man to defend his home and family. Dogs would have been prized hunting companions as well. Since those early years, we’ve developed breeds to do specific jobs – control, manage and protect livestock, guard our homes and families, control vermin, and help put food on the table. For poor farmers, a reliable all-purpose working dog needed to be versatile and able to earn his keep around the farm. A dog wasn’t a luxury and needed to perform his duties well for his owner to justify the cost of food to feed him.
The acknowledgment of cur dogs can be found in historical writings going back to the 1700s. However, there are no recorded documents telling exactly when this type of dog was developed, nor the exact breeds used in their makeup. Curs are a blend of different hunting breeds, hounds and terriers, as well as feist dogs brought to America with immigrants who settled in the South, mainly around the Appalachian Mountains.
Even though feist dogs have been around in the United States for hundreds of years, these little dogs aren’t widely known north of the Mason/Dixon Line. They were developed for one reason – to hunt. A feist is described as a small, noisy mongrel; a mixed breed dog with a spirited and feisty demeanor.
A feist (also spelled fice or fyce) dog can easily be misidentified as a Jack Russell, but there is a difference. Unlike the Jack Russell, feist dogs are of mixed heritage and are a type of dog, not a breed. However, they do resemble a terrier in temperament and appearance. The hunting style of the Jack Russell is also different from a feist, which doesn’t go to ground after prey.
The United Kennel Club recognizes feists, but the American Kennel Club does not. Also known as Mountain Feist or Treeing Feist, these energetic dogs are found largely in the southern regions of the U.S., especially around the Ozark Mountain and Southern Appalachian regions where the American feist originated. At one time, feists were popular working dogs found on farms throughout the south.
Many dog breeds were named based on their country of origin or original job they were bred to do. Some, like the Papillon, got their name from their physical appearance. A handful of dog breeds were named after a person, including the following:
Boykin Spaniel – In the early 1900s, Alexander White took in a small brown dog he found wandering around the Methodist church he attended in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His intention was to keep the dog he named Dumpy as a pet, but it wasn’t long before White noticed Dumpy had an interest in birds, so he sent the dog to his hunting partner in Camden, South Carolina to be trained. Dumpy blossomed into a premier turkey hunter and retriever. The breed that began with a little stray dog was named after the man who trained him, L. Whitaker “Whit” Boykin.
King Charles Spaniel – King Charles I of England loved toy spaniels and passed his love on to his son, Charles II. When Charles II assumed his role as King, he was seldom seen without one or more dogs by his side. He issued a decree that gave his little dogs access to all public places, including in the House of Parliament – a decree that is still in existence today. The popularity of the breed was at its highest during the reign of the House of Stuarts. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is closer to the original dogs Charles I and II adored, and is larger with a longer muzzle than the King Charles Spaniel, which is known as the English Toy Spaniel in America.
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