Pop culture presents the usual suspects when it comes to canine companions. Golden retrievers, German shepherds, Labradors, and poodles, to name a few, are easy to spot and name both on screen and on sidewalks. While no one dog breed should get more love than the other, human nature can lead us to play favorites. With 200 registered breeds, some inevitably fall to the bottom.
To help understand what guides our choices, Stacker broke down the 99 least popular dog breeds in America based on data released by the American Kennel Club on March 15, 2023. Data for last year’s rankings come from the 2021 tally.
Some factors that play into a breed’s national popularity—or lack thereof—are obvious: size, maintenance, allergies, disposition, and temperament. But name recognition (brand name, essentially) is just as important; consider why Labradors, retrievers, and bulldogs are annually among the most popular, while the #5 least popular breed appearing here was only officially recognized by the AKC in 2020, despite initially being bred in Belgium in the 1800s. Another barrier to popularity can be access—newer or less common breeds have far fewer reputable breeders, which limits your options for making one of the lesser-known breeds a part of your family.
Whether you’re adopting a dog and researching breed characteristics or deciding on a reputable breeder, keep reading to discover 99 lovable kinds of dogs you may not have heard of.
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- Last year's rank: #94 (down 5)
Borzois are tall dogs that can reach 32 inches from foot to shoulder and carry a greyhound-like build. This large but sleek breed was once used to locate wolves in Russia and has exceptional vision that enables them to spot prey quickly and from a distance. The dogs can be very affectionate but challenging to train.
#98. Wire fox terrier
- Last year's rank: #99 (up 1)
These little dogs hold 15 Westminster Kennel Club Bests in Show. They're poised, friendly, and smart champions that are eager to learn. Male wire fox terriers can reach about 15.5 inches in height and 18 pounds.
#97. Flat-coated retriever
- Last year's rank: #105 (up 8)
One of the oldest retriever breeds, flat-coated retrievers make lively companions thanks to their slow maturation rate. If you're looking for a dog that will retain its puppy spirit, this may be the breed for you.
#96. Belgian Tervuren
- Last year's rank: #95 (down 1)
A Belgian Tervuren won the first-ever AKC herding championship, which speaks volumes of this breed's work ethic and stamina. While they certainly make great pets, these animals are also superior working dogs that continue to work alongside the police in Belgium.
#95. Japanese Chin
- Last year's rank: #93 (down 2)
Japanese Chins hail from the palaces of Japan and China, where they even occasionally had servants of their own. Their pampered nature persists to this day, making them the perfect breed for someone looking for a companion dog with an appetite for being spoiled.
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#94. Tibetan terrier
- Last year's rank: #86 (down 8)
Tibetan terriers are highly intelligent and gentle but can be more reserved around unfamiliar people. The dogs have a long history of being symbols of good luck.
- Last year's rank: #78 (down 15)
Pointers never go out of style—countless paintings dating back to ancient Egypt depict this hunting breed. Pointers are great family dogs and are very trainable unless you get one that has a mind of its own.
#92. Toy fox terrier
- Last year's rank: #88 (down 4)
Like most terriers, this tiny breed was originally used to catch rats. Their trainability and eagerness to learn have made them highly suitable for another profession: clown assistant. Their boundless energy and jumping skills have made toy fox terriers circus favorites.
#91. Norwich terrier
- Last year's rank: #87 (down 4)
While the Norwich terrier's love of roaming makes it a bad idea to let this dog off-leash in a wide-open space, it would be a shame not to nurture its love of the outdoors. Norwich terriers tend to excel in agility training and competitions and create deep bonds with their humans—they prefer to be around their owners as much as possible and are likely to be unhappy if left alone all day.
#90. Miniature bull terrier
- Last year's rank: #91 (up 1)
Miniature bull terriers stand between 10 and 14 inches tall and are known for their silly, energetic nature. These dogs make excellent companions but require diligent, patient training.
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- Last year's rank: #77 (down 12)
These French shepherd dogs have worked alongside the military and police force for years. They're calm, steady animals that were even used by the Germans to infiltrate British trenches during World War I.
#88. Spinone Italiano
- Last year's rank: #90 (up 2)
With a name that means "prickly," you would be forgiven for expecting these dogs to have a temperament. However, these hunting dogs earned the name due to their prickly coats—not their attitudes. The Spinone Italiano is highly social, calm, and sweet.
#87. Welsh terrier
- Last year's rank: #89 (up 2)
The Welsh terrier is inseparable from the history of Wales. The breed was first mentioned roughly 1,000 years ago, but the pups didn't receive their name until 1855. Welsh terriers were originally bred to hunt foxes and rodents; today, these dogs are more likely to be found working the crowd at a dog show. These little dogs have a reputation for being calmer than other terriers.
- Last year's rank: #96 (up 10)
Bred to be owned by royals, Leonbergers are regal animals and the embodiment of "gentle giants." Males can top out at 31 inches tall and 170 pounds. Some of their most famous owners include King Edward VII, Napoleon III, and Tsar Alexander II.
- Last year's rank: #83 (down 2)
Schipperke means "little captain" in Flemish, an appropriate name for a breed that loves the water. Historically, these pups were barge dogs that spent most of their time on the water with their owners. Shipperkes make great watchdogs, are highly active, and are extremely smart. These dogs would rather be with their owners 24/7 than crated or left alone all day.
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- Last year's rank: #79 (down 5)
This breed may not have a name that rolls off the tongue, but it is nevertheless the oldest dog breed in the Americas. Xolos, or Mexican hairless dogs, do best in a pack (human or canine) and are known for being fiercely loyal to whichever human they bond with most.
#83. Afghan hound
- Last year's rank: #84 (up 1)
These elegant dogs are extremely fast: The average Afghan hound can reach 40 mph, which puts it neck and neck with a purebred racehorse. And while they're docile, their deep hunting instincts mean these hounds ought to be watched around smaller animals.
- Last year's rank: #80 (down 2)
Boerboels are large dogs that can weigh up to 200 pounds. They were bred to be watchdogs but have also been used for hunting large game in South Africa. Boerboels are extremely smart, territorial, and fiercely loyal.
#81. Neapolitan mastiff
- Last year's rank: #92 (up 11)
One of the largest dog breeds in the world, Neapolitan mastiffs can clock in at up to 150 pounds. Because of their size, it's recommended these dogs start training early.
#80. American hairless terrier
- Last year's rank: #63 (down 17)
The American hairless terrier is the first hairless breed to originate in the U.S. These hypoallergenic dogs make great family pets but require a few things most breeds don't: namely, sunscreen in the summer and a cozy sweater in the winter to keep warm.
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#79. Parson Russell terrier
- Last year's rank: #81 (up 2)
The Parson Russell terrier was acknowledged in 2003 as a separate breed from the Jack Russell, although the two types of terriers are intrinsically linked. Both breeds are known for their energy and stamina and share a creator in the English clergyman John Russell.
#78. Silky terrier
- Last year's rank: #82 (up 4)
These tiny, energetic champions are often seen in dog show competitions—not just for their shiny coats. The silky terrier is an accomplished herder, tracker, and fly-ball competitor. They're also smart and can begin training as young as eight weeks old.
#77. American Eskimo dog
- Last year's rank: #76 (down 1)
When it comes to trainability, American Eskimo dogs are at the top of the class. This is the first-known breed to have learned how to walk a tightrope, earning the dog a reputation as a circus dog in the 19th century. While you don't have to train your American Eskimo dog for the circus, the breed thrives on learning new things. The breed comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy.
#76. Bearded collie
- Last year's rank: #55 (down 21)
The history of the bearded collie is intrinsically tied to farm life. These herding dogs were originally bred to tend to flocks of sheep, but they also have friendly personalities that have made their transition to family pets a smooth one.
#75. Belgian sheepdog
- Last year's rank: #69 (down 6)
Belgian sheepdogs served alongside soldiers in World War I and II. They are incredibly loyal dogs but also love the thrill of the chase. Belgian sheepdogs require a yard that's fenced in to keep them from scaring cyclists or runners.
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#74. Welsh springer spaniel
- Last year's rank: #72 (down 2)
Believed to be the oldest of Britain's spaniels, Welsh springer spaniels are easily identified by their lush red and white coats. Active and energetic, the dogs can be reserved with strangers but make great companions for children and other household pets.
#73. Tibetan spaniel
- Last year's rank: #73 (no change)
A favorite among Tibetan monks, the Tibetan spaniel often accompanied them on meditative walks or kept them warm in bed at night. Tibetan spaniels are also watchful and alert their owners when someone is approaching their territory, although that's about the extent of their assertiveness.
#72. Black Russian terrier
- Last year's rank: #71 (down 1)
This breed has only been in the U.S. since the 1980s. Before they made their way to the United States, black Russian terriers worked alongside the Soviet military. The breed is extremely loving, loyal, and hardworking but may not be a great fit as a first family pet as they can get overly excited fairly easily.
- Last year's rank: #66 (down 5)
The quintessential race dogs, greyhounds are known for their speed and sweet disposition above all else. Surprisingly, these fast animals are also notoriously lazy; given a chance, they're perfectly happy to lounge around the house with their people.
#70. Manchester terrier
- Last year's rank: #75 (up 5)
In Victorian England, these spry dogs were known as the "gentleman's terrier." With proper training, the Manchester terrier is eager to learn and be a lifelong companion. These dogs top out at around 22 pounds and are extremely good-natured and playful, making them excellent family pets.
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#69. Irish terrier
- Last year's rank: #74 (up 5)
The Irish terrier is a true farm dog. They love jobs and can do them all: hunt, guard flocks, and protect families. These terriers are such adept workers they were used as messengers and watchdogs during World War I.
#68. Icelandic sheepdog
- Last year's rank: #60 (down 8)
Iceland's only native dog breed is also one of the world's oldest. It is thought the medium-sized breed's origin can be traced back as far as 8000 B.C. These dogs have a long life span of up to 14 years and a curious, energetic temperament.
#67. Bluetick coonhound
- Last year's rank: #58 (down 9)
These friendly dogs are happy to laze about during the day. But once they're on the hunt for a raccoon or following a scent, the bluetick coonhound is relentless. Males can reach 27 inches tall and 80 pounds. Lots of activities and exercise are essential for these dogs, who can become destructive and loud without enough exertion.
#66. English toy spaniel
- Last year's rank: #61 (down 5)
The history of the English toy spaniel is linked to English nobility. Queen Elizabeth had an English toy spaniel, and her doctor reportedly called it "the comforter." Their early popularity may have led to them becoming one of the first toy breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886.
- Last year's rank: #70 (up 5)
Arab tribesmen used to call Salukis a "gift from God." These sighthounds are true beauties who move quickly and are poised enough to have been considered the royal dogs of Egypt.
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#64. Australian terrier
- Last year's rank: #46 (down 18)
The Australian terrier is a frontier dog bred to be an exterminator of snakes and small mammals, even perfecting a "leap-twist-and-pounce" technique. Nevertheless, these sweet dogs want nothing more than to play and keep their owners happy. Despite their good nature, this scrappy breed has a history of working on farms.
#63. Tibetan mastiff
- Last year's rank: #51 (down 12)
Bred by Tibetan nomads, this breed was often gifted to monks to guard their monasteries. It's important to socialize this mighty breed early. Tibetan mastiffs can be extremely territorial and wary of strangers—so if their owners want them to play well with others, they should get them used to a busy house early in life.
#62. Norfolk terrier
- Last year's rank: #68 (up 6)
The Norfolk terrier is one of the smallest dogs around—but they don't let their size fool you into thinking they're not fierce hunters. These dogs were bred to be ratters and run in packs for fox hunts. To curtail excessive barking, consistent training is a must. They tend to be good with other pets in the house and are great with kids, especially if they're all raised together.
#61. Clumber spaniel
- Last year's rank: #49 (down 12)
Prince Albert and King Edward VII both loved Clumber spaniels. Thanks to such high-profile owners, the breed—the largest of the spaniels—became a favorite among the British upper class. Clumber spaniels are known for being extremely playful and easy to train.
- Last year's rank: #45 (down 15)
The pumi originated in Hungary as far back as A.D. 800. Officially adopted by the American Kennel Club in 2016, a pumi is easily distinguished by its corkscrew curls and incredible intelligence. The breed's history as a sheepdog in the Hungarian countryside makes pumi best suited to active, outdoor lifestyles with lots of attention from their owners.
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#59. Smooth fox terrier
- Last year's rank: #67 (up 8)
Fox terriers are still working on gaining popularity in America. The feisty dogs have been members of the AKC since the late 1800s but are still hard to find stateside. This breed is very loving but extremely active and may be too rough and rowdy for households with small children.
#58. Wirehaired vizsla
- Last year's rank: #54 (down 4)
The wirehaired vizsla is an incredibly trainable, disciplined, and gentle breed. Not only was this breed the first to become an American Kennel Club quintuple champion, but vizslas are also one of the Transportation Security Administration's preferred bomb-sniffing dogs. If you're considering this breed, be ready to give your dog plenty of exercise.
#57. Lakeland terrier
- Last year's rank: #56 (down 1)
Lakeland terriers are increasingly rare. The small dogs once worked the Lake District in England, and they are notorious burrowers. The first president of the Lakeland Terrier Association claimed he had a Lakeland terrier that chased an otter into a 23-foot burrow (and had to be rescued as a result). Lakelands are mostly hypoallergenic and bond with their families despite being of a more independently minded breed.
#56. Russian toy
- Last year's rank: Not ranked
After years of being classed as miscellaneous by the AKC, the organization fully recognized the Russian toy dog as a toy dog breed in 2022. Not to be confused with the Chihuahua—which looks similar and has an equally confident and energetic temperament—the Russian toy has longer legs and a longer muzzle. Gentle yet rowdy, these pups are not known to be well-suited for homes with children and are prone to many skeletal and dental health issues.
#55. German pinscher
- Last year's rank: #52 (down 3)
German pinschers were almost entirely wiped out during the wars. A man named Werner Jung kept the breed from going extinct and is responsible for the continued popularity of German pinschers in modern times. These smart, devoted dogs make terrific companions and stand stature-wise between miniature pinschers and Dobermans.
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#54. Kerry blue terrier
- Last year's rank: #64 (up 10)
Kerry blue terriers, one of the largest of the AKC terriers, hail from Ireland and are said to possess a distinctly Irish spirit to boot. These dogs are mischievous, loyal, and have a nearly boundless sense of energy.
- Last year's rank: #50 (down 3)
Joyful, smart, loving, and devoted are all words commonly used to describe the barbet, a French hunting breed that has been around since at least the 16th century. With their shaggy, curly coats, these active, endlessly playful pups look like real-life Muppets. The breed clawed its way back from near-extinction and is now gaining popularity here and around the world.
- Last year's rank: #39 (down 13)
This breed has been described in French as "diablotin moustachu," or mustached little devil. The nickname is affectionate and has more to do with the dog's coat than personality. Affenpinscher translates to "monkey terrier," which makes sense considering the breed is known for its dexterity and ability to grasp things with its front paws.
#51. Black and tan coonhound
- Last year's rank: #57 (up 6)
Like all coonhounds, the black and tan is a working dog with a love of hunting raccoons, although the breed doesn't discriminate. This breed will happily take on large and small game—anything allowing the dog to put its superior sense of smell to use. They make excellent pets, are wonderful with children, and are perfectly happy relaxing alongside their humans on the couch. Just be mindful of any nearby neighbors—black and tan coonhounds are known for their loud and frequent barks.
- Last year's rank: Not ranked
A herding dog from Hungary, mudis were born to work. They hunt, search and rescue, shepherd livestock, and serve as watchdogs with alertness, intelligence, and a willing attitude. They're overall healthy dogs with low grooming needs who are trainable and playful with their human families, but they need to be constantly challenged and stimulated, or that energy goes into incessant barking and other bored dog behavior. Newly recognized by the AKC in 2022, they remain a rare breed: According to the AKC, there are only 450 mudis in the U.S.
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- Last year's rank: #48 (down 1)
Briards have a fascinating history as helper dogs. During World War I, they helped carry ammunition and served as lookouts while soldiers slept, as well as working alongside the Red Cross. The large herding dogs can reach 27 inches tall and 100 pounds and always want to be at the center of all family activities.
#48. Bedlington terrier
- Last year's rank: #65 (up 17)
Known best for their distinctive, sheep-like style, Bedlington terriers look like cuddly toys. Looks are deceiving in this case—these dogs are fast and hearty hunters who love to track rabbits.
#47. Berger Picard
- Last year's rank: #35 (down 12)
These dogs made perfect smugglers due to their unique coats. The breed was reportedly used to smuggle tobacco and matches across the Franco-Belgian border. Furry pouches of tobacco would be strapped to shaved dogs, who would then go unnoticed as they moved the contraband across the border.
#46. Petit basset griffon Vendéen
- Last year's rank: #37 (down 9)
Each word in this French breed's name is relevant to the description of this dog, which is small with short legs and wiry coats that come from the Vendée region of France. As a true pack dog, this breed is happiest surrounded by other pets and family members.
#45. Scottish deerhound
- Last year's rank: #40 (down 5)
The Scottish deerhound is a friendly enough dog, but they love a good chase—which means a workout for their owners. Playing fetch isn't their forte, however, and neither is barking when a stranger is at the door.
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#44. Curly-coated retriever
- Last year's rank: #31 (down 13)
These retrievers are known for their spectacular curly coats. While they look like they've been crossed with poodles, curly-coated retrievers share no relation. As with all retriever breeds, these dogs are loving, make great family pets, and are eager to please.
#43. Field spaniel
- Last year's rank: #62 (up 19)
These dogs were primarily bred to be show dogs and pets. Their reputation as superior companions remains unchallenged, as they're docile, loyal, and happiest by their human's side.
#42. Redbone coonhound
- Last year's rank: #43 (up 1)
As its name implies, these dogs were developed by American settlers to hunt raccoons. The breed was instrumental in tracking the small mammals that kept pioneers fed while moving toward the West and South. Today, redbone coonhounds are most noteworthy as devoted family pets with exceedingly friendly, curious dispositions.
#41. Treeing walker coonhound
- Last year's rank: #47 (up 6)
First bred in Virginia, these dogs are Southern hunters through and through. Once the dog trees its prey—usually a raccoon—it will let out a distinctive bark to let its owner know where to find supper. These dogs are great with kids, but—like other breeds throughout this list—not ideal if your household has other pets smaller than your prolific hunting dog.
#40. Swedish vallhund
- Last year's rank: #38 (down 2)
A breed at least 1,000 years old, this corgi relative has a distinct feature—its tail. Many Swedish vallhunds are born without tails, while others have nubs or long tails.
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- Last year's rank: #34 (down 5)
One misconception that has haunted the bright puli is that they have trouble with their eyesight. In fact, the only eye issue plaguing the herding dog is an unruly, long mane that can obstruct vision if not trimmed. As long as you keep your puli well-groomed, its eyesight shouldn't be a problem (although keeping up with the energetic, stubborn breed might be).
#38. Entlebucher mountain dog
- Last year's rank: #25 (down 13)
Entlebucher mountain dogs can most often be found working in the mountains of Switzerland from where they originate. A cousin of the Bernese mountain dog, it can be difficult to tell the two breeds apart.
#37. Spanish water dog
- Last year's rank: #53 (up 16)
This breed is technically a herder, not a sporting dog. Nevertheless, Spanish water dogs are bright, easy to train, and quickly pick up on herd movements.
#36. Sealyham terrier
- Last year's rank: #59 (up 23)
These white terriers were bred specifically to hunt small game like badgers, otters, and pheasants. Even the breed's white coat played a role in its work as an excellent hunting companion. The stark shade allowed the dog to stand out in landscapes full of brown and gray hues. Sealyham terriers are known for their fearlessness and outgoing nature and can make great family pets as long as they're kept away from any other, smaller pets who they're likely to hunt.
- Last year's rank: #41 (up 6)
Löwchen translates to "little lion"—an appropriate nickname for a breed that often sports an impressive mane. Löwchens are primarily companion dogs, and their gentle natures make them ideal for work as therapy dogs, as well.
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#34. American water spaniel
- Last year's rank: #32 (down 2)
The American water spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin. These sweet hunting dogs were bred to dive off boats after prey, making them a favorite for people who live in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
#33. Finnish Lapphund
- Last year's rank: #30 (down 3)
These dogs were once used to herd reindeer. That's a big job, but these vocal pups were up for the task. Despite their working past, they make excellent and friendly companions.
#32. Irish red and white setter
- Last year's rank: #44 (up 12)
Not as well known as its cousin, the Irish red setters, this breed almost went extinct during the first World War. They make excellent hunters (and fun, high-energy family dogs). They make excellent companions in the outdoors, on hikes or bike rides.
#31. Glen of Imaal terrier
- Last year's rank: #23 (down 8)
The breed originated when Queen Elizabeth I's soldiers settled into the Wicklow region and intermixed their hounds with local terriers, which resulted in these sweet fluff-balls. They make great family pets but may be too strong for young children to play with.
#30. Nederlandse kooikerhondje
- Last year's rank: #42 (up 12)
A real sporting dog at heart, the Nederlandse kooikerhondje are known to be lively, self-confident, alert, and good-natured pups. Apart from their adorable black-tipped ears, this "little white and orange dog with a big heart" is also a faithful furry friend, making them the ideal playmates to have in the home—but they also wouldn't mind exerting some of their energy outdoors, either.
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#29. Portuguese podengo pequeno
- Last year's rank: #36 (up 7)
The official dog of Portugal was once commonly found on the ships of medieval Portuguese explorers. These days, these small dogs can still be keen hunters but are just as happy being their owners' best friends. In Portugal, the breed is classified into three size categories (small, medium, and large) but in the United States, the Portuguese podengo has two sizes (large and medium), which is a separate breed from the Portuguese podengo pequeno.
#28. Ibizan hound
- Last year's rank: #16 (down 12)
Ibizan hounds were once owned by Egyptian pharaohs, but they would still be right at home in your less-than-royal abode. These athletic dogs make excellent pets—just be sure they get plenty of exercise to tire them out.
#27. Plott hound
- Last year's rank: #27 (no change)
This all-American breed was developed in the Smoky Mountains. German immigrant Johannes George Plott and his descendants were responsible for breeding these superior trackers. Plott hounds are best suited for experienced dog owners, as they require consistent training; with a firm leader, these dogs can make wonderful family pets.
#26. Pharaoh hound
- Last year's rank: #22 (down 4)
Malta's national dog is a favorite in the United States as well. This dynamic breed is exceptional at hunting rabbits and requires a tall fence to keep the high-jumper from straying.
- Last year's rank: #12 (down 13)
There's just no getting around the fact that a komondor's fur looks an awful lot like a mop. But there's a good reason for that: Their coats act as camouflage so that they can blend in with sheep and surprise any wolves that get too close.
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- Last year's rank: #20 (down 4)
There are said to be fewer than 350 otterhounds currently in the United States and less than 1,000 worldwide. These dogs make great pets due to their even temperaments and friendly nature, but their thick double coats require at least weekly brushings.
- Last year's rank: #29 (up 6)
Hailing from Hungary, this was the chosen breed by King Matthias I. They are extremely loyal and will even sacrifice themselves to protect their humans. The troubled king is believed to have trusted his beloved kuvasz more than any human in his court.
#22. Norwegian buhund
- Last year's rank: #28 (up 6)
Known as the dog of the Vikings, the Norwegian buhund is an ancient breed. The dog's history of riding shotgun with the Vikings continues. These are hardworking dogs that are readily able to help on the farm or help take care of a family. They are quite talkative, however, and their lush coats make for a lot of shedding.
#21. Bergamasco sheepdog
- Last year's rank: #19 (down 2)
These sheepdogs have instantly recognizable coats of long, curly fur that need to be well-groomed. If you're up for the task, then this Italian breed is perfect for active families with big yards.
- Last year's rank: #26 (up 6)
These sled dogs are named after the dog that started their line. Breeder Arthur Walden crossed his dog Chinook with a stock husky to create the breed. Sadly, Chinook was later lost during an expedition to Antarctica. These dogs are amazing family pets, known for their gentle nature and excessive affection.
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#19. Polish lowland sheepdog
- Last year's rank: #18 (down 1)
The Polish lowland sheepdog is a true hero of a breed. During World War II, a Polish lowland named Psyche is said to have warned people in Warsaw when bombs were going to drop. These pups are happiest when they have jobs, making them highly trainable and eager to please.
#18. American English coonhound
- Last year's rank: #14 (down 4)
American English coonhounds are believed to have a presidential origin story. Evidence suggests George Washington was one of the first people in America to own these dogs.
#17. Irish water spaniel
- Last year's rank: #33 (up 16)
The Irish water spaniel is the tallest of all the spaniel breeds. These dogs are adept swimmers with water-repellent fur. Irish water spaniels are known for being downright clownish despite their working roots.
#16. Cirneco dell'Etna
- Last year's rank: #15 (down 1)
First recognized by the AKC in 2015, this ancient breed's name means "dog of Cyrene (Libya)." These agile dogs have remarkable instincts for hunting—especially when it comes to rabbits.
#15. Grand basset griffon Vendéens
- Last year's rank: #9 (down 6)
This newly recognized French breed is rare in the United States because of its breeding difficulty. Owners of these hunting hounds report they are quiet, family-friendly companions that require vigorous daily exercise to work off their huge amounts of excess energy. Their name is also descriptive, roughly translating to "large, low, shaggy dog of the Vendée."
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#14. Dandie Dinmont terrier
- Last year's rank: #24 (up 10)
The Dandie Dinmont terrier got its name from Sir Walter Scott's 1815 novel "Guy Mannering." The diminutive dogs are known for their prominent poofs of hair atop their heads, as well as their relatively mild-mannered temperaments.
#13. Canaan dog
- Last year's rank: #11 (down 2)
Canaan dogs have a rich history dating back to Biblical times. Before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, Canaan dogs herded sheep and other livestock. After their owners were driven out of their homeland, the dogs fled to the desert where they lived undomesticated until the 20th century.
#12. Finnish spitz
- Last year's rank: #7 (down 5)
Taimyr wolves live on through the Finnish spitz. The ancient breed of wolves is extinct, but DNA research has shown that they were at least partly responsible for the existence of these champion barkers with a fox-like appearance. These smart dogs are fast learners, but they're also cunning and will find ways to challenge their trainers.
#11. Skye terrier
- Last year's rank: #17 (up 6)
Skye terriers love their owners but can be pretty ambivalent about everyone else. These regal animals were a favorite of Queen Victoria's and have working dog roots.
#10. Pyrenean shepherd
- Last year's rank: #6 (down 4)
World War I brought these small sheepdogs out of the mountains and into the war zone. The breed served as couriers, led search-and-rescue missions, and worked side by side with soldiers.
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#9. Cesky terrier
- Last year's rank: #8 (down 1)
The American Kennel Club claims that, as of 2017, there were only around 600 Cesky terriers in the U.S. This calm terrier breed may be rare stateside, but those who have the privilege of being a Cesky owner likely know that they're keen hunters and eager agility competitors.
#8. Sussex spaniel
- Last year's rank: #21 (up 13)
Sussex spaniels are talkers for good reason. Because their short legs keep them so low to the ground (they max out between 13 and 15 inches tall), these even-tempered, athletic dogs bark and make other noises to alert hunters to their whereabouts.
- Last year's rank: #10 (up 3)
A member of the hound group, these hearty little pooches are sometimes mistaken for beagles. Although they have a history as hunters, this is one breed that has adapted beautifully to life as a family pet. Harriers usually love children, but their energy might make them a bit too much for younger kids to handle.
- Last year's rank: #13 (up 7)
The lack of Azawakh popularity in the U.S. is attributable to its rarity, recency, and unfamiliarity in the states. The African sighthound traces its origins to ancient times on the continent's western region, roaming the Sahara alongside nomads. The first Azawakh arrived in America in the 1980s, birthing the first domestic litter by the end of the decade. The AKC classified them as "miscellaneous" in 2011; they only joined the official Hound Group in 2019; and are now eligible for the Westminster Dog Show.
#5. Belgian Laekenois
- Last year's rank: #4 (down 1)
This rare breed was only officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2020, although it is thought to have originated in the 1880s as a Belgian herding dog. The Laekenois was used as a messenger dog during both the First and Second World Wars and was even targeted by Hitler. There are currently only about 1,000 Laekenois worldwide.
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#4. American foxhound
- Last year's rank: #3 (down 1)
As the state dog of Virginia, American foxhounds are a beloved hunting breed and originated from dogs brought over to the American colonies. These dogs are also valuable during search-and-rescue missions, thanks to their keen sense of smell. They're also great with children, some of whom even learned to walk while holding onto the breed's tail.
- Last year's rank: #5 (up 2)
Sloughi owners have been loyal to their dogs since ancient times—at least if the maxims are to be believed. These elegant animals have found favor with royals throughout history. They say the breed may have arrived in Europe through the Berber cavalrymen that came along with Hannibal as he crossed the Alps.
#2. Norwegian lundehunds
- Last year's rank: #1 (down 1)
Norwegian lundehunds boast two unusual characteristics that make them skilled at sniffing out puffins. These curious pups have six toes on each foot that seem to have developed to help them navigate slippery rocks. They can also fold their ears shut—which protects them from water and helps out when crawling into a puffin burrow.
#1. English foxhound
- Last year's rank: #2 (up 1)
Unlike many hunting dog breeds, English foxhounds still haven't completely caught on as companion dogs in the traditional sense. Generally, these dogs are kept by hunters and live in packs trained to chase foxes.