The dog is a mammal in the order Carnivora. Dogs were first domesticated from wolves at least 17,000 years ago, but perhaps as early as 150,000 years ago based upon recent genetic fossil and DNA evidence. In this time, the dog has developed into hundreds of breeds with a great degree of variation. For example, heights at the withers range from just a few inches (such as the Chihuahua) to roughly three feet (such as the Irish Wolfhound), and colors range from white to black, with reds, grays (usually called blue), and browns occurring in a tremendous variation of patterns.
Dogs, like humans, are highly social animals and this similarity in their overall behavioral pattern accounts for their trainability, playfulness, and ability to fit into human households and social situations. This similarity has earned dogs a unique position in the realm of interspecies relationships. The loyalty and devotion that dogs demonstrate as part of their natural instincts as pack animals closely mimics the human idea of love and friendship, leading many dog owners to view their pets as full fledged family members.
The Maltese is the most ancient of the European toy breeds, and among the oldest of all breeds. The island of Malta was an early trading port, visited by Phoenician sailors by 1500 B.C. Maltese dogs are specifically mentioned in writings as early as 300 B.C. Greek art includes dogs of Maltese type from the fifth century on; there is evidence that tombs were even erected to favor Maltese. Although the dogs were often exported and subsequently widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia, the core population on Malta remained relatively isolated from other dogs, resulting in this distinctive do...
The Yorkshire Terrier doesn't look like a product of the working class, nor does it look like a ratter, but it is both. In fact, the Yorkshire area of England is known for producing fine animals, and it is thought that the Yorkie was no accident but rather the result of purposeful crosses between a variety of terriers, probably including the Waterside Terrier, Clydesdale Terrier, Paisley Terrier, rough-coated English Black and Tan Terrier, and perhaps even the Skye Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and Maltese.
The miniature pinscher is not a miniature version of the Doberman pinscher. In fact, it is the older of the two breeds. Clues about the min pin's origin are scarce, but it is noteworthy that a cat-sized red dog resembling a min pin is depicted in a 17th-century painting. By the 19th century, several paintings include dogs of distinct the min pin type. These dogs probably resulted from crossing a small shorthaired terrier (German pinscher) with the dachshund and Italian greyhound.
The quintessential scenthound, the bloodhound traces its roots to ancient times. Its earliest ancestor may have been the black St. Hubert hound documented in Europe by the eighth century. William the Conqueror is credited with bringing these hounds to England in 1066. In the 12th century, many church dignitaries were interested in hunting with these dogs, and most monasteries kept carefully bred packs. So highly bred were these dogs that they came to be known as "blooded hounds," referring to their pure blood and noble breeding.
By the 14th century, hare hunting had become a popular sport in England, and the dogs used were probably of beagle type. The origin of the name beagle may be from Old French words meaning "open throat" in reference to the breed's melodious bay, or from the Celtic, Old English or Old French words for "small." The word beagle was not used until 1475, however, but can then be found frequently in writings from the 16th century on.
Careful pedigrees have been kept of English foxhounds since the late 1700s — longer than for any other breed. Still, the exact origin of the breed is unknown. At the time of its inception, coursing the stag with greyhounds was still the favored dog sport of the gentry. Around 1750, a few men envisioned hunting foxes with swift horses and hounds. The hounds would have to be able to track a faint scent while on the run and to maintain their chase for hours.
When European Boer settlers arrived in South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, they brought with them such breeds as the mastiff, Great Dane, bloodhound, pointer, staghound and greyhound, among others. These settlers needed a dog that could withstand both hot and cold temperatures, limited water and rough bush, while performing the duties of guard dog and hunting dog. By breeding their European dogs with native Hottentot tribal hunting dogs (which were distinguished by a ridge of hair growing in the opposite direction along the top of their back) they produced just such a dog.
The word harier was Norman for dog or hound, so it is difficult to unravel the ancient history of hounds in general. nonetheless, the harrier may be one of the older scenthounds still in existence today, with references dating from 13th-century England. They probably stem from the long-extinct Talbot and St. Hubert hounds, and perhaps the Brachet and later, the French basset. This lineage produced a dog that tracked hare by scent at a pace that enabled hunters to follow on foot.
In the late 1800s, Yorkshire terriers were brought to Australia from England. These dogs had striking steel-blue and tan coat coloration and were bred with the native blue and tan Australian terriers in an effort to improve the latter's coat color while retaining its more robust conformation. Both the Yorkshire terrier and the Australian terrier were rather recent developments from crosses of a number of other terrier breeds. Some of the descendents from these crosses were shown as Yorkshire terriers and some as Australian terriers.
The ultimate show dog, the wire fox terrier has its roots as an effective hunting dog. Its forebears were adept at bolting and perhaps dispatching game, especially fox that had gone to ground. Some speculation exists that the smooth and wire fox terriers arose from distinct backgrounds, with the wire descending from the rough-coated black and tan terrier of Wales. The wire entered the show ring about 15 to 20 years after the smooth made its debut.
Shih Tzu (or more properly, Shih Tzu Kou) means "lion dog," designating the breed as one of the most esteemed animals in China because of its association with Buddhism. Even though the Shih Tzu is most often associated with China, it probably originated in Tibet as early as the 17th century, where it enjoyed status as a holy dog. The Shih Tzu, as it is known today, developed most distinctively in China during the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (Tz'u-shi, 1861 – 1908). The Shih Tzu and Pekingese share similar histories
Despite its name, the Japanese Chin is actually of ancient Chinese origin, probably sharing a close relationship with the Pekingese. Like the Pekingese, the Chin was kept by Chinese aristocracy, and sometimes presented as a gift to visiting nobility. Different stories exist about how it arrived in Japan: Zen Buddhist teachers may have brought the breed sometime after A.D. 520, a Korean prince may have taken some to Japan in A.D. 732 or a Chinese emperor may have presented a pair to a Japanese emperor about a thousand years ago.
The quintessential long-legged terrier, the Irish terrier is also one of the oldest terrier breeds. Its creation is not documented, but it may have descended from the old black and tan terrier and a larger but racier solid wheaten-colored terrier, both of which were found in Ireland and used for hunting fox, otter and vermin. Its similarity to the Irish wolfhound has led to conjecture that it may have descended at least in part from that breed. The Irish terrier is the raciest member of the terrier group, with a longer body and longer legs than the other terriers.
The keeshond (plural: keeshonden) is one of the family of spitz dogs, although its exact origin is undocumented. It seems to have been well-established in Holland at least since the 18th century as a companion and watchdog. The breed later became known as the barge dog because it was often kept as a watchdog on the small vessels navigating the Rhine River. By a stroke of fate, the breed became entangled in the political events of Holland in the years preceding the French Revolution. The leader of the patriot faction was a man named Kees de Gyselaer, who in turn owned a barge dog named Kees.
One of the first types of dogs selectively bred by humans was the sighthound, a dog that could run after and catch game by outrunning it. The prototypical sighthound has always been the greyhound. Greyhound-like dogs have been depicted since ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times. The name greyhound may come from Graius, meaning "Greek," or from the Latin gradus, denoting "high grade." By the time of the Saxons, greyhounds were well-established in Britain and were valued both by commoners, for their ability to put food on the table, and by nobility, for the sport of the chase
The boxer derives from two central European breeds of dog that no longer exist: the larger Danziger bullenbaiser and the smaller Brabenter bullenbaiser. Bullenbaiser means "bull biter," and these dogs were used to grab large game (wild boars, deer and small bears) after it was at bay, hanging onto it until the hunter arrived to kill it. This required a strong but agile dog with a broad powerful jaw and a recessed nose to enable the dog to breathe while its jaws were clamped onto an animal. Similar attributes were required of dogs used in bull-baiting, a popular sport in many European countries...
As the prototypical spitz, the Eskie (as it is often called) is just as often simply called spitz by pet owners. In fact, the American Eskimo dog descended from one of the varieties of spitz developed in Germany, with influences from other spitz breeds such as the keeshond, Pomeranian, and Volpino Italiano. Ironically, it was the success of these other breeds that held the Eskie back. Although the keeshond originally came in several colors, when it was decided to accept only gray specimens, the white keeshonden were suddenly excluded.
The American version of the cocker spaniel is derived from the English cocker spaniel. In the late 1800s, many English cockers were brought to America, but American hunters preferred a slightly smaller dog to hunt quail and other small game birds. Just how this smaller cocker was developed is not entirely clear; some credit the dog Obo 2nd, born around 1880, as the first true American cocker. But other evidence points to crosses of the English cocker with even smaller toy spaniels (that nonetheless arose from the same ancestral stock).
The Akita is perhaps the most renowned and venerated of the native Japanese breeds. Although it bears a likeness to dogs from ancient Japanese tombs, the modern Akita traces back to the 17th century, when a nobleman with a keen interest in dogs was exiled to the Akita Prefecture of the island of Honshu, a rugged area with intensely cold winters. He challenged the landowners there to compete in breeding a race of powerful hunting dogs. These dogs distinguished themselves in the hunting of bear, deer and wild boar, holding the game at bay for the hunter.
Known as the "king of terriers," the Airedale is the tallest terrier. Like many terriers, it counts the old English, or black and tan, terrier as one of its primary progenitors. These medium-sized dogs were prized by Yorkshire hunters for hunting a variety of game from water rats to fox. Around the mid-1800s, some of these terriers around the River Aire in South Yorkshire were crossed with otterhounds in order to improve their hunting ability around water, as well as their scenting ability. The result was a dog adept at otter hunting, originally called the Bingley or Waterside terrier but reco...