These are 10 of the oldest dog breeds on earth. It makes for an interesting read to see just how far back some dogs, that still remain looking largely the same today, go. It goes to show how fit and strong dogs are and how their ability to work alongside men helped them remain as long as they have on the planet. Many of these ancient breeds had jobs – be it helping their masters to hunt or simply being around for perceived religious purposes. Today, they simply remain some of our most trusted friends. And, quite rightly too.
The Afghan Hound is a unique looking dog that obviously originally hails from Afghanistan. There, its former name for the breed was Tazi and they are thought to be one of, if not the, oldest dog breed in the world. Their line is thought to have started even before the 1 AD and there is a great deal of DNA evidence to support this. Some experts point to their origins as being as far back as 6000 BC. That’s an incredible 8000 years ago.
As a breed, they are a tough hunting dog that can keep going for hours and hours. They hunt mainly by sight, not smell and are adept hunters owing to their agility and speed. They, therefore, became man’s best friend in Afghanistan where they were used in both the deserts and mountains to help men find food – be it deer, wild goats or even snow leopard or wolf.
They were admitted and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1926.
While the jury is still out on their exact dating, Basenjis are undoubtedly at least one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. In fact, it is thought that it is the Basenji that appears on cave walls in Libyan cave paintings. These paintings date back to around 6000 BC, so if it is the Basenji that these early ancestors lived and hunted with, they are an ancient breed indeed.
Their most famous characteristic is that they are known for not barking, though to say they don’t make a sound is a bit misleading. They are most definitely capable of making sounds like growls and whining as well as screaming.
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Owing to having descended from hunting dogs, the Basenji is a very energetic breed that will require a great deal of walking if a family decides to purchase one for their home. They will need a lot of games to be played with them too so that they do not display any negative destructive behavior.
Also, be warned, these dogs can climb. If you have a chain wire fence, they can easily climb over one of those.
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This fluffy dog originally harks from Japan, hence their Japanese sounding name. An Akita is, in fact, the national dog of Japan and they can live up to 15 years in age. In terms of how old the actual breed is they are thought to date back to well before the Christian Era and could even be traced back to around 8000 BC with one of its ancestors called the Matagi Inu. The Akitas themselves were widely bred in Japan to be working dogs – either behind a sled or as a bear or deer hunters. In today’s modern age, they are known to be excellent police and military dogs.
They, therefore, as a breed, are extremely protective and are one of those dogs that is very happy to try to say who is boss. To them, dominance is key. In terms of other traits, they are known to be very intelligent as well as loyal and affectionate.
Famously, it was Helen Keller who first brought an Akita over from Japan to the US. Nowadays, after more Akita imports in the first half of the 20th Century, there are two breeds of Akita known – the Japanese Akita Inu and the American Akita.
This cute little canine is named after its city of origin, Lhasa, in Tibet. As a breed, they have an exceedingly thick coat which would have been able to keep him warm when he first started making an appearance at around 800 BC. Tibet also suffers from extreme heat too, and his coat is able to keep him cool in the Summer months as well.
As a breed, Tibetan monks thought that the dog was sacred and that if a Lhasa Apso’s owner passed away, the soul was supposedly meant to pass into the body of his Lhasa Apso dog. For this reason, Lhasa Apsos were only ever owned by monks or by the nobility.
Regardless of their background, these days Lhasa Apsos are meant to be friendly dogs who can be assertive at times. They are also intelligent and fun to be around and so for that reason are very popular domesticated pets. They need some early training to be very responsive to a master’s orders, but once learned, these dogs are loyal to a fault.
These huge bear-like dogs are thought to have come from China and are related somehow to the Shar Pei. The earliest known example of them is thought to have been around 150 -200 BC. They are known widely understood to also be an ancestor of popular breeds like the Keeshond and the Pomeranian. Either way, when they were first bred to any real degree, it was for their strength and protective natures. They were able to be put to work as hunters and herders, to pull a sled along and work as guard dogs.
Famous Chow Chow owners include Sigmund Freud and Elvis Presley, but they are also commonly known today for their unique blue-black tongue which can extend to coloring their lips blue too. They are an incredibly loyal breed when socialized early enough, so can make good additions to a home that is willing to put in a few hours training this breed initially.
They first arrived in the West on English shores in the late 1800s and it is thought that their Westernized name (in China they are called Songshi Quan which means puffy lion dog), is simply a form of pidgin English. It was at the turn of the 1900s that the American Kennel Club recognized it as a breed.
The Alaskan Malamute gets its looks from its ancestors, the Arctic wolf. The Arctic wolf was domesticized to become a Nordic sled dog by the Mahlemut Eskimos who used the dog’s incredible power to move their loads wherever their nomadic ways took them. The tribe also used them to help hunt bigger animals for food. Given that the Mahlemut tribe is around 2 to 3 thousand years old, the earliest Alaskan Malamute is thought to have been bred around 1000 BC.
This breed, remarkably, thousands of years later, is still used for similar roles today. They can still be seen to be helping humans lug huge amounts of cargo around the colder parts of the world, as well as simply for sledding for fun. They’re an incredibly loving dog who loves human company so they make a fantastic addition to any family that can give them an appropriate amount of exercise. Given that they are used to running miles on end every day, they are very hard to tire out completely.
These hounds are quick, make no mistake of it. If you own one or are looking to own one, if they come off the lead and find a scent, you’ll be hard pushed to catch up with them. This is not bad for one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world. They were first dated before the Christian era, though some sources date them as far back as 2100 BC due to Saluki like pictures being found in Egyptian tombs. Other sources will say they have first established in around 330 BC.
They are named after their home city, Saluki, which was a part of Ancient Egypt. They were used by a great many hunters in the area that went as far Turkey. They are fantastic at hunting out squirrels, foxes, deer, and even snakes. This is often down to their speed which has been clocked at anything up to 35 miles an hour. They are closely related to the Afghan Hound and make fantastic loving pets – albeit ones that need a lot of exercises to be tired out.
The Chinese Shar Pei can be dated back to around 200 BC owing to the pictures that they are widely recognized as being depicted in on Ancient Chinese pottery and also as Chinese clay figurines. When translated, their name Shar Pei becomes Sand Skin, which references their short coat. Back in Ancient China, they were put to work on farms for herding and protecting stock as well as families themselves.
Today, they can be a fiercely independent dog which is unusual for canines who so often love to be around people. However, that is not to say that they do not make great companions for anyone living alone or families that have older children. Their looks may not be for everyone, but that has not been at the detriment of their mass breeding. In fact, they are one of the most popular breeds in the US at the moment.
The Samoyed originally comes from Siberia and can now be expected to live up to around 14 years. They were used by the Samoyede tribe in Siberia as a means to pull sleds as well as help them hunt and herd their reindeer. They are thought to go back as far as 1000 BC. They are one of the rare, ancient breeds of working dogs that have little to no wolf genetics in their DNA. Instead, they are known to have a very similar genetic makeup to the primitive dog.
Today, they are still much loved by families and make great companions. They are loyal as well as affectionate and playful. With their hunting and herding dog background, they also have a fair amount of intelligence which further helps their ability to make friends with their family members.
These long-haired dogs were first bred in China around 2000 years ago and so we can easily count the Pekingese as one of the oldest breeds that currently exist. They are a toy dog size and are also known as Peking Lion Dogs, Chinese Spaniels, and Pelchies. Their official name, Pekingese, comes from their home city, however, Peking. This was the former name of Beijing and as a breed, they were only allowed to be owned by royalty.
It was in the mid-1800s that Pekingese first started to arrive on Western shores like England’s. They were originally brought over like a trophy during the Opium war and their numbers started to increase from there when smugglers started to see their worth. They were only seen as an established breed in the US at the beginning of the 1900s.
They remain a loyal lapdog to this day and while their looks may not be for everyone, their loving nature often wins everyone’s heart over.
- Amy Sinatra Ayres, Meet 12 Ancient Dog Breeds, VetStreet