Man’s Best Friend, the loyal and dependable dog. From Golden Retriever, to the little Welsh Corgi, we all have a lovable pooch in our life. Dogs today are used mainly as companions, however, when these dogs were first bred, it was hardly for good looks and friendship. Lets talk about what these special 25 breeds were first created for.
A beloved lap dog, these adorable short legged, big eared dogs were originally bred as herding dogs, specifically for cattle. They would chase after the large animals, keeping them on the move by nipping at their heels. Their low height and their ability to dodge made them ideal in this occupation, as they could move fast and avoid being kicked and stepped on by the cattle.
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese water dog was originally bred by fisherman, to dive into the water and retrieve nets, carry messages between boats, and herd fish. Once serving as crew on fishing trips, he is now a lovable family companion, but still retains his love for the water!
Another pampered lapdog of today was originally bred for some not-so-glamorous work! Scottish weavers and miners were sick of rats invading their work spaces, so they created this small and feisty breed of dog to chase rodents out of their coal mines and work areas. Yorkies were also used in hunting, to burrow underground after badgers and foxes.
Dachshund, also known as “Wiener Dogs,” may look like small, unassuming lapdogs, but were originally bred to hunt down, chase, and flush out burrow-dwelling animals like badgers and rabbits. In the United States, they have also been used to track deer and hunt prairie dogs, having been known to track wounded animals for days without giving up.
Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Mastiff
Now known a lovable lapdog and a fuzzy gentle giant, The Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Mastiff once worked together as an unlikely team to guard Buddhist monasteries. The Lhasa Apso was the sentinel, his keen hearing and loud bark served as a burglar alarm if an intruder got past the outer guards.
The Tibetan Mastiff assisted with keeping the temple secure, while the Lhasa Apso supplied the bark, alerting officials to intruders, the Mastiff would supply the bite if needed, or simply scare the intruders out of the building!
Often known as the “Apollo of dog breeds,” an adult Great Dane can weigh anywhere between 120 and 200 pounds, and averaging between 30 to 34 inches on its four legs. These gentle giants are treated as lovable family pets today, but were originally bred as prestigious guardians of rich estates and carriages. They were also popular with the upper class for sport, as few other dog breeds could take down a wild boar!
Poodles may seem like sort of prissy dogs, however they were first bred to jump in ponds and lakes to retrieve birds that were shot by their masters. This is where the classic “poodle cut” comes from, their coat would get heavy when wet, so all of it would get sheared except what was necessary to keep the dog warm. The Poodle quickly became popular in France, the country with which it’s still often associated. It’s a very capable working dog, but today is mostly a show dog and lap dog.
Today the Golden Retriever is the third most popular family dog in the United States. However, they were originally bred in Scotland when bird hunting was a popular sport for the wealthy Scottish upper class. The Golden Retriever was bred as a “gun dog” to retrieve ducks and upland game birds during hunting and shooting parties. They were prized because of their ability to retrieve from land and water without damaging the game.
The Komondor, also known as The Hungarian Sheepdog (or appropriately, the “mop dog”) has been declared one of Hungary’s national treasures. It is a great family dog, and has a natural instinct to guard livestock and property. Its original role was protecting sheep and livestock in its native country of Hungary, and its thick, unique dreadlock-like coat rendered bites from predators far less damaging, as the wild beasts frequently tangled their jaws in its hair! The Komondor didn’t typically herd the animals it protected in a usual way, instead, it ran with the livestock to blend in, surprising predators and giving itself an even greater defensive advantage.
With almost supernatural tracking abilities, the Bloodhound is known as one of the best dogs for tracking scents, and has been used for tracking deer, boar and people since the 9th century. Even today, the bloodhound is used by police and military to track missing persons, inmates, and animals.
Now known as a gentle giant, these huge dogs are great, lovable family dogs. They were bred in the 17th century by monks at the Hospice of Saint Bernard to guard their compound, but also to find travelers lost in the Swiss Alps. They were created to be large enough to traverse deep snow, but were also bred to have an exceptional sense of smell to locate lost travelers.
Today, the Airedale is used as a family dog and therapy dog in nursing homes and hospitals. However it was bred for much fiercer purposes! The Airedale was created to be a hunting dog, with the persistence and toughness to go after everything from rats to mountain lions. The Airedale was used in World War I to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines and transport mail. They were also used by the Red Cross to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield. There are numerous stories of Airedales delivering their messages despite horrible injury. An Airedale named ‘Jack’ ran through half a mile of enemy fire, with a message attached to his collar. He arrived at his destination with a broken jaw and broken leg, and right after he delivered the message, he dropped dead. The Airedale often performed search and rescue for law enforcement as well, before the German Shepherd filled this role.
These amazing “firehouse dogs” have a natural affinity with horses, and were easily trained to work alongside firemen and horse-drawn fire engines in the 19th century. Dalmatians were trained to run in front of the carriages to help clear a path and quickly guide the horses and firefighters to the fires. Today these dogs make intelligent, playful, energetic pets, and great guard dogs.
Now known as cuddly, furry, family dogs, the Alaskan Malamute was bred for working and hunting, with the ability to hunt large predators such as bears. Early Eskimos relied on Alaskan Malamutes to pull sleds full of people and important cargo such as medicine and food across snowy landscapes in cold and blizzard conditions.
The Doberman is a fast, intelligent dog used still today in many places as a guard dog. Doberman Pinschers were first bred in Germany around 1890, by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, who served in the dangerous role of local tax collector. He wanted to create a breed that would be ideal for keeping him safe during his collections, which took him through many dangerous areas. During World War II, the United States Marine Corps adopted the Doberman as its official War Dog.
Greyhounds today are prized for their amazing racing ability, and retired greyhounds are loved as family pets. However, greyhounds were originally bred as hunting dogs, not for their great sense of smell, but for their eyesight and speed, which allowed them to chase fast-moving prey like deer.
Now the cuddly, furry eared lap dogs, Cocker Spaniels were originally bred for the single purpose of hunting the Eurasian woodcock in the United Kingdom. Being a small dog, the Cocker Spaniel was very good at running into brush to scare a woodcock into taking flight. It also has a strong retriever instinct, to find the bird and bring it back to its owner.
Collies are intelligent and gentle and make great family pets. They were first bred as herding dogs, designed to keep animals in specific spaces, such as sheep and ducks.
Pugs were first bred in China and brought to England, where they were popular in Queen Victoria’s court as a companion dog. They were one of very few dogs to be created simply as a companion dog, and are still used for that purpose today.
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular family pets in the United Kingdom and United States. Now used for disability, search and rescue, and therapy applications, they were first bred in the 1830 to retrieve birds that were shot down into the water, as they have amazing retriever and swimming abilities.
Bulldogs are now primarily family dogs, known to form especially strong bonds with children. However, The designation “bull” in their name was originally added because of the dog’s use in the sport of “bull baiting.” This sport involved the letting loose of dogs onto a bull that was tethered to a pole. It was common for a bull to maim or kill several dogs during this, either by goring, tossing, or trampling. After bull baiting and bear baiting sports were outlawed in England in 1835, it stopped making sense to breed this weird dog, however a few decades later, various dog breeders began to emulate the physical traits of Bulldogs. From those newer Bulldogs come our modern Bulldogs today.
The beagle is a cute, sweet dog, and is an excellent family dog with a great temperament. It also is a great scent hound, bred primarily for hunting rabbits. It’s not a very fast runner, but still pretty good at hunting small game, and a great hunting companion.
A fairly new dog breed, the smart and loyal German Shepherd was bred to (you guessed it) herd and tend grazing sheep. Today, the German shepherd has been trained to do many other things, such as search and rescue, police operations and disability occupations, and is known as one of the smartest and most trainable dogs.
Rottweilers are beloved parts of our family, smart, loyal, and trainable. They were originally dogs bred to drive cattle to market. Later they were used to pull carts for butchers. They were among the earliest police dogs and currently serve with honor in the military.