From the small and obnoxiously loud to the large and in-charge, man’s best friend has penetrated every crevice of our personal and professional existence. Different sizes, shapes, temperaments, intellects, and general personalities all come together to create the distinct dog breeds we all know and love today. However, can you believe that some of the most sought-after and admired dog breeds of the modern world have only been around for the last few decades, some just a few centuries? It’s true!
Through generations of selective breeding, and more recently, genetic manipulation, the dog breeds of the modern time are much different from the animals our descendants lived and worked with. It may be difficult to imagine a world in which our family pets weren’t so “family,” but all of these breeds mentioned in this list were originally domesticated for work. Whether their purpose be focused on a single task… or several, these dog breeds once had exciting careers. The days of work still continue for some dogs but for the majority, our family pets are enjoying the life of luxury. Are you interested to see what line of work your dog came from?
Bloodhounds were primarily used as tracking dogs due to their “hyper” sense of smell. During a hunt, whether it be for meat or sport, they were used to track animals like wild boars and deers. Nowadays, they are primarily used by law enforcement to sniff out suspicious substances.
Back in the old days, the bull terrier was initially used as a bait dog. They were capable of fighting off rats, badgers, and at the very least, distract bears. Nonetheless, they were used to catch and hold the attention of prey. Due to this inbred trait, it is common for the bull terrier to be aggressive around other dogs.
Commonly known as the “Weiner dog,” the dachshund is the short-legged yet long-bodied hound type breed. Originally, the dachshund was bred to scent, chase, and force out burrow-dwelling animals, like a badger, for instance. The miniature-dachshund was further developed to hunt smaller prey like rabbits and mice.
The mastiff, one of the larger dog breeds, is an overall large and powerful dog. Due to these two traits, the breed had several purposes. They could herd and guard livestock, protect property and homes, but still, so much more. They were also used as war dogs, hunting companions, and bait dogs for bulls, bears, and even lions.
The greyhound has been traced back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, making this breed one of the oldest in recorded history. As opposed to hunting by scent, the foot speed and keen eyesight allowed the greyhound to hunt via pure chase. This practice eventually led to greyhound racing that began in the 1920s.
Before we saw this breed promoted by the movie Beethoven, the Saint Bernard was first acquired for use in search and rescue missions in the Swiss Alps and Italian mountains during the 1660s. Their size, natural strength, and dense, coarse fur allowed the breed to thrive in snowy conditions.
As one of the smallest dogs in the terrier family, the Yorkshire terrier breed was first bred out of Yorkshire, a county in northern England. Workers in cotton and wool mills, in addition to miners, bred this small dog in order to fight vermin in their respective factories and mines, particularly mice and rats. At an ideal seven pounds, this energetic dog was often successful at this task.
This stocky, with pushed-in nose and wrinkled face dog, was first bred in England for use as bull bait. In other words, several bulldogs were set loose in an arena with a chained bull. Although many dogs would perish, the one to bite the bull on the nose and wrestle it to the ground would be declared the winner, providing riches to the betters that had placed their hope in this one dog. Thankfully, this sport was outlawed in 1835.
Although their origin hasn’t been ultimately confirmed, Great Danes can be traced from France, Denmark, and Germany. They were used to hunt deer, boars, and other large animals. These mammoth-sized dogs would hold down the caught animal while their accompanying hunter would put the captured animal out of its misery.
Also known as “pudelhund, or “water dog” in German, the poodle breed was first seen in France and Germany. Because of it’s web feet, the breed was used as a gun dog or retriever for birds shot, that lay in bodies of water. In order to help the dog stay afloat, the bottom half of the dog was often shaved to help avoid excess weight carried by its wet fur.
The Chow-Chow, originating from northern China, is nicknamed the “puffy-lion dog.” Dating back a possible 3,000 years, it’s mentioned that these dogs were used for war, pulling sleds through snow, and potentially, even for human consumption.
Originating in Northeast Asia, the thick, double-coat working breed was first developed by the Chukchi people. The resilient and energetic dog, able to withstand incredibly harsh environments and negative-degree cold, were used for their guarding, sled-pulling, and even gardening skills.
Believe it or not, the pitbull descended as a cross between terriers and bulldogs. Ideally, this dog was meant to have the agility of the terrier with the muscle mass and strength of a bulldog. At first (in the UK), the cross-breed was used in violent blood sport. In other words, these mixes were used in bear and bull-bating.
The dobermann breed was first developed by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann in 1890, a German tax collector. Karl, who ran a pound, sought to develop a breed that could protect him, one with unmatchable stamina, intelligence, and strength. The breed is said to have been perfected by one of the earliest breeders, Otto Goeller, during the same decade.
The “Rottweiler Metzgerhund,” AKA, rottweil butchers’ dogs, descend from Germany. As the name suggests, the rottweiler was used to pull the load of a cart with butchered meat. In contrast, the breed was also used to protect and herd livestock. How ironic.
Named after the Mexican state of the same name, the Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog around. It’s believed that the breed was used as a companion dog, especially enjoyed by the Toltec (Mexican) Civilization. Further, it was believed that these dogs were used as “living heating pads.” These small beasts were simply placed upon the bodies of the sick and injured.
The Shih Tzu, weighing between 4 and 7 pounds, was first bred in Tibet. The toy dog breed was once bred for Chinese royalty. Its life’s purpose? To adore and be adored.