20 Rare Dog Breeds from Around the World
Rare, an adjective describing something that does not occur very often, is not found in large numbers and often has unusual traits. Therefore, it is of great interest and value.
To bring you the joy of learning about uncommon dog breeds, I’ve assembled this rare dog breeds list with pictures below.
I’ll share the tales of 20 rare dog breeds from around the world, their personalities, and how they came to be. You’ll discover that scarcity does not come in just one size, as I explore rare small dog breeds, large, and those in between. I also slip in a unique dog breed category. Keep in mind that rare dog breeds are also some of the most expensive dog breeds (easily understandable), so if you have the budget and want an awesome, unique pet that nobody else has in the dog lovers tribe, here are some rare dogs to admire!
20 Rare Dog Breeds from Around the World
1. Bergamasco Shepherd
Country of Origin: Italy
The Bergamasco, or Alpine Sheepdog, evolved from the Great Mollosian and Hungarian dog breeds. Some say this unique dog breed was cross-bred with sheep to confuse predators of livestock.
The coat of a Bergamasco has three types of hair forming flocks that give the dog his true one-of-a-kind look. They serve to protect him from the harsh climate, as well as from larger animals who might prey upon him.
Low maintenance – although you will want to invest in a very high-quality dog brush – the Bergamasco is a friendly dog, very loyal to and protective of his people. That makes him a great family pet if you can find one!
2. Catahoula Leopard Dog
Country of Origin: United States (Louisiana)
Also known as Hog or Cur Dogs, the spotted Catahoula Leopard Dog may be the first dog bred in the United States. The breed most likely descended from dogs brought to this country by European explorers that later bred Red Wolves, as they share DNA.
Catahoulas became the dogs of Native Americans in Southern Louisiana and were named for the region where the breed originated. Their webbed paws enabled them to hunt wild boar in the swamps, but are now used mostly to herd livestock. Rather than moving the herd from behind, Catahoulas circle and bay, darting forward to keep any strays under control.
If you desire a Catahoula Leopard Dog as a family pet, be sure to provide your dog with plenty of exercise, room to stretch his legs, and quality time with you. This is a pack breed that loves being with its people and does not do well left to their own devices.
Country of Origin: United States (New Hampshire)
Before the turn of the 20th century, musher and adventurer Arthur Treadwell Walden crossed mastiffs and huskies to create dogs with great all-around sledding ability, and a friendly, affectionate temperament. His lead dog, given the Native American word for “warm winter winds,” is the Chinook breed’s namesake.
Walden and his team of Chinooks were called, “the backbone of our transport” by Admiral Richard Byrd during his 1928 expedition to Antarctica. Impressed with the breed, Walden noted that the 13 dogs, led by Chinook, moved 3,500 lbs. of supplies for 16 miles in two journeys. Once on the verge of extinction, today, the Chinook is an extremely rare dog breed.
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4. Tibetan Mastiff
Country of Origin: China
Weighing in at about 25 Chihuahuas, the Tibetan Mastiff is the supreme guard dog. With his lion-like mane and deep woof, this noble beast presents an impressive image to all who see him. The ancestors of this rare large dog breed protected nomads in the Himalayans centuries ago, but were then brought westward by Attila the Hun.
The breeds’ progeny evolved into the Mollossoid breeds, the Mastiffs, Boxers, and St. Bernards. Tibetan Mastiffs are a rarity, and owning one has become the ultimate status symbol.
Independent and stubborn, the Tibetan Mastiff will be reluctant to humor you with obedience or other organized activities but can become a loving and protective family dog in a relaxed environment with proper socialization. If you want one, you might have to spend up to $7,500. We told you that some rare dog breeds are also some of the most expensive, and the Tibetan Mastiff is in fourth place as one of the most expensive dogs in the world!
Country of Origin: England
Longer than tall, which provides high endurance when trotting, the Otterhound has a rough outer coat to protect from thorns on the hunt. Its oily inner coat provides comfort from cold water.
This webbed footed scent hound’s job was to track otter in water and all-terrain. However, water pollution in the 1970s resulted in dwindling otter numbers, so without this need, the breed began to disappear.
Less than 600 exist in the world today, making the Otterhound one of the extremely rare dog breeds! A friendly pet with a melodious voice, this breed is a bit stubborn but can become a welcome member of most households.
Country of Origin: Netherlands
A mix of both retriever and pointer, the Stabyhoun is an obedient and patient breed that wants to please his people. Originating in the Frisian Forest region of the Netherlands, along with the Wetterhoun, Stabyhouns are growing in popularity but are still considered rare large dog breeds.
Translated from Dutch, the name means “Stand by me, dog.” Stabys love being with their family, and are great with kids and easy to train, but occasionally a bit stubborn. Active dogs, this breed is excellent at catching small vermin, so don’t be upset if they dig up your garden. It’s in the genes.
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7. Thai Ridgeback
Country of Origin: Thailand
The Thai Ridgeback was trained to kill Cobras and keep other deadly snakes at bay! Held in prestige as the Royal Dog of Thailand, these are athletic dogs, lean and muscular. Named for the characteristic ridge of hair that grows in the opposite direction along their back, the Thai is only one of 3 breeds known with this trait.
Excellent guard dogs that bond with their family, early training and socialization is a must. Protectiveness may border on becoming territorial and aggressive with other animals. With only about 1,000 of these dogs outside of their native country, and maybe 100 in the United States, the Thai Ridgeback is one of the extremely rare dog breeds.
Country of Origin: Africa
The story goes that in ancient times, sighthounds got separated when the Sahara dried up, and they interbred with the bush dogs of the region evolving into the Azawakh! A very lean, fiercely protective dog prized for its speed, this breed is built to bolt but does settle down to get cuddly with his people.
Azawakhs, however, are not easy to find, with only a few hundred in the United States, making them a prized, yet uncommon dog breed. Therefore, this African dog finds himself amongst the 20 rare dog breeds from around the world. It is, as you could figure out yourself, also one of the most expensive dog breeds in the world, emptying your pocket up to $3,000. This is what we said about it on a previous occasion as a warning for all those who would love to have this dog as a pet:
The Azawakh is primarily a hot weather dog that has low cold tolerance. Due to its passion for running and chasing moving objects, it is the ideal companion for an avid jogger or someone with an overall active lifestyle. What’s more, it is an excellent guard dog. He has a longstanding history of protecting property.
9. Finnish Spitz
Country of Origin: Finland
Also known as “Finkies” or “Finns,” the Finnish Spitz is a vocal breed that moves bolder than its medium size. Resembling a fox with its coloring and plumed tail, it was once known as the Finnish Barking Bird Dog for its bird-dogging techniques that helped hunters by flushing and trailing game.
On the verge of extinction in the late 1800s, admirers of the breed brought them back from oblivion, but Finns remain in small numbers. Sensitive, active dogs, the Finnish Spitzs can make a swell companion pet.
Country of Origin: England
Larger and more powerful than the Beagle – able to give Snoopy a run for his money – but smaller than the equally rare English Foxhound, more stories exist as to the origins of the Harrier than the number of Harriers in the U.S.
What we do know, however, is that they were bred to hunt hare, thus their name. An outgoing and friendly dog, the Harrier makes friends with people and other dogs and can be a great family pet.
11. Karelian Bear Dog
Country of Origin: Finland
The fearless Karelian Bear Dog is just that, a dog bred to hunt bear! This ancient, rare dog breed has been around since the Stone Age and has served as a great companion to man since those early times. They are even used in Yosemite National Park to control bears in certain situations.
Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to see a Karelian outside of his native Finland, so this “National Treasure” can certainly contend for the rarest dog in the world title. High spirited and self-confident, the breed is not aggressive towards humans but may do best as the only male dog in a household.
12. Lagotto Romagnolo
Country of Origin: Italy
A curly-coated truffle dog, the Lagotto Romagnolo is an affectionate, undemanding pet that matches his teddy bear-like look! Lagottis, however, are a hard-working breed with an excellent ability to root out fragile and priceless truffles.
They date back to the Italian Renaissance when they were bred to retrieve waterfowl, but found their true calling in fungi! Although other breeds can hunt truffles, the Lagotto is considered the most exceptional truffle dog in the world, and one of the 20 rare dog breeds from around the world.
If you are interested in other truffle-hunting dogs that can go and retrieve treasures more expensive than gold, here are other, less rare dog breeds and certainly less expensive:
- The Springer Spaniel;
- The Beagle;
- A Standard Poodle;
- The Belgian Malinois, a dog breed with a strong reputation in truffle hunting.
However, the Lagotto Romagnolo is still the best dog in the world for truffles and a few lucky ones would say it is the best dog in the whole world for their families as well.
13. Peruvian Inca Orchid
Country of Origin: Peru
Pero Flora or “Flower Dog” is what the Peruvian Explorers called the present-day Peruvian Inca Orchid Dog. In existence before 750 AD, this uncommon treasure may be the rarest dog in the world with only 1,000 in existence, partially due to a large segment of the population being killed during the Spanish conquest of Peru.
Incan royalty prized this breed as bed warmers, as their hairless skin radiates warmth like a hot water bottle, bringing comfort to the person it huddles against. Some say these dogs heal as well!
In actuality, they were bred to be message runners. Fast and rugged, they were the postal service of ancient times. The Peruvian Inca Orchid Dog may find himself listed with other rare, medium dog breeds, but comes in three sizes and varies in shades from pink to black. Their name likely came from the orchids that grow in the caves where these dogs were found long ago.
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14. Bedlington Terrier
Country of Origin: Northern England
As we continue our journey around the globe, we come across rare small dog breeds starting with the Bedlington Terrier. We mentioned this one when we discussed the most expensive dog breeds in the world, emphasizing that it was “children’s favorite and a small jolly family dog” that can break your bank worth of around $4,000.
Bearing a resemblance to a lamb with its pale, curly coat, this dog breed is more athletic than its gentle demeanor reveals.
Used to race and catch rodents, the graceful Bedlington, named for the mining town from which they hail, is another hard to find dog breed. Those lucky few who get to share their lives with a Bedlington remark that these dogs are among the gentlest, most loyal, and friendliest dogs anywhere.
15. Cesky Terrier
Country of Origin: Czech Republic
Like other terriers, the Cesky Terrier is a feisty and tenacious dog bred to hunt in packs but is a bit more social than some of his cousins. They make great companions if provided plenty of mental and physical stimulation, and are quite the adventurous and intelligent breed.
In the 1940s, Frantisek Horak crossed Scottish and Sealyham Terriers, two opposing personalities, to arrive at this family-loving hunting dog. Less than 600 Cesky Terriers exist in the United States, placing it on the list of rare small dog breeds.
Country of Origin: Hungary
An all-purpose farm dog, the Mudi is not only a rodent exterminator. The breed is known to herd to the most stubborn of livestock but also serve as flock guardian and protector of his family.
Evolving naturally from the German Spitz, Puli, and Pumi, this uncommon dog breed is at his happiest when on a long walk or jog with his favorite person, in a large fence or field where he can run to his heart’s desire, or competing in agility.
The Mudi’s talents for search and rescue have been recently discovered in both Finland and the U.S., making this one of the best rare dog breeds to have.
17. New Guinea Singing Dog
Country of Origin: New Guinea
A wedge-shaped head and large carnassial teeth distinguish the New Guinea Singing Dog from other canine specimens. However, it’s his one-note howl that makes him a standout. Truly primitive dogs discovered in the jungles of Asia, the breed has been separated from domestic canines for 30,000 years.
Singers are incredibly physical and able to scale rough terrain. Experts classify the breed as “domestic feral,” and there are less than 100 Singers in captivity!
Somewhat aloof with a high prey drive and a tenacity for escaping fences and enclosures, the breed is friendly and gentle around people, but rarely kept as pets. Not recognized by any of the canine registering organizations, the New Guinea Singing Dog may be the rarest dog in the world!
18. Norwegian Lundehund
Country of Origin: Norway
A small Spitz-type breed with several unusual traits, the Norwegian Lundehund was built for hunting Puffins. Its six toes, elongated rear footpads, and elastic neck that can bend its head back towards the spine allowed this rare breed to climb sheer rock walls and get into crevices to snatch Puffin for the islanders who depended on the pickled meat to get them through the winter.
The need for the dogs declined when in the 1900s, the islanders started using nets. Now, the birds are a protected species, so Puffin Dogs, or Norwegian Lundehunds, embrace their new role as active and friendly companion pets.
19. Russkiy Toy
Country of Origin: Russia
The Russkiy Toy, Russian Toy Terrier, or Toychik was descended from English terrier breeds and served as companion to the Russian nobility. Their connection to the aristocracy, however, was vital in their decline during the October Revolution.
The breed was revived after World War II from the few dogs remaining, but even today, Toychiks are rarely seen outside of Russia. They have only reached British shores in the last ten years and stay on the list of the rarest dog breeds ever.
Active and cheerful, the Toychik is one of the smallest breeds in the world, yet can be protective of his family and wary of strangers.
20. Swedish Vallhund
Country of Origin: Sweden
The Swedish Vallhund is a fantastic dog that is relatively unknown. Related to both the Welsh and Pembroke Corgis, this Scandinavian dog was bred to hunt rats, protect homes, and herd cattle, and was brought from other lands by the Vikings.
As pets, Vallhunds excel in agility, flyball, and obedience training, but can also be a farm dog for herding as this small, powerful dog knows no fear.
Bonus: Most Unique Dog Breed
Hopefully, by this point, you have been captivated by these 20 rare dog breeds from around the world, yet there are others few of us have laid eyes upon. Although I’ve reached my intended goal of 20, one rare and unique dog breed is begging for his 15 minutes of fame, so I cannot deny him that.
Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound
Country of Origin: Bolivia
As its name implies, the Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound stands apart from the rest of the pack due to its double nose. Looking almost like other canine snouts, the Andean’s nostrils are divided by fur and skin, which reportedly gives the breed a more enhanced sense of smell.
Almost unheard of, the Double-Nosed Andean Tiger Hound’s history is a mystery. They are certainly one of the least common dogs anywhere, having only been seen in their native Bolivia. Sweet-natured with a loving disposition, the Andean is known to suffer from separation anxiety when not with his family. An energetic breed, the Andean enjoys long walks and playing in a large, fenced yard.
Rare Dog Breeds: Would You Get One?
Petite or enormous, sporting a full lion’s mane or hairless, uncommon dogs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, coats, colors, and temperaments.
Many were bred for occupations, causing the demand for these dogs to diminish. Other rare breeds never grew too large in numbers or remain isolated in their native lands. Regardless, a dog is a wondeRUFFul thing, and we are better for knowing more of them.
Which of these rare dog breeds do you feel is the most unique? How many have you ever had the pleasure of feasting your eyes upon, in person or in books? If you had your choice, which of these 20 rare dog breeds from around the world would you choose to make a part of your family? Leave your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and experiences with your rare or expensive dogs and let the love for doggos flow through all of us!
DENISE FLECK is an award-winning author, animal care instructor and radio show host. She was named one of Pet Age Magazine’s “Women of Influence” for 2018, a “Most Inspiring Story” in 2017 by Voyage Atlanta Magazine and has been nominated for 6 Dog Writers Awards to be announced in early 2019.Read more »