Sometimes when choosing a dog, you want to find one completely unique to suit the needs of your family. These rare dog breeds are not the animals you will usually find walking along the sidewalk with everyone else and their dogs. Most come from exotic locations and have hidden talents or quirky features. Some even have such a limited population they are not even recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club. A lot of them are even considered to be endangered because their populations are so limited.
Over the span of hundreds of years people have been breeding dogs to be workers, hunters, companions, and lap dogs. Because of this cross breeding, dogs are one of the most physically diverse land animals on the planet. It also means there are a number of rare, almost unknown dog breeds. Ever heard of a dog with six toes on each foot? How about a singing dog? Or a dog that could give Bob Marley’s dreadlocks a run for their money?
Big breeds, small breeds, and even some long-established breeds can be considered rare due to their small number. However, whether by geography, outdated use, or simple unpopularity, these are some of the most unique dogs you might never have even heard of. Check out some of these rare dog breeds.
Top 10 Rare Dog Breeds
These dogs are huge and noble. Much like the monks of the area, Tibetan Mastiffs are also very solemn, but kind in expression. When this breed was develop 5,000 years ago it was used as a guard dog for property of livestock in Tibet. As such, they still make a loving guard dog today, but do require proper socialization and have a strong instinct concerning people. If they initially dislike a person in particular, it will take quite a lot for them to get over it. They also have a strong territorial drive, meaning you will have to vary their routes when taking them on walks, otherwise they will think the path is theirs and theirs alone. Generally a Tibetan Mastiff will weigh between 75 to 160 pounds and an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years.
Though not the best companion for every owner, the Tibetan Mastiffs are a wonderful breed with centuries of experience working directly with humans.
This rare dog breed has five toes on each foot, each to being double or triple jointed, functional dewclaws, and can tip its head backward to touch its backbone. These acrobatics made them exceptionally good at scaling cliffs and robbing puffin nests of their eggs. This is why they are often referred to as the puffin dogs. Norwegian Lundehunds can climb just about anywhere and squeeze through just about anything. They also love to bark and dig. As you can imagine, these dogs will need close supervision or could get into a lot of trouble. Generally Norwegian Lundehunds weigh between 13 and 16 pounds with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
If you are up to the challenge of loving and training a difficult yet very agile dog, then this is a great rare dog breed for you.
The Brazilian Mastiffs were historically bred as hunting and guard dogs. They have fairly aggressive natures, are loyal to their owners, and wary of strangers making them excellent guardians today. In fact, in Brazil the common phrase, “as faithful as a Fila” pays homage to these loyal dogs. They have an exceptional tracking ability and an almost unforgiving and impetuous temperament. Though they do not generally attack their prey, they will hold it at bay, waiting for their hunting companion to arrive. With proper training a Fila will behave in public and around the house. Filas generally weigh between 90 to 110 pounds with an average lifespan of 9 to 11 years.
These members of a rare dog breed are not for the average pet owners. It takes quite a bit of patience and socialization to make sure Filas learn to trust people.
New Guinea Singing Dog
These dogs have a unique way of vocalizing. It actually sounds like singing. They are also referred to as the stone age dog because they were left in isolation for more than 30,000 years, only discovered in the New Guinea Mountains in 1950. Outside of their natural habitat there are less than 100 of this rare dog breed and have a real chance of becoming extinct. Because of their recent domestication, these dogs are not usually recommended for most families. They can be affectionate, but mostly will stay aloof if not properly socialized. Generally New Guinea Singing Dogs weigh between 18 to 30 pounds with an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years.
Because they are still closely related to wild dogs, the NGSDs can be particularly aggressive to other dogs. Otherwise they are a hearty and well balanced dog known for being lively, active, and possess a complex vocal behavior.
These dogs are a cross between a Newfoundland, St. Bernard, and Pyrenean Mountain dog. This makes them giant, fluffy beasts. After World War II only eight of these gentle yet gigantic dogs were left, making them a rare dog breed. These dogs are often mischievous and destructive without proper training. They are highly intelligent, not only great in agility and obedience training, but also have been used for therapy work and water rescue. Generally Leonbergers weigh between 120 to 170 pounds with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
These big dogs have big needs. Their new family should have a decently sized house and yard, not an apartment. They will need at least an hour of exercise every day, do tend to shed, and get along great with other animals.
These little lions are one of the rarest dog breeds on the planet. Known for being charismatic and courageous, this toy breed was developed as a companion. Though their name means “lion dog”, these sweeties are anything but fierce. Usually these dogs can get along well with anyone, and are affectionate, and loving. They will do well in an apartment or on a large estate. Surprisingly robust, they enjoy their roles as watchdog and guardian, but also love to roughhouse with their owners. Generally Lowchens weigh between 9 to 18 pounds with an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years.
These dogs are not bred to be outdoor or kennel dogs. They are always happiest in the company of others and will suffer from separation anxiety if left alone too long. If not properly socialized Lowchens may be shy of new people and excessive barkers when strangers come around. Though this is a great quality in a guard dog, some of your neighbors might consider it a nuisance.
Also known as the Mexican Hairless Dog, this rare dog breed can be traced back more than 3,000 years and can be found in the art of Aztec, Colima, and Toltec civilizations. Native to Mexico and Central America, these dogs are often believed to be the first dogs to set paws in North America. At first glance, many might not think the dogs of this breed are attractive. They have a mostly hairless body, a wrinkled brow, and a rat-like tail. These differences make the Xolo stand apart from other dogs. There are many advantages to these dogs however. They were often known as doctors because of the heat given off their little bodies, comforting people with ailments. These dogs come in three distinct sizes. Generally Xoloitzcuintli weigh between 10 to 50 pounds with an average lifespan of 14 to 20 pounds.
These great companions and protective watchdogs are adaptable to almost any type of home. There are fewer than 1,000 Xolos in the U.S. making them the perfect pet if you are seeking a rare dog breed.
These ancient dogs were bred for herding in the Alps. Dogs of this rare dog breed are also well noted for their thick, dreaded coats. They do not shed and require surprisingly little care in way of grooming. Bergamasco Shepherds are sound, barge, and intelligent. They also are well-proportioned and have an excellent equilibrium. Even the hair in their eyes serves the purpose of cutting down the sunlight glittering off the snow. These dogs are not instinctively aggressive, but can make excellent watchdogs. They have an excellent sense of people, and see each as an individual. Generally these dogs weigh between 70 to 84 pounds with an average lifespan of about 13 to 15 years.
The one thing to note that is special about the dogs from this rare breed is their unique bond with children. Around kids the Bergamasco Shepherds are patient, tolerant, and even attentive. It establishes true friendship with them, which is why they are also used as therapy dogs for handicapped children. They do best with natural leaders and are not a dog for passive owners.
These dogs are rare outside of their native West African homeland. Their bodies are lithe, slender, and particularly leggy. They have an agile, almost feline gait and are often used for hunting fleet animals of the African deserts, like gazelles. These dogs can actually reach up to 37 miles per hour. They have a smooth, short haired coat that is easy to maintain and comes in anything from a light sable to a dark fawn. Though a native hunters, these dogs are gentle and loving with their owners. Generally Azawakh Hounds weigh between 37 and 55 pounds with an average lifespan of about 12 years.
These dogs have a natural guarding tendency. They are best disciplined under a firm and fair leader with an even temper and gentle authority. If this sounds like you, then Azawakhs might be the rare dog breed for you.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
These stunning creatures were prized by Native Americans for their hunting abilities. They are very popular with famous hunters like Theodore Roosevelt. Their eye color and coat color are perhaps their most singular features. These dogs are known for being protective and territorial. They have to be socialized well and socialized young. You also have to be sure and achieve pack leader status with dogs of this breed. They have a natural instinct for order in a pack and will only learn well from the right owner who understands this order. Generally the Catahoula Leopard Dogs weigh between 55 and 80 pounds with an average lifespan of 12 to 13 years.
These dogs need daily walks and a lot of exercise. Otherwise they are likely to develop destructive behaviors. But be careful when playing with this breed. They tend to be very physical, and need to learn to control their play.