As their name suggests, the rarest dog breeds in the world are, in fact, pretty hard to come by. Yes, we’ve all heard of Labradors, French Bulldogs and the loveable and loyal German Shepherds. But how about the muscular Azawakhs, the active Mudis or the hairless Xoloitzcuintlis?
Canines have been around for thousands of years with some of the oldest dog breeds dating back to the end of the Ice Age, more than 11,000 years ago. But over time, whether it’s due to health problems, lack of breeding or world events, certain dog breeds have become so rare they’re only native to certain regions.
However, just like their more common canine counterparts, many of the rarest dog breeds can still offer constant cuddles, companionship and love to pass their days by playing with the best dog toys.
To find out more about the rarest dog breeds in the world right now and where you can find them, we’ve compiled a list of the top 25 furry friends that really are one of a kind.
25 of the rarest dog breeds
Small-to-medium in size, protective of their owners and of an athletic build, Telomians are only found in isolated jungle villages near the Telom River in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
Legend has it that these canines were originally bred by the indigenous people of Malaysia to control small pests such as rats, mice and other small jungle creatures, like snakes.
2. Norwegian Lundehund
Dating back to the Ice Age, the Norwegian Lundehund is classed as one of the rarest dog breeds in the world — and for good reason. This pooch was bred to scale rocks, slippery crags and dig burrows to hunt Puffins along coastal cliffs.
Due to this, it developed some unique characteristics including six toes on each paw, the ability to crane its neck back to its spine and fold its ears closed.
Resembling a Greyhound or Whippet in appearance, thanks to its tall, slim and muscular stature, the rare Azawakh breed originates from West Africa and gets its name from the close-by Azawagh Valley. Originally used as hunting dogs for small game, these canines have a fiercely loyal bond to their human companions.
4. Lagotto Romagnolo
Known for their curly locks, the Lagotto Romagnolo can be traced back to the 7th century B.C. when they were used to retrieve waterfowl in the vast marshlands of northern Italy.
At the time, their dense curls helped to keep them warm while swimming in the cold waters. But as interest declined in these hunting methods, at one point, these curly-haired cuties nearly went extinct.
Despite their ability to hunt otters like no other (thanks to their webbed feet and super sensitive notes), Otterhounds are one of the UK’s rarest dog breeds. They’re playful, friendly and easy to train, but after otter hunting became banned in the UK in 1981, these shaggy-haired dogs fell out of favor.
Intelligent, active and alert, the medium-sized Mudi is a Hungarian farm dog that is still used today for herding sheep and cattle. When it’s not rounding up stubborn livestock, this breed is used as a search and rescue dog in some parts of the U.S. and Finland.
It’s been in existence since the 19th century and is said to have evolved naturally from crosses of the Puli, Pumi and German Spitz breeds.
7. Peruvian Inca Orchid
Thought a Peruvian Inca Orchid was a flower? Think again. This ancient breed of dog, native to Peru, dates as far back as 750 A.D. when it was thought to have been kept as a pet in both pre-Inca times and as part of the Incan empire.
But what these beauties lack in hair, they make up for in endearment, as they’re protective of their family and are incredibly affectionate dogs.
Good at sledding, great with children and eager to please, the Chinook dog is one loveable companion. So it’s a wonder why this New Hampshire-bred-and-born canine was named as the world's rarest dog breed in 1965 by the Guinness Book of World Records. In fact, Chinooks were on the verge of extinction by the 1980s, so a breeding program was put in place to protect their status.
More commonly known as the Mexican Hairless Dog (or Xolo for short), this ancient hairless dog breed dates back more than 3,000 years when it was part of the Aztec empire. Back then, these bald and beautiful creatures were buried alongside their owners ‘to help guide the soul as it journeyed to the underworld’.
Although they are still considered a rare breed today, they have seen a resurgence in popularity as they're ideal pets for those allergic to fur.
10. Thai Ridgeback
Highly intelligent, strong and coming with an innate ability to hunt, Thai Ridgebacks are believed to be one of the world’s first dog breeds, but they are still rarely spotted outside of Thailand. Key characteristics include: spotted blue/black tongues and a ridge on their backs (thanks to hair growing in the opposite direction).
Stabyhouns are national treasures in their native Dutch province of Friesland. The breed was first discovered in the Netherlands in the 1800s when it originated as a multiple-purpose farm dog. But elsewhere, this happy-go-lucky dog is great with children, energetic and very active.
12. New Guinea singing dog
Best known for its unique howls and barks, the New Guinea singing dog is an extremely rare breed that, as of recent, was thought to be extinct. A few hundred of these animals are kept in captivity around the world. But the last documented wild sighting of the New Guinea singing dogs was in 2018, when they were found roaming in the mountainous regions of Central Papua.
13. Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Weighing no more than 24 pounds these unique-looking dogs might be small, but they sure are mighty. Originally bred in England to hunt vermin, they have a large head covered with a soft and feathery mane of white hair and a long torso with short legs.
Like many other breeds listed in this guide, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier breed nearly went extinct during the Second World War. While breeders have worked hard to raise the number of Dandies, they still remain pretty scarce.
14. Kai Ken
First discovered in 1929 in the mountainous regions of Kai, near Mount Fuji, to this day, it’s still pretty rare to find a Kai Ken outside of Japan. Traditionally, this strong, speedy and agile breed of dog was used to hunt game and is today highly regarded as a trustworthy guardian who’s extremely devoted to its owner.
15. Skye Terrier
How cute is this little charmer? Belonging to the Terrier dog family, Skye Terriers date back to the 14th century and are Scottish-bred and born. Over the years, dwindling numbers of Skye Terriers have been blamed on little knowledge of the breed.
While others suggest that their long and luscious coat acts as a deterrent, as it looks like all those locks would take a lot of work (even though this isn't true).
Nicknamed the ‘little lion dog’ (and it’s clear to see why), the Löwchen first erupted onto the scene in the 15th century, when they were kept as companion dogs in major European countries, such as France, Belgium, Spain and Germany by aristocracy.
Non-shedding, small and coming with a mane of hair, these affectionate creatures love nothing more than snuggling up.
17. Catahoula Leopard Dog
Striking in its appearance, the rare Catahoula Leopard dog is best known for its scattering of mottled patches which appear on its coat, typically in clusters of red, black or gray blotches — and it’s this leopard-like effect which gives it its name.
Today, in its home state of Louisiana, these versatile working dogs are used for hunting, herding and as guard dogs.
18. Bedlington Terrier
Characterized with a unique lamb-like appearance, Bedlington Terriers were actually originally bred to hunt and have since been used in dog racing and dog sports.
19. Bergamasco Shepherd
With their signature heavily matted coats, a Bergamasco Shepherd has to be one of the most unique-looking dogs in this line-up. Calm, patient and a true leader, for thousands of years the Bergamasco Shepherd has been used to herd and guard flocks in extreme cold climates.
In the 1960s the Bergamasco teetered on the brink of extinction and though they remain rare today, there is an International Bergamasco Sheepdog Association to help protect its interests.
20. Tibetan Mastiff
Best described as a fluffy four-legged giant, the scarcely seen Tibetan Mastiff is a breed of mountain dog that is most comfortable living in high altitudes, thanks to its thick and luscious coat which will stand up to harsh climates.
They are hard workers and family protectors and due to their size (they can weigh up to 150lbs) they are banned in certain countries.
21. Finnish Spitz
Red and gold in color, foxy-faced and coming with a swishing tail, Finnish spitz dogs are the national dogs of Finland and make for a great family pet because of their lively and loyal nature.
Although well known in the EU, ‘Finkies’, as they are known for short, are still considered a rare breed in the U.S. after they nearly became extinct in the 19th century.
22. Turkish pointer
Turkish Pointers might be rare, so much so that even today they are not an officially recognized breed, but they are instantly recognizable.
More formerly known as Tarsus çatalburuns, these hunting dogs have a split nose, which is a rare genetic trait shared only by two other breeds: the Spanish Pachón Navarro and the Bolivian Andean Tiger Hound.
23. Cesky Terrier
These fairly small, intelligent and muscular terriers are the national dog of the Czech Republic.
Created by geneticist František Horák in the late 1940s, these full-of-energy short four-legged friends are a cross between a Scottish Terrier and a Sealyham Terrier. Most owners groom their Cesky to show off their strong torso, leaving long hair on the stomach and legs.
24. Swedish Vallhund
You might not have heard of a Swedish Vallhund before. But that’s because these bushy-tailed cuties have only been in the U.S. for around 50 years. The lively and confident breed of dog originated in Västergötland, Sweden and despite their small size, they were used to guard and herd livestock.
25. Berger Picard
If there’s one dog that comes with a stubborn streak it’s a Berger Picard.
For centuries, these French herding dogs have been known for their independent nature and distrust of strangers. And, as is the case for many other canines in this list, both World War 1 and World War 2 were responsible for dwindling numbers of Berger Picards. Their boundless energy, agility and sturdy build make them ideal for active owners.
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Becks is a freelance lifestyle journalist who has more than 9 years of experience in the world of digital and print journalism. She covers health, wellness and family interests for a range of titles. When she's not putting pen-to-paper (or finger-to-keyboard) she's reading, in the gym, or taking her Dog Aunt title very seriously looking after the handful of four-legged creatures in her life.