11 of the Oldest and Most Exotic Dog Breeds! Have You Heard of Them?

The relationship between man and dog is one of the oldest symbiotic relationships in human history. The connection between humans and dogs dates back to the hunter-gatherer society. The cohabitation of dogs and humans would have greatly improved the chances of survival for early human groups, and the domestication of dogs may have been one of the key forces that led to human success. The symbolism and myth surrounding dogs is rich. Dogs are particularly prized for their loyalty, intelligence, obedience, and cooperation among many things.  Here's a list of some of the oldest and rarest breeds that we find fascinating. Which one's your favorite?

11. Xoloitzcuintli

These odd looking pups are commonly known as the "Mexican Hairless Dog", though there is a variety of this breed that does have a coat. The breed dates back over 3500 years, archaeological evidence of which has been found in the tombs of the ColimaMayanToltecZapotec, and Aztec Indians. Long regarded as guardians and protectors, the indigenous peoples believed that the Xolo safeguarded their homes from evil spirits and intruders.

10. Swedish Vallhund 

In English, "Vallhund" translates to "herd dog." This breed dates back over 1000 years, when it was bred to drive and herd cows starting in about the 8th or 9th century AD. It is the ancient and national dog of Sweden. 

9. Neapolitan Mastiff 

This large, ancient dog breed has been bred to guard and defend family and property due to their protective instincts and fearsome appearance. Unfortunately, due to their size and several health problems, most don't live past the age of 6 or 7 years. 

8. Saluki

Salukis are also known as "Persian Greyhounds" as they were originally bred in the Fertile Crescent where civilization originated. Historically, Salukis were used for hunting by nomadic tribes. Typical prey included the gazelle, hare, fox and jackal. The name of the breed first appeared in writing in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry and may have derived from "Saluqiyyah," the Arabic form of Seleucia. Images of running dogs with long, narrow bodies adorn pottery that dates back 6,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. One writer suggested that these ancient artworks might depict the ancestor of the saluki, despite the depictions bearing erect, pointed ears.

7. Afghan Hound


The Afghan Hound is distinguished by its thick, fine, silky coat and its tail with a ring curl at the end. The breed was selectively bred for its unique features in the cold mountains of Afghanistan.

6. Chinese Shar Pei

The Shar Pei has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of modern breeds in the 19th century. The term "basal" refers to a lineage of dogs that diverges early in the history of the group ... and lies on a branch that originates near the common ancestor of the group. According to historical documents and artifacts, the Shar Pei has existed in China since ancient times, and its likeness was often used to decorate various objects, especially during the Han Dynasty. During this period, it was used as a fighting dog, and gradually became a favorite pet of Chinese emperors.

5. Shiba Inu

The Shiba inu is an ancient, basal breed native to Japan that predates the emergence of modern breeds in the 19th Century. This small, agile dog copes well with mountainous terrain. It is often mistaken with the Akita Inu and the Hokkaido, but it is a different breed with a distinct bloodline. The Japanese breed standard describes Shiba Inus: A spirited boldness, a good nature, and an unaffected forthrightness, which together yield dignity and natural beauty. 

4. Basenji

The Basenji is another ancient breed that has been identified as a basal breed. It is a breed of hunting dog that originated in central Africa. 

3. Chow Chow

Chow chows are originally from northern China, where people refer to them as Songshi Quan, which means "puffy lion-dog". Some people have proposed that the Chow Chow originated in China 2,000 years ago or originated in Arctic Asia 3,000 years ago and then migrated to Mongolia, Siberia and then to China. DNA analysis indicates that the Chow Chow is one of the world's most ancient dog breeds. 

2. Pekingese

The breed originated in China in antiquity. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Pekingese breed is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world; one of the least genetically diverged from the wolf. For centuries, they could only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace.

There is a lot of myth and legend around the origin of the Pekingese.

The first is the most common, The Lion and the Marmoset:

  • A lion and a marmoset fell in love. But the lion was too large. The lion went to the Buddha and told him of his woes. The Buddha allowed the lion to shrink down to the size of the marmoset. And the Pekingese was the result.

The second, less-common originating story is The Butterfly Lion:

  • A lion fell in love with a butterfly. But the butterfly and lion knew the difference in size was too much to overcome. Together they went to see the Buddha, who allowed their size to meet in the middle. From this, the Pekingese came.

Because the Pekingese was believed to have originated from the Buddha, he was a temple dog. As such, he was not a mere toy. He was made small so that he could go after and destroy little demons that might infest the palace or temple. But his heart was big, so that he could destroy even the largest and fiercest opponents.

1. Samoyed

The Samoyed is another basal breed that descended from the Nenets herding laika, a spitz-type dog from Siberia used for sledding, herding, guarding, and keeping their owners warm. Another interesting fact about Samoyeds is that their fur is sometimes used as an alternative to wool in knitting, and it has a texture similar to angora. Samoyed fur sweaters have been reported to handle temperatures well below freezing.

Article compiled by: Rajmani Sinclair

January 27, 2016