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10 Ancient Dog Breeds Still Alive Today

Updated on December 7, 2015
Chantelle Porter profile image

Chantelle has been an animal lover her entire life and is now in a committed relationship with a 4 year old Toy Poodle, Izze.

Pekingese

Pekingese Puppy
Pekingese Puppy | Source

"When the Man waked up he said, 'What is Wild Dog doing here?' And the Woman said, 'His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.'"

— Rudyard Kipling

Pekingese

A member of the Toy Group, the Pekingese is longer than it is tall and can weigh up to 14 pounds. Originating in a cold climate, they have a thick, long coat that comes in handy during the winter but must be brushed at least weekly. They come in 10 different colors including black, biscuit and red.

Well-mannered, affectionate and intelligent, the Pekingese is a wonderful companion. Though an independent-minded dog, they are easily trained. Despite being small, they are playful and enjoy vigorous exercise.

The Pekingese is one of the healthiest breeds recognized by the AKC. Because of their short faces, breathing can be a problem so look for a puppy with wide nostrils. Because of their thick coat, take care to ensure they don't overheat and travel with ice packs or ice pillows.

The introduction of Buddhism in China coincided with the development of the Pekingese, bred to resemble the lions much revered in Buddhist myths. The Han Dynasty (168 - 189 C.E.) conferred nobility status on their Pekingese. The Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 C. E.) began breeding a tinier dog, just six pounds, that they could carry in their sleeves (known as "Sleeve Dogs"). Pekingese were introduced into the US in the late 1800s and are now the 80th most popular dog breed.


Shar Pei puppies
Shar Pei puppies | Source

Shar Pei

Ranging from 18 - 22 inches at the shoulder, and weighing 40 - 65 pounds, the Shar Pei has deep wrinkles on its face, neck and at the base of the tail. The breed has a compact body, small ears and a curled tail. Their coat is solid and comes in over 18 colors. As with the Chow, they have a blue-black tongue.

The Shar Pei is loving, loyal and affectionate to its family but can be suspicious of strangers. Bred to be a guard dog, it can become aggressive if not properly trained. They are a quiet breed that can be stubborn.

The Shar Pei suffers from a number of health problems including allergic skin problems, Familia Shar Pei Fever, entropion (which can lead to blindness), chronic yeast infection in its ears and Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Lifespan is short at 10 years.

The breed originated in the Guangdong province of China. Pictures of Shar Pei have been found on pottery dating back to 206 B.C.E. The loose skin and prickly coat were developed to help the dogs fend off wild boar when hunting and later as an advantage in dog fighting.

In 1973 the dogs numbers dwindled and 200 were smuggled into the US from China. The AKC recognized the breed in 1992 and it is currently the 57th most popular breed in the US.

Afghan Hound
Afghan Hound | Source

Afghan Hound

Standing up to 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 50 pounds, the Afghan Hound is a sight hunter whose body is built for speed and endurance. His long silky coat comes in a wide variety of colors and combinations including black, tan and cream and requires weekly grooming.

Aloof and independent, the Afghan Hound is not a particularly affectionate breed. Devoted and attached to his family, he is wary of strangers. This breed requires vigorous exercise and are good jumpers. A six foot fence for your yard is a must.

The Afghan Hound has an average lifespan of 12 - 14 years. Though a relatively healthy breed, common ailments include canine hip dysplasia, tail injuries, reactions to barbituates during anesthesia, cataracts and necrotic myelopathy (a paralysis of the spine).

The Afghan Hound is one of the most ancient dog breeds dating back thousands of years. The breed originated in Afghanistan where its original name was the Tazi. It has long been thought that breed dates back to the pre-Christian era.

Originally used for hunting in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, the breed was able to run fast and far, courageously holding its prey, such as leopards, at bay. Their ability to think and hunt independently made them a very valuable asset.

The Afghan Hound first arrived in England in 1925 and then made its way to the US. Zappo Marx of the Marx Brothers fame was one of the first to bring the breed to the US. The AKC recognized the breed in 1926. By the late 70's the breed's popularity soared when Barbie had a pet Afghan Hound named Beauty. Currently, the breed is 95th in popularity in the US..

Basenji
Basenji | Source

Basenji

Standing up to 18 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 24 pounds, the Basenji is a small athletic dog with short hair, erect ears and a curled tail. Though they come in a variety of colors, red, black tricolor and brindle, they all have white feet, chests and tail tips. The Basenji is probably best known for the fact that it cannot bark but yodels. This is a high energy breed requiring a lot of exercise.

Though intelligent and curious, the Basenji is notoriously difficult to train. Reserved with strangers, they will ordinarily become attached to only one person. They are also known for their dislike of cats.

The average lifespan of the Basenji is 14 years. They can develop liver problems when exposed to household and environmental chemicals. They can also suffer from blindness, hypothyroidism, anemia and Fanconi Syndrome, an inherited kidney disorder.

Originating in Africa, Basenjis have been found on the walls of tombs of ancient Pharoahs. Used as hunting dogs, they would locate prey and drive them into nets. Europeans first described seeing Basenjis in the Congo in 1895 who valued them for their courage, speed, intelligence and silence.

Basenjis were first successfully imported into England in the 1930's and shortly thereafter into the US. The AKC recognized them as an official breed in 1943. Currently, they are the 84th most popular dog breed in the US.

Akita Inu
Akita Inu | Source

Akita

The Akita is a large dog, reaching up to 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 145 pounds. It has a short double coat similar to the Siberian Husky yet comes in a variety of colors. The breed is powerful, dominant and independent, aloof with strangers but loving with family members.

Akitas are a territorial breed and do not get along with other dogs of the same sex. As a large, powerful dominant dog initially used to hunt bear, they are not a good choice for first time dog owner. Though a loving family member, they will need a confident and consistent owner and should not be taken to off-leash dog parks.

Akitas are a generally healthy dog but can suffer from a wide variety of autoimmune diseases (lupus, hemolytic anemia) as well as Cushing's Syndrome, diabetes, hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia. They live, on average, years 10 - 12 years.

The Akita dates back to the 17th century and originated in the mountainous northern regions of Japan where it was originally used to hunt bear, wild boar and deer. In the early 20th century the breed was crossed with Mastiffs and Great Danes to supply the growing dog fighting industry.

Declared a Japanese National Monument in 1931, the first Akitas were brought to the United States by Helen Keller in 1937. Many US soldiers, having fallen in love with the Akita, brought them back to the US following WWII.

The AKC recognized the Akita as an official breed in 1972. Though the Akita is the 45th most popular dog breed in the US, they are still revered in Japan where the breed differs slightly from its American counterpart.

The Canaan
The Canaan | Source

The Canaan

The National Dog of Israel, the Canaan Dog, reaches a height of 24 inches at the shoulder and weighs up to 55 pounds. It has a flat, harsh, double coat that comes in black and all shades of brown. It is a square, medium sized dog that was bred for herding animals.

The Canaan Dog is highly territorial and serves well as a guard dog. Alert and vigilant, they are aloof with strangers but a loving and loyal companion. They are also know for their loud and persistent barking. Though vigilant, they are good with children and are not aggressive. Canaan's are intelligent and easy to train.

Considered one of the healthiest breeds, they can suffer from hypothyroidism, epilepsy, hip dysplasia and luxating patella.

The Canaan Dog dates back to ancient times and lived in the region that now encompasses modern-day Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. The oldest remains of Canaan's have been found in the caves of Einan and HaYonim and date back 10,000 years.

The breed remained unchanged until 1934 when Dr. Rudolphina Menzel was asked by the Haganah to start a breeding program that would provide dogs for the military. In 1949 she attempted to train the dogs to serve as guides for the blind but found they were too independent and small.

Menzel sent four dogs to the US in 1965 and the Canaan Dog Club was created that same year. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1997 and it is now the 177th most popular breed in the US.

Irish Wolfhound
Irish Wolfhound | Source

Irish Wolfhound

A galloping hound, the Irish Wolfhound reaches a minimum of 32 inches tall and a minimum of 120 pounds. Bred to hunt wolves, not look like them, they have a rough coat and are very muscular, with a gallop much like the Greyhound. The tallest of all AKC breeds (even taller than a Great Dane) they come in a variety of colors including grey, brindle, red, black, white, fawn, wheaten and steel grey.

Irish Wolfhounds are an easygoing breed, and despite being bred to hunt wolves, are gentle, courageous but not aggressive. He becomes extremely attached to to his family and can become destructive if left alone. He is a dog that is relatively easy to train.

The Irish Wolfhound has an average lifespan of 7 years. Cardiomyopathy and bone cancer are the leading causes of death. Bloat is also common.

It is believed that the Irish Wolfhound dates back to Ireland 7000 B.C.E. They are mentioned in Irish literature dating from 500 C.E. Mention is made of their presence at the sack of Delphi in 279 B.C.E and by Julius Caesar in 391 C.E.

Officially recognized by the AKC in 1897 the Irish Wolfhound is the 70th most popular breed in the US.

Chow Chow
Chow Chow | Source

Chow Chow

Standing up to 20 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 70 pounds, the Chow Chow is a robust dog. It has a double coat that is thick and coarse and comes in red, cinnamon, black, cream and blue. The Chow's most distinctive feature is its blue-black tongue.

As Chow's don't require excessive exercise, they are suited to apartment life. A loyal and fierce friend, they can become overprotective with strangers. They are considered by some insurance companies to be high-risk dogs.

With an average lifespan of 9 - 15 years, Chows suffer from a number of medical maladies including entropion, cataracts, hip dysplasia, diabetes, and gastric cancer. they are also at high-risk for autoimmune diseases.

Chows originated in the high steppe regions of Siberia and Mongolia. Much later (150 B.C.E.) they were used as temple guards in China, Mongolia and Tibet. Some historians believe the Chow accompanied Mongol armies as they invaded China, Europe and the Middle East in the 13th century.

Recognized by the AKC in 1903, the Chow Chow is the 65th most popular dog breed in the US.


Did You Know?

Spiked dog collars were created in ancient Greece to protect a dogs throat from wolf attacks.

Saluki
Saluki | Source

Saluki

The Saluki was bred to serve as a sighthound. With a lean, long legged, muscular body and deep chest, they chased their prey, gazelles, until exhaustion set in and, if necessary, pinned or killed it. They weigh between 40 - 60 pounds and are between 21 - 28 inches tall at the shoulder. Their silky coat comes in a variety of colors including white, cream, fawn, red, black and tan and white, and black and tan.

The modern Saluki is aloof, independent, gentle and affectionate. Despite their intelligence they can be difficult to train as they bore easily. These dogs are sensitive and should be socialized early to prevent shyness. Due to their hunting instincts, they like to chase moving objects and have been known to reach a speed of 42 miles per hour.

Salukis have an average lifespan of 12 - 14 years with the primary and secondary cause of death being cancer and cardiac problems, respectively. Despite their propensity to run, hip dysplasia is rarely a problem for this breed.

Salukis are thought to be one of the oldest dog breeds in existence. The origin of the name Saluki is unknown, however, some linguists believe it may originate from the Arabic word saluq, an adjective meaning place. There are four places that are considered to be Saluq : Yemen, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

The Saluki's presence has been documented all along the Silk Road. Petroglyphs in Central Iran show Saluki-type dogs chasing prey (10,000 - 8,000 B.C.E.). Excavations of the Sumerian empire (7000 - 6000 B.C.E.) show Saluki-like dogs. Saluki-like dogs have also appeared in Egyptian tombs dated 2100 B.C.E.

Troops returning from the Crusades first brought the Saluki to Europe in the 12th century though the Saluki did not arrive in England until 1840. However, the first modern breeding line of Salukis did not occur until 1895.

Salukis were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1929. It's popularity in the US has remained stable with the breed ranked 128th in popularity.


Shih Tzu puppy
Shih Tzu puppy | Source

Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu, a friendly, lively, devoted companion dog, can reach up to 10 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 16 pounds. With long flowing fur in 16 colors daily brushing is a necessity. The Shih Tzu is also referred as the "Chrysanthemum Dog" due to the way its fur grows out and around its muzzle with a cute button nose in the middle.

The outgoing Shih Tzu begs to be loved and won't take no for an answer. A very adaptable breed, comfortable in the country as well as the city, he does well with kids and other animals. With an outgoing nature, he makes friends of strangers wherever he goes.

Shih Tzus are generally healthy dogs, however, their short nose can make breathing difficult during hot humid weather with the potential for heatstroke an issue. HIs bulging eyes are susceptible to infections, entropion and cataracts. His long back predisposes him to disc disease. Despite all this the Shih Tzus' lifespan averages 10 - 16 years.

One of the 14 oldest dog breeds, Shih Tzu bones have been discovered in China that date back to 8000 B.C.E.. A treasured companion from the earliest times. paintings, art and writing document the Shih Tzu from 618 to 994 C.E. China.

In the mid-1800s, the Shih Tzu became a favorite of the Imperial Court in China. Anyone caught torturing a palace dog was sentenced to death. Palace dogs were trained to sit up and wave their paws whenever the Empress entered the room.

The first Shih Tzus were imported to the West in 1928. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1969 and today it is the 17th most popular dog breed in the US.

Breed
Year First Noted
Region of Origin
Saluki
8,000 - 10,000 B.C.E.
Central Iran
Pekingese
200 C.E.
China
Akita
1600s C.E.
Japan
Basenji
3000 B.C.E.
Africa
Shar Pei
206 B.C.E.
China
Irish Wolfhound
7000 B.C.E.
Ireland
Canaan Dog
10,000 B.C.E.
Middle East
Shih Tzu
8000 B.C.E.
China
Afghan Hound
1500 B.C.E.
Afghanistan
Chow Chow
150 B.C.E
Mongolia

Which ancient breed is your favorite?

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Sources: American Kennel Club, Dog Breed Info

© 2015 Chantelle Porter

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    • Chantelle Porter profile image
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      Chantelle Porter 20 months ago from Chicago

      They really are a wonderful animal.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 20 months ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      A very interesting article. This information really shows how dogs have been best friends to numerous generations of humans from many areas around the world.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image
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      Chantelle Porter 22 months ago from Chicago

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 22 months ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Interesting article! Thanks.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image
      Author

      Chantelle Porter 24 months ago from Chicago

      Thank you for stopping by!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 24 months ago from Washington KS

      I really enjoyed reading about each breed. I love all dogs. Thanks for sharing this info.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image
      Author

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

      I absolutely love Shar Peis and my husband is an Akita admirer. The Canaan is a new one for me. I enjoyed reading the history of each dog. Thanks!

    • Chantelle Porter profile image
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      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      They are aren't they? I love the color of their tongues, too.

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      Kevin Goodwin 2 years ago

      I love chow chows they are like big teddy bears.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image
      Author

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 2 years ago from State of Confussion

      This looks like a site to pass on to my daughter. Thanks.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image
      Author

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      I have a hard time deciding which is my favorite but I think I'd go with the Irish Wolfhound.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      All these ancient breeds are so intriguing! My favorite one is the Akita.