24 Rare Dog Breeds You’ve Never Heard of Before

Canines come in all shapes, colors and sizes (truly), but we tend to run into the same breeds over and over. This list covers many rare dog breeds that are either hard to find outside of their native homelands or have spent decades making comebacks from population decline. Either way, get ready to meet some adorable breeds—and read some intriguing backstories.

The Best Low-Maintenance Dogs for People with Super-Hectic Lives

rare dog breeds azawakh
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1. Azawakh

Average Height: 26 inches
Average Weight: 44 pounds
Temperament: Affectionate, dedicated
Origins: West Africa

These dogs know how to run, hunt and then run some more (Azawakhs are lean and aerodynamic like greyhounds). They’re old souls who have lived among the Tuareg nomads in the Azawakh valley for thousands of years, according to the American Kennel Club.

rare dog breeds bedlington terrier
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2. Bedlington Terrier

Average Height: 16 inches
Average Weight: 20 pounds
Temperament: Lively
Origins: Northumberland, England

Bedlington Terriers are lively, cuddly dogs originally bred in English mining towns for hard labor. Today, they make delightful family dogs who rarely shed and enjoy learning new commands. Plus, that coat! Puppies are often compared to baby lambs which is...too cute to handle.

rare dog breeds biewer terrier
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3. Biewer Terrier

Average Height: 9 inches
Average Weight: 6 pounds
Temperament: Calm, friendly
Origins: Hunsruck, Germany

These toy pups were officially recognized by the AKC just recently, on January 4, 2021! Pronounced “beaver,” the Biewer terrier originated in the 1980s when Gertrude and Werner Biewer, who bred Yorkshire terriers, produced a puppy with unique black, tan and white coloring. This coloring is the result of a rare, recessive gene called the piebald gene. The world quickly fell in love with these little sweethearts.

rare dog breeds catahoula leopard
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4. Catahoula Leopard Dog

Average Height: 23 inches
Average Weight: 70 pounds
Temperament: Territorial, loyal
Origins: Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

An absolutely stunning canine, the spotted Catahoula leopard dog enjoys a hard day’s work. This breed requires lots of activity and early training. They’re also not great with strangers but are super loyal when it comes to protecting their own family members.

rare dog breeds cesky terrier
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5. Cesky Terrier

Average Height: 11.5 inches
Average Weight: 19 pounds
Temperament: Playful, mellow
Origins: Czech Republic

Sometimes called the Czech terrier, the Cesky (pronounced “chess-key”) is a charming dog who lives for family time and playing games. Bred to sniff out and chase vermin, this dog is ready and willing to frolic with pals. Socializing them early is wise, since they tend to distrust new people.

rare dog breeds chinook
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6. Chinook

Average Height: 24 inches
Average Weight: 70 pounds
Temperament: Energetic, sweet
Origins: Wonalancet, New Hampshire

Chinooks were originally bred as sled dogs and have been known to accompany explorers on expeditions in Alaska and Antarctica. Today, it is one of the rarest breeds out there. They make excellent family pets because they are adaptable, patient and eager to please.

rare dog breeds dandie dinmont terrier
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7. Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Average Height: 10 inches
Average Weight: 21 pounds
Temperament: Independent
Origins: Scotland

As the only AKC breed named after a fictional character, the Dandie Dinmont terrier lives up to its namesake. They are smart, proud dogs who see themselves as larger than life.

rare dog breeds english foxhound
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8. English Foxhound

Average Height: 24 inches
Average Weight: 70 pounds
Temperament: Social
Origins: England

Typically, English foxhounds are kept as hunters in packs. It’s rare to see one living as the only family pet—especially in the States. Though they are super friendly and fancy snuggling, they have been bred for lively fox hunts and cannot get it out of their systems. So, if you adopt one, make sure you provide them with plenty of exercise and social activities.

rare dog breeds estrela mountain dog
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9. Estrela Mountain Dog

Average Height: 26 inches
Average Weight: 100 pounds
Temperament: Friendly, fearless
Origins: Portugal

Talk about a big, cuddly family dog! Estrela Mountain dogs see themselves as family members and won’t have it any other way, according to the breeders at Misty Mountain Estrelas. Due to their strong desire to guard their homestead, training early on is necessary to ensure they don’t become aggressive adults. Though their population took a dip in the early 1900s, they are making a comeback today.

rare dog breeds finnish spitz
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10. Finnish Spitz

Average Height: 18 inches
Average Weight: 26 pounds
Temperament: Happy
Origins: Finland

Thought to be going extinct in the late 1800s, Finnish Spitz pups are much more popular in the 21st century. In case you couldn’t tell from their jovial presence and smiling faces, they love people and aren’t afraid to shout it from the rooftops (they do bark a lot). Don’t be afraid to take your Finnish Spitz on an adventure—they love new activities.

rare dog breeds hovawart
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11. Hovawart

Average Height: 25 inches
Average Weight: 77 pounds
Temperament: Loyal, intelligent
Origins: Germany

Hovawart literally means farm watchman in German, according to the Hovawart Club of North America. These silky soft, regal creatures are excellent family pets because of their protective and affectionate nature. On top of that, their intelligence makes them ideal therapy and search-and-rescue dogs.

rare dog breeds kai ken
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12. Kai Ken

Average Height: 18 inches
Average Weight: 30 pounds
Temperament: Smart, Active
Origins: Japan

Also called the Tiger Dog for its gorgeous brindle coloring, Kai Kens are hard to find even in Japan where they were originally bred. They first arrived in the United States in the 1960s and have seen a large resurgence in the past decade. Kai Kens need plenty of exercise and stimuli before they’ll be ready to settle down at the end of the day.

rare dog breeds lagotto romagnolo
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13. Lagotto Romagnolo

Average Height: 17 inches
Average Weight: 29 pounds
Temperament: Adaptable, Alert
Origins: Italy

Do not mistake the easy-going Lagotto Romagnolo for a goldendoodle! Though similar in demeanor, this curly-coated Italian breed might prefer work to play. Bred to sniff out truffles in Italy, the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America says they’re happiest when exercising both brains and brawn.

rare dog breeds mudi
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14. Mudi

Average Height: 17 inches
Average Weight: 24 pounds
Temperament: Intelligent
Origins: Hungary

Contrary to its name, the Mudi (pronounced “moody”) is an even-keeled, intelligent breed. Their pointy ears and wavy coats make them easy on the eyes, and their ability to learn commands and love their people make them great family pets.

rare dog breed norwegian lundehund
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15. Norwegian Lundehund

Average Height: 13 inches
Average Weight: 25 pounds
Temperament: Lively
Origins: Vaeroy, Norway

Originally a puffin hunter, the Norwegian Lundehund is a smally, spry breed who loves any type of outdoor activity. They’ve got tons of energy and are ready and willing to learn commands. Fun fact: they have six fully functioning toes on each foot and are incredibly flexible.

rare dog breeds otterhound
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16. Otterhound

Average Height: 25 inches
Average Weight: 97 pounds
Temperament: Active, stubborn
Origins: England

Back in medieval England, these pups worked as—you guessed it—otter hunters! Today, they are lively, rowdy dogs who enjoy swimming and playing with family members. The otterhound Club of America says there are only about 800 otterhounds in the world, so consider yourself lucky if you ever get to meet one of these impish giants.

rare dog breeds peruvian inca
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17. Peruvian Inca Orchid

Average Height: 12 inches (small), 18 inches (medium), 23 inches (large)
Average Weight: 13 pounds (small), 22 pounds (medium), 40 pounds (large)
Temperament: Affectionate, alert
Origins: Peru

Sure, a Peruvian Inca Orchid sounds more like a plant than a canine, but these are in fact delightful dogs who come in three different sizes. Like Azawakhs, they’re old souls, having been around since about 750 A.D., and are known for their lack of fur or hair. To make them happy, give them lots of exercise and don’t force them to meet too many new people in one day.

rare dog breed pyrenese shepherd
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18. Pyrenean Shepherd

Average Height: 18 inches
Average Weight: 23 pounds
Temperament: Excited, friendly
Origins: Pyrenees

It’s almost like these dogs always have tricks up their sleeves. They love playing games, running around and generally being in on the action. Pyrenean shepherds come in two varieties: smooth-faced with shorter fur around the nose and rough-faced with longer, tougher fur.

rare dog breeds sloughi
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19. Sloughi

Average Height: 27 inches
Average Weight: 58 pounds
Temperament: Shy, gentle
Origins: North Africa

Similar to greyhounds, Sloughis are reserved around strangers and can be sensitive to harsh training. Be kind and gentle with them and they’ll be kind and gentle in return. Bred as hunters in North Africa, these dogs need lots of exercise, but only one or two close friends (aka, an owner they’ve known since a very young age).

rare dog breeds stabyhoun
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20. Stabyhoun

Average Height: 20 inches
Average Weight: 50 pounds
Temperament: Independent, curious
Origins: Friesland, The Netherlands

Another breed with the piebald gene! These curious canines aren’t afraid to dig, explore and wander off to discover some new spot to play in. Their independent streaks can often lead them to mischief, but at the end of the day they are affectionate dogs who enjoy companionship.

rare dog breeds swedish vallhund
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21. Swedish Vallhund

Average Height: 13 inches
Average Weight: 28 pounds
Temperament: Cheerful
Origins: Sweden

These small but mighty canines used to happily herd cattle for Vikings in Scandinavia, so toss them into any situation and they’re bound to have fun with it. Similar to corgis, Swedish Vallhunds are friendly and energetic pups who just want to please everyone.

rare dog breeds telomian
Mariomassone at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0

22. Telomian

Temperament: Protective, sweet
Origins: Malaysia

The only breed on our list not recognized by the American Kennel Club is the Telomian. It’s one of the rarest breeds in the world, found only among the Orang Asli, the indigenous people of Malaysia, until the 1960s when they were brought to America. According to Dr. Michelle Burch and SafeHounds, Telomians are true members of the family, participating in protecting the home and gathering food.

rare dog breeds thai ridgeback
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23. Thai Ridgeback

Average Height: 22 inches
Average Weight: 55 pounds
Temperament: Smart, loyal
Origins: Thailand

It’s rare to find a Thai ridgeback outside of Thailand these days. As strong, intelligent canines, they make excellent watchdogs and hunters. Training isn’t easy due to their independent nature, but once commands are engrained, these pups always follow through. The Association of Thai Ridgeback Owners and Fanciers says the dog’s name comes from a ridge of hair on its back that grows in the opposite direction of the rest of the fur!

rare dog breeds xoloitzcuintli Images

24. Xoloitzcuintli

Average Height: 12 inches (toy), 16 inches (miniature), 20 inches (standard)
Average Weight: 12 pounds (toy), 22 pounds (miniature), 42 pounds (standard)
Temperament: Calm
Origins: Mexico

We challenge you to find a more unique looking dog. It cannot be done! The Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced "show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee,” as stated on the AKC website) is a hairless sweetheart who has been around for thousands of years. The Aztec people loved these dogs, and it’s easy to see why. They are calm, loyal animals with a healthy dose of curiosity.

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Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...