As the world’s second largest continent, Africa is home to a number of exotic and unique animal species in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. It’s no wonder tourists flock to the area specifically to partake in an African safari where they have a chance to spot the country’s amazing creatures.
Elephants, giraffes, and lions are typically the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of African animals. A species often overlooked, though, is the dog. African dogs vary enormously and have unique appearances, temperaments, and history. Some breeds have become extremely popular across the globe, while others still largely only exist in Africa.
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Looking at a Saluki, the first thing you’ll notice is how tall and slender they appear. While they are slim, Salukis are very strong, balanced, and athletic. Historians believe the breed is one of the oldest in the world, possibly dating back to 7000 b.c. Salukis were favorites of kings throughout history, and their elegant appearance is likely the reason they are still popular pets in current times. The Saluki was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1927, which marks the beginning of its rise in popularity in the U.S.
Height: 23 to 28 inches
Weight: 40 to 65 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Slim body; agile movements; deep eyes; long and narrow head; long ears covered with silky hair; smooth coat; colors include white, cream, fawn, golden, tricolor, and black and tan; long tail; females may be smaller than males
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The unique Rhodesian Ridgeback was created when breeders crossed the native ridged Khoikhoi dog with European breeds, like various Terriers, that were brought to southern Africa by Dutch colonists. These ridged dogs were found to be excellent at confronting lions, which made them extremely valuable hunting dogs. They also were proven experts at fending off dangerous animals like leopards and monkeys as well as hunting prey, like antelopes, for food. The active and loyal breed increases in popularity each year, especially in the U.S.
Height: 24 to 27 inches
Weight: 70 to 85 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Marked by a stripe of backward hair, also known as a ridge, on their back; muscular body; long, deep muzzle; short and dense coat; colors range from light to red wheaten with small white markings on their chest and toes
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African Wild Dog
Also known as the painted dog, the African wild dog is an extremely unique dog breed that typically roams the plains and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa in packs. There, they hunt antelopes, rodents, birds, and sometimes, even large wildebeests. Hunters and farmers often seek to kill African wild dogs due to their threatening behavior and potential to spread diseases. As a result, this breed of wild dogs is one of the world’s most endangered.
Height: 30 inches
Weight: 40 to 70 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large, perked, round ears; dark muzzles and ears; spotted markings with patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur; athletic and fast; long legs; each foot has four toes
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Despite the fact that this breed hails from the hot African continent, the Aidi’s coat is actually thick, dense, and soft to the touch. Their plush coat is one of the reasons why the Aidi reminds owners so much of traditional sheepdogs. The breed was originally developed in Morocco to protect its owners from predators in the mountains where they worked. Because Aidis are smart, protective, and loyal, they became popular pets. The breed is not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, but it is recognized by a number of other canine organizations and continues to prove its excellence in North Africa.
Height: 20 to 24 inches
Weight: 50 to 55 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized; thick, coarse coat of medium length; colors vary and can include black, white, red, and tawny; large, bear-like head; tapered muzzle; strong jaws; slightly droopy ears; dark eyesContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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Boerbels are often mistaken for Cane Corsos or a type of mastiff due to their large, muscular appearance and blocky head. Their looks are powerful and intimidating, but Boerbels are gentle giants who are intelligent and loyal companions who are especially great with kids. Boerbels, for those reasons, are very popular family pets. The breed came to fruition after interbreeding between European guard dogs, including bull and mastiff types, and African bloodlines. The Boerboel, translated as the “farmers dog,” was kept by farmers due to its fearless attitude and protective nature.
Height: 22 to 27 inches
Weight: 150 to 200 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large, muscular body; blocky head with a wrinkled forehead; broad muzzle; loose and fleshy upper lip; short and dense coat that comes in shades of brown, red, and fawn; may have brindle or piebald markings
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The history of the Sloughi breed remains largely a mystery, but experts can confirm that hunters especially loved hounds like the Sloughi and they were popular hunting companions among Egyptian royalty as well as nomads. They are commonly found in Morocco, where it is still used for hunting. Sloughis are also used as guard dogs because of their aloofness towards strangers. But don’t be fooled—Sloughis are often affectionate among those they know and they make wonderful pets.
Height: 26 to 29 inches (male); 24 to 27 inches (female)
Weight: 35 to 50 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Short hair; smooth coat; long, slim body; pointed nose; large, dark eyes; coat color includes all shades of cream to red; coat may have brindle or black markings around the eyes or ears
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The Basenji may have a small and compact body, but that definitely does not mean they aren’t athletic. Basenjis have an incredible amount of stamina and, thus, they have high exercise needs. They need lots of regular exercise to prevent boredom. If you can meet their exercise needs, Basenjis are wonderful, affectionate pets. A plus—Basenjis don’t bark. Instead, they make yodeling noises that are less disruptive. If that’s not enough for you, the Basenji has a long history of domestication, which proves that they make top-notch pets. The breed is depicted in ancient Egyptian artifacts, and Basenjis can also be found in ancient Babylonian and Mesopotamian art.
Height: 16 to 17 inches
Weight: 22 to 24 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small and graceful; short, fine coat; curled tail; almond-shaped eyes; smooth musculature; color includes red, black, tricolor, or brindle with white markings on their feet, chest, and tail; long stride
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You may already be familiar with the adorable Chinese Crested dog, especially if you are an avid dog show viewer. Chinese Cresteds stand out among other dog breeds because of their extremely unique look. The breed is mostly hairless with pink-ish skin. Tufts of hair typically top their heads, giving them a fun, furry hairdo. While these dogs are very small, Chinese Cresteds are very energetic and love to spend time running and walking with their owners. The exact origin of the Chinese Crested is still unknown, but experts believe they evolved from other African hairless dogs that were crossed with smaller Chinese breeds.
Height: 11 to 13 inches
Weight: 8 to 12 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Can be hairless except for the head, tail, and feet or fully coated; small and slender body; spotted pink skin with white, feathery hair; small sizeContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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Abyssinian Sand Terrier
Perhaps the most striking feature of this breed is their hairlessness. They do, however, often have hair on their heads and on the ends of their tails. Abyssinian Sand Terriers are quiet and calm, but they absolutely love exercising with their owners. This breed originated in Africa, but their entire history is still quite mysterious. A rare breed, featuring long bodies and varying skin tones, Abyssinian Sand Terriers are fearless, loyal, and eager to please their owners.
Height: 15.5 to 20.5 inches
Weight: 21 to 39 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Colors include black, gray, bronze, sand; skin can have mottled markings; hairless except for tufts of hair on head and tail; bat-like ears; long muzzle; sleek body
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Upon hearing the words “African dog,” a dog with the appearance of the Coton de Tulear is likely the last one that comes to mind. Short, squat, and oh-so-fluffy, the Coton de Tulear is a happy companion dog who loves being around their owners and amusing them with their silly antics or fun tricks. The breed was once the preferred lapdog of the nobles of Madagascar, an island nation off the coast of Africa. These nobles wanted to keep the adorable breed for themselves, and thus the Coton de Tulear was isolated from the rest of the world for centuries. In the 1960s, French tourists discovered the breed and brought it to Europe, where it was an instant hit. The breed was registered by the American Kennel Club in 2014.
Height: 9 to 11 inches
Weight: 8 to 15 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Fluffy white coat; sturdy and small body; rounded eyes; triangular head; lively and inquisitive expression