10 Best Rare and Unique Dog Breeds

Otterhound looking over fence

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Have you ever seen a dog that looked so unfamiliar you just had to know what it was? Besides inherently unique mixed-breed dogs, certain dog breeds aren't often seen as pets. Some of these dogs are fairly high-maintenance, so people tended to shy away from them for easier breeds. And others simply never took off in popularity despite being excellent dogs. These rare dog breeds range widely in appearance and temperament. And some even have traits that are infrequently seen in most dogs.

If you're looking for an atypical pet, here are 10 of the rarest dog breeds.

Tip

It can be difficult to find rare dog breeds at typical animal shelters. Besides reputable breeders, look for breed-specific rescue groups that specialize in these dogs.

  • 01 of 10

    Canaan Dog

    Canaan dog lying down

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    Originating in ancient Israel, Canaan dogs herded livestock and guarded property. These smart, vigilant, and athletic dogs are well suited to dog sports and other activities that engage the body and mind. However, they can be territorial and wary of strangers, so positive-reinforcement training and socialization are essential to provide structure and discipline.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 24 inches

    Weight: 35 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: medium-length double coat in white, black or brown, with or without patches

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 02 of 10

    Cesky Terrier

    Cesky terrier lying down

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    Cesky terriers originated in Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic. Ceskys tend to be playful and moderately energetic, which makes them good matches for many types of households. They are alert and protective but not overly defensive. Plus, they often get along well with children and are receptive to training.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Terrier

    Height: 10 to 13 inches

    Weight: 14 to 24 pounds

    Coat and Color: long and silky; gray coat with furnishings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 03 of 10

    Komondor

    Komondor with a heavy white coat

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    The komondor is a large dog with a protective corded coat that gives it a mop-like appearance. Originating in Hungary, where it once guarded sheep, this breed is powerful and brave. However, it can be defensive, independent, and even stubborn at times. Consistent training is necessary to provide guidance and structure.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working Group

    Height: 26 to 28 inches

    Weight: 80 pounds and up

    Coat and Color: White corded coat; white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 10

    Lowchen

    A lowchen dog with grayish-brown hair

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    Outgoing and affectionate, it's surprising that lowchens aren't more common. The history of the breed isn't clear, but the dog seems to be of European descent. Likely ancestors include the Maltese and Bichon Frise. The lowchen has a hair coat that constantly grows, meaning it sheds very little but needs brushing and trims for maintenance.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-Sporting

    Height: 11 to 13 inches

    Weight: 10 to 15 pounds

    Coat and Color: long, flowing mane; colors include black, blue, chocolate, fawn, and more

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Norwegian Lundehund

    Norwegian lundehund sitting

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    The Norwegian lundehund was developed to hunt puffins on a remote island off the Norwegian coast. This agile dog was able to navigate rocky cliffs thanks to its highly flexible limbs and extra toes. The lundehund is loyal and sensitive, forming a close bond with its family. It responds well to positive-reinforcement training.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-Sporting

    Height: 12 to 15 inches

    Weight: 20 to 30 pounds

    Coat and Color: dense double coat; colors include black, gray, reddish brown, white, and more

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 06 of 10

    Otterhound

    Otterhound lying down

    Tracy Morgan / Getty Images

    The otterhound is a big, lovable dog that was once used to hunt otters in medieval England. With webbed feet and a waterproof coat, this breed is an ideal swimmer. Otterhounds can be boisterous and excitable, making them good for active families, but training is essential to keep them manageable. They need regular exercise and grooming but not an excessive amount of either.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound

    Height: 24 to 27 inches

    Weight: 80 to 115 pounds

    Coat and Color: rough double coat; colors include black, black and tan, blue and cream, gray, and more

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

  • 07 of 10

    Pharaoh Hound

    Pharaoh hound lying down

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    The pharaoh hound is an agile dog that originated in ancient Egypt. These dogs tend to be athletic, independent, and energetic. They do best in an active household with plenty of structure. They can be reserved around strangers but loyal and trusting of family. Grooming needs are minimal, but exercise needs are high.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound

    Height: 21 to 25 inches

    Weight: 45 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: short, glossy coat; colors include chestnut, red golden, and tan

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 08 of 10

    Puli

    black puli sitting

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    The puli is a Hungarian breed with memorable dreadlocks like the komondor. As a herding dog, the puli is surprisingly agile underneath all that coat. The breed tends to be a loyal companion that needs a moderate amount of exercise. Keeping its coat neat and clean is the most time-consuming part of having a puli.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding

    Height: 16 to 17 inches

    Weight: 25 to 35 pounds

    Coat and Color: naturally corded coat; colors include black, silver, and white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Swedish Vallhund

    Swedish vallhund lying down and smiling

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    The Swedish vallhund is a short-legged, long-bodied dog breed of ancient Viking descent. As a sturdy herding breed, these dogs are energetic, friendly, and good for active homes. They tend to be eager to please and do well with training. Regular brushing and bathing are the typical grooming requirements for this breed.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding

    Height: 12 to 14 inches

    Weight: 20 to 35 pounds

    Coat and Color: medium length and harsh, with a close, tight topcoat and soft, dense undercoat; a sable pattern in various shades of gray through red, and combinations of these colors

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 10 of 10

    Xoloitzcuintli

    Mexican hairless dog (Xoloitzcuintli)

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    The Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican hairless dog, is an ancient Aztec breed that comes in hairless and coated varieties. The hairless dogs have thick, smooth skin that needs sun protection. Xolos tend to be graceful, loyal, and even-tempered. They require a fair amount of exercise but are receptive to training and can adapt to life in most households.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-Sporting

    Height: 10 to 23 inches

    Weight: 10 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: hairless or short coat; colors include black, gray, brindle, fawn, and more

    Life Expectancy: 14 to 17 years