15 Rare Dog Breeds You Should Know

Otterhound looking over fence
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There are hundreds of dog breeds out there, some more common than others. Have you ever seen a dog that looked so unfamiliar that you just had to know what breed it was? Here are some of the rarest, most unique dog breeds around. They're not for everyone, but one just might be right for you.

If you decide the time is right to get a new dog, be sure to take time to do your research so you choose the right kind of dog. Then, get your new dog from a reputable breeder, rescue group, or animal shelter.

  • 01 of 16

    Canaan Dog

    Canaan dog, lying down
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    The Canaan dog is a medium-sized dog breed and member of the AKC Herding Group. The breed originated in ancient Israel, where they were working dogs that herded livestock and guarded property. This smart, vigilant, and athletic dog is well suited to dog sports and other activities that engage the body and mind.

    The Canaan dog is known to be territorial at times and often wary of strangers. This breed is confident, independent, and cautious, so training and socialization are absolutely essential to provide structure and discipline. Though Canaans aren't right for everyone, the breed can make a steadfast, hard-working companion for the right household.

  • 02 of 16

    Catahoula Leopard Dog

    Catahoula Leopard Dog, red merle, lying
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    The Catahoula Leopard dog is a medium-large breed that originated in the state of Louisiana. The word "catahoula" roughly translates to "sacred lake" in the Choctaw language. This multi-purpose working dog is not yet a recognized breed by the AKC, but a member of the Foundation Stock Service.

    The Catahoula Leopard dog is a serious worker with a gleefully playful side that comes out when not working. This is a high-energy dog breed with a stubborn streak and therefore needs careful training, socialization, and a lot of exercise to keep from becoming unruly. The Catahoula is naturally protective of family and reserved around strangers. The breed is deeply loyal to family members and can make an excellent companion for active, structured households.

  • 03 of 16

    Cesky Terrier

    Cesky Terrier, lying down
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    The Cesky Terrier is a small dog originating from Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic. The breed bears a resemblance to its ancestors, the Scottish Terrier and the Sealyham Terrier. However, the Cesky is a superior hunter and tends to be more mellow than many other terriers.

    Ceskys are playful, laid-back, and moderately energetic. This makes them good matches for many types of households. They are alert and protective, but not overly defensive. They tend to get along well with children and are very receptive to training. However, their rarity makes it hard to find one of your own. If you are lucky enough to have your own Cesky Terrier, you will be quite a happy family!

  • 04 of 16


    A brown and white Drever dog with a white stripe down the center of its face standing with its head tilted to the side
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    Also known as the Swedish Dachsbracke, the Drever is a medium scent hound that originated in Sweden. The Drever's short legs and long body enabled it to hunt deer in rough terrain. However, the breed is adept at hunting all types of game.

    The Drever is an even-tempered, playful, and loyal dog that typically fits well in most households, including those with children. The breed requires a fair amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy. The Drever is responsive to training and generally adaptable to all types of environments.

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  • 05 of 16

    Finnish Spitz

    Finnish Spitz dog, standing, side view
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    The Finnish Spitz is a small to medium fox-like dog that hails from Finland. Originally bred to hunt birds and other game, the breed used its unique voice to alert hunters to prey (usually tree birds). In fact, owners of these dogs in Finland even hold barking contests for their dogs! Today, the Finnish Spitz still hunts in some cases, but it's also a loving companion.

    The Finnish Spitz is an amiable and energetic dog that thrives in active households. The breed needs plenty of exercise each day and is generally playful. The beautifully dense, golden red coat adds to the breeds fox-like appearance and does not require intense effort to maintain. The Finnish Spitz is agreeable and generally receptive to training.

  • 06 of 16

    Kai Ken

    Kai dog (Kai Ken, Tiger Dog), on all fours, side view
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    The Kai Ken is native to Japan, and was once used to hunt a variety of game. The breed is quite rare, even in Japan. This medium-sized dog is known for a brindle coat that acts like camouflage when hunting.

    The Kai Ken is an intelligent, athletic, and driven dog with an independent spirit. The breed will bond closely with family members, but may be aloof towards strangers. Despite their love for hunting, they can also make excellent house pets, provided they get daily exercise. Early training and socialization will help your Kai Ken grow up to be well-adjusted.

  • 07 of 16


    A Komondor with a thick heavy white or cream corded coat, sitting on its haunches with an open mouth
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    The Komondor is a large dog with a corded coat that gives it a "mop-like" appearance. Weighing roughly 80 to 100-plus pounds, this dog breed is powerful and brave. ​The Komondor originated in Hungary, where it once guarded sheep. This dog's bravery and agility enabled it to run off the fiercest of predators. Its "dreadlocked" coat protected it from attacks and harsh weather. Plus, the white coat allowed the dog to blend in with the sheep it was protecting.

    The Komondor is certainly not low-maintenance and therefore not the right dog for everyone. This dog breed is protective and independent, even stubborn at times. Firm, careful training is necessary to provide guidance and structure. The Komondor's coat requires careful attention to maintain the locks and keep it clean and odorless. These dogs need a fair amount of exercise, but not an extreme amount. They are loyal to family, yet reserved around strangers.

  • 08 of 16


    A Lowchen dog with grayish-brown hair on the front of its body, shaved hind quarters, and decorative tufts on its legs and tail
    Tracy Morgan / Getty Images

    The Löwchen is a little dog with a big personality. Outgoing, affectionate, and portable, it's surprising they aren't more common. The exact history of the breed is not known, but they seem to be of European descent. Likely ancestors include the Maltese and the Bichon Frise.

    The Löwchen has a hair coat that continuously grows, meaning it sheds very little or not at all. Routine brushing will maintain the coat in between groomer visits for hair trims. This is an energetic, outgoing dog that will do well in all kinds of homes, but thrives in one that is active.

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  • 09 of 16

    Norwegian Lundehund

    Norwegian Lundehund panting, sitting, isolated on white
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    The Norwegian Lundehund is a small to medium spitz-type dog that was developed to hunt puffins on a remote island off the Norwegian coast. This agile dog was able to navigate rocky cliffs and catch the birds. Their sharp hunting abilities allowed islanders to survive cold winters by providing them with food to eat.

    The Lundehund is loyal and sensitive, forming a close bond with its family. Training is essential, but should be gentle. This breed responds quite well to positive reinforcement training. Daily routine exercise and basic grooming will keep your Lundehund happy and healthy. This breed can thrive in many kinds of households provided the dog gets plenty of attention and playtime.

  • 10 of 16


    Otter Hound, lying down
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    The Otterhound is a big, lovable hound 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 make wonderful companions for many types of active families. The breed can be boisterous and excitable, but it is also sensitive and affectionate. Otterhounds respond very well to positive reinforcement. This breed needs regular exercise and grooming, but not an excessive amount of either.

  • 11 of 16

    Pharaoh Hound

    Pharaoh Hound
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    The Pharaoh Hound is an agile hound that originated in ancient Egypt as hunters. In Malta, the breed was used to pursue small game. This dog has a long, streamlined body similar to sighthounds like the Greyhound.

    Pharaoh Hounds are noble, athletic, friendly, and energetic. They do best in an active household with plenty of structure. This breed is independent and reserved around strangers, but loyal and trusting of family. Training and socialization are essential to keep this dog healthy and happy. Grooming needs are minimal but exercise needs are high.

  • 12 of 16


    WilleeCole / Getty Images

    The Puli is another Hungarian breed with memorable "dreadlocks" like the Komondor. This medium-sized breed is a herding dog once used to herd sheep in Hungary. The Puli is active and surprisingly agile underneath all that coat.

    The Puli is a loyal companion that enjoys home life and family. Training and socialization provide structure help the Puli feel comfortable in new situations. The breed needs a moderate amount of exercise each day. Coat care is the most time-intensive part of living with a Puli. If you are willing and able to take on the dog's grooming needs, the Puli can make an excellent companion.

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  • 13 of 16


    GlobalP / Getty Images

    The Schipperke is an intelligent, active and curious dog that has been nicknamed by some a "little black devil." The breed's name means "little captain" in Flemish and is technically pronounced "SHEEP-er-ker." However, the English pronunciation is usually "SKIP-er-kee." They are fox-like and small in size but, like many smaller dogs, large in personality.

    This breed can be described as fearless and devoted, but at the same time stubborn and mischievous. Despite its small size, the Schipperke makes an excellent watchdog. The breed is also known to excel at a variety of dog sports. If you are looking for a little dog with the energy and curiosity of a puppy, then the Schipperke might be the one for you.

  • 14 of 16

    Swedish Vallhund

    Swedish Vallhund
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    The Swedish Vallhund is a short-legged, long-bodied dog breed of ancient Viking descent. They were once working farm dogs and rugged cattle dogs and are now in the AKC Herding Group. This is a sturdy, medium-sized dog that is energetic and friendly.

    Vallhunds cam make excellent companions for a variety of active homes. They are eager to please and therefore do very well with training. Grooming needs are basic — regular brushing is needed. These are high-energy dogs that need plenty of exercise.

  • 15 of 16


    Mexican Hairless Dog (Xoloitzcuintli), side view
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    The Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced show-low-eetz-queent-lee) is an ancient Aztec dog that comes as a hairless or coated type. Hairless dogs have thick, smooth, tight skin and need special skin care (like lotion and sunscreen). The coated variety has a short, flat hair coat. The Xolo has three size categories: toy, miniature, and standard.

    The Xolo is graceful, loyal, and even-tempered. This is an energetic breed that needs a fair amount of exercise. The Xoloitzcuintli is receptive to training and can adapt to life in most households. If you have the hairless Xolo, you are sure to get plenty of attention as you walk about the neighborhood!

  • 16 of 16

    Mixed Breed Dogs

    Three sitting mongrel Dogs (Canis familiaris), front view.
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    While technically not a rare dog breed, the amazing mutt might be considered even better. While there are thousands of mixed-breed dogs out there, each is one-of-a-kind and designed by nature. The lineage of many mutts is completely unknown, though genetic testing might offer some information about a dog's ancestry.

    You can find a mutt in virtually any size, shape, energy level, and personality you desire. Plus, the lack of inbreeding and human manipulation means that some mixed-breed dogs are healthier and live longer lives than some purebred dogs. Adopting a mixed-breed dog also helps reduce pet overpopulation. You can visit local rescue groups and animal shelters to find your next mixed-breed companion.