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11 Dog Breeds Who Were Bred for Unexpected Jobs

Written by: Arlene D.
Arlene A. Divina, a resident of the Philippines, is a devoted fur mom to two adorable dogs: a Shih Tzu and a Beagle. With a passion for animals and storytelling, Arlene has channeled her love for dogs into her career as a content writer at iHeartDogs. Her writing captures the essence of the bond between humans and their furry companions, offering insights, tips, and heartfelt stories to a wide audience of dog enthusiasts. Read more
| Published on April 19, 2024

Dogs have been man’s best companions for thousands of years, not only as pets but also as workers, performing tasks that may seem surprising or unconventional today. Many breeds were originally developed for specific jobs that may no longer be widely known or practiced, giving these dogs unique traits and abilities that are the result of their historical roles. From guardians of ancient empires to royal lap warmers, the origins of these breeds provide fascinating insights into human history and the diverse roles dogs have played in it. This article delves into eleven dog breeds that were bred for unexpected jobs, exploring how these origins have shaped their modern characteristics and how they still influence the breed today.

1. Dalmatian

Originally bred to run alongside carriages, Dalmatians are perhaps best known today for their association with fire trucks. However, their initial role was to guard the horses and coaches on long journeys and to clear a path before the carriages. Their endurance, speed, and distinctive, spotted coat made them highly visible and ideal for this role. This historical job explains their high energy levels and strong running ability, traits that require them to have plenty of exercises even in modern settings.

2. Saluki

Salukis are one of the oldest dog breeds and were once considered a royal gift in ancient Egypt, where they were used for hunting by the nobility. They were highly valued for their incredible speed and ability to chase down gazelles, the traditional quarry in the arid regions of the Middle East. Today, their grace and quiet demeanor don’t overtly showcase their hunting prowess, but they still possess the stamina and love for running that made them excellent hunters.

3. Rottweiler

Rottweilers were originally bred to drive cattle to market. Later they were used to pull carts for butchers. They were among the earliest police dogs and serve with honor in the military. Known for their intelligence and guarding capabilities, Rottweilers are powerful and loyal, characteristics that stem from their history as protectors and service dogs. This breed’s strong guarding instinct and loyalty make them excellent companions, though they require careful training and socialization.

4. Komondor

The Komondor, with its distinctive corded coat, was bred to protect sheep and other livestock. The unique coat helped them blend in with the sheep and provided protection from wolf bites. This breed’s independence and strong protective instincts make them excellent guardians even today, though their coat requires significant grooming to prevent matting and to maintain skin health.

5. Poodle

Despite their current reputation as dainty show dogs, Poodles were originally bred in Germany as water retrievers. Their curly, waterproof coats were ideal for retrieving ducks and other game from the water. The intelligence and trainability that made them excellent at this job are still notable traits of the breed and why they excel in obedience and agility sports today.

6. St. Bernard

Famous for their role as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps, St. Bernards were originally bred by monks to locate and save lost travelers. Their immense size, keen sense of smell, and unerring sense of direction equipped them for navigating through deep snow to rescue stranded individuals. These gentle giants are still known for their calm demeanor and resilience, traits that made them indispensable in mountain rescues.

7. Newfoundland

Newfoundlands were bred as working dogs for fishermen in Newfoundland. They are known for their incredible strength and swimming ability, used for pulling nets and even rescuing drowning men from the cold Atlantic waters. These gentle and intelligent dogs are still excellent swimmers and are known for their natural life-saving instincts in aquatic environments.

8. Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher was originally bred by a tax collector for protection on his rounds. Their speed, strength, and sharp intelligence made them ideal for this role, where they had to defend against thieves. Today, these traits make Dobermans excellent guard dogs and loyal family protectors.

9. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniels were specialized in flushing and retrieving game in the English countryside. Their name comes from their practice of “springing” to flush birds into the air. These dogs are still highly energetic, with an innate love for chasing and retrieving, making them excellent hunting companions and active family pets.

10. Bichon Frise

Bichon Frises were originally bred as companions for sailors, traveling with them and used as items of barter. They later became favorites of French royalty. Their cheerful disposition and hypoallergenic coat made them excellent companions on long sea voyages and still endear them to many today as charming lap dogs.

11. Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier, the largest of the terrier breeds, was originally bred to catch otters and rats in the region between the Aire and Wharfe Rivers in England. Known as the “King of Terriers,” they were later used for hunting big game in Africa, and as police dogs in Britain and Germany. Their versatility, intelligence, and robust nature make them excellent all-around working dogs.

These eleven dog breeds illustrate the wide array of roles dogs have historically filled, from guardians and hunters to rescuers and companions. Understanding these breeds’ backgrounds not only enriches our appreciation of their capabilities but also helps us provide them with a lifestyle that suits their innate characteristics and abilities. Whether serving on a farm, in a police unit, or as a beloved family pet, these breeds carry with them a legacy of utility and companionship that continues to this day.