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The 10 Oldest Known Living Dog Breeds

Written by: Ejay Camposano
A college graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Ejay has a diverse background that combines technical expertise with a passion for pets and is now one of the content writers at IHD. Read more
| Published on May 30, 2024

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, and throughout history, various breeds have emerged, each with unique characteristics and purposes. Some breeds, however, have ancient origins that date back thousands of years, offering a fascinating glimpse into the early domestication of dogs and their roles in human societies. These ancient breeds have withstood the test of time, maintaining their distinct traits and characteristics. This article explores the ten oldest known living dog breeds, delving into their rich histories and unique qualities. From well-known breeds to some lesser-known gems, these dogs provide a living connection to our distant past.

10. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are an ancient breed with roots tracing over 1,000 years to the Tibetan Plateau. Initially bred by Tibetan monks and favored by Chinese royalty, Shih Tzus were cherished as companion dogs. Their name means “Lion Dog” in Mandarin, reflecting their regal appearance and demeanor. These small, sturdy dogs have long, flowing coats and a friendly, affectionate nature. Shih Tzus are known for their loyalty and companionship, often forming strong bonds with their families. Despite their royal lineage, they are adaptable and thrive in various living environments, making them popular pets today.


9. Basenji

The Basenji, often called the “barkless dog,” is one of the oldest dog breeds, with roots in central Africa dating back over 5,000 years. Ancient Egyptians depicted Basenjis in their artwork, highlighting their significance in early human civilizations. Known for their unique yodel-like sound called a “baroo,” Basenjis are intelligent, independent, and energetic. They have a sleek, muscular build and a short, fine coat. Basenjis are excellent hunters, known for their keen sense of smell and sight. Their independent nature can be challenging for first-time dog owners, but they are loyal and affectionate with proper training and socialization.

8. Akita Inu

The Akita Inu, originating from the mountainous regions of northern Japan, is an ancient breed with a history of over a thousand years. Initially bred for hunting large game such as bears and boars, Akitas are known for their strength, courage, and loyalty. The breed gained international fame thanks to Hachiko, an Akita remembered for his unwavering loyalty to his owner. Akitas have a thick double coat, erect ears, and a curled tail, giving them a distinctive appearance. They are intelligent and protective, making them excellent guard dogs. However, their independent nature requires consistent training and socialization.

7. Samoyed

Samoyeds are among the oldest and most iconic Arctic breeds, dating back over 3,000 years. Originating from Siberia, Samoyeds were bred by the Samoyede people to herd reindeer, pull sleds, and keep their owners warm at night. These dogs are known for their thick, white double coats, which provide insulation against harsh climates. Samoyeds have a friendly, gentle disposition and are known for their “Sammy smile,” a characteristic upturned mouth that prevents drooling and icicles from forming. Their friendly and social nature makes them excellent family pets, but their thick coat requires regular grooming.

6. Afghan Hound

The Afghan Hound is an ancient breed that dates back thousands of years to the mountains of Afghanistan. Known for their elegance and grace, Afghan Hounds have a distinctive appearance with long, flowing coats and a regal bearing. These dogs were initially bred to hunt large game in harsh terrains, and their speed and agility made them exceptional hunters. Afghan Hounds are independent and aloof with strangers but loyal and affectionate with their families. Their long coats require regular grooming to prevent matting, but their striking beauty and unique personality make them a captivating breed.


5. Saluki

The Saluki, often called the “Royal Dog of Egypt,” is one of the oldest dog breeds, with a history of over 4,000 years. Ancient Egyptians prized Salukis for their speed, endurance, and hunting prowess. These elegant, slender dogs have a smooth or feathered coat and a distinctive, aristocratic appearance. Salukis are known for their independent and reserved nature but are gentle and affectionate with their families. Their incredible speed and agility make them excellent in coursing and lure racing. Salukis require regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

4. Chow Chow

The Chow Chow is an ancient breed that originated in northern China over 2,000 years ago. Known for their distinctive blue-black tongues and lion-like mane, Chow Chows have a unique and striking appearance. These dogs were historically used for hunting, guarding, and pulling sleds. Chow Chows are known for their independent and aloof nature, often described as cat-like. They are loyal and protective of their families but can be wary of strangers. Their thick double coat requires regular grooming, but their dignified and majestic presence makes them a fascinating breed.

3. Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamutes are one of the oldest Arctic sled dog breeds, with a history that dates back over 4,000 years. Originally bred by the Inuit people for hauling heavy loads and hunting large game, Malamutes are known for their strength, endurance, and resilience. These large, powerful dogs have a thick double coat, erect ears, and a plume-like tail that curls over their back. Malamutes are friendly, social, and loyal, making them excellent family pets. However, their high energy levels and strong-willed nature require consistent training and ample exercise. Their thick coat also requires regular grooming to keep it in good condition.

2. Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed with a history of over 2,000 years, originating in the Himalayan mountains. These massive dogs were bred by nomadic cultures of Tibet, Nepal, and India to protect livestock from predators such as wolves and leopards. Tibetan Mastiffs are known for their impressive size, thick double coats, and strong, protective instincts. They are independent and can be aloof with strangers but intensely loyal to their families. Tibetan Mastiffs require consistent training and socialization from an early age. Their thick coat needs regular grooming, but their imposing presence and protective nature make them excellent guard dogs.

1. Siberian Husky

The Siberian Husky is an ancient breed that dates back over 4,000 years to the Chukchi people of Siberia. These dogs were bred for sledding and are known for their endurance, strength, and ability to work in harsh conditions. Siberian Huskies are friendly, energetic, and social dogs that enjoy being part of a pack. They are playful and mischievous, often exhibiting a strong prey drive. Huskies require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Their thick double coat requires regular grooming to manage shedding.

These ten ancient dog breeds offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of human-canine relationships. Each breed has unique characteristics and traits preserved through millennia, providing a living connection to our distant past. Whether you’re drawn to their rich histories, striking appearances, or distinct personalities, these breeds represent the enduring bond between humans and dogs.