Stories behind every dog breed that originated in America
Thousands of years ago, ancestors of the modern gray wolf inhabited Europe, crossing the Bering Strait into America around the same time that early humans made the journey. These ancient wolves are thought to be the common primogenitor to all American dog breeds. There is evidence that several Native American tribes domesticated these wild animals, possibly after the two groups learned they could share a mutually beneficial relationship: The wolves could get an easy meal while the natives gained protectors, hunting companions, and pack animals. Many of these Native American dog breeds are now extinct, but they certainly played a huge role in the development of modern home-grown breeds.
Another major influence on modern American dog breeds were the pets and working dogs brought over by early explorers and colonists. For centuries, dogs had been bred for work and sport in places like Britain, France, and Spain. When early settlers brought these canines over they bred with existing American dogs, creating entirely new animals that could be bred for specialized purposes and further domesticated.
Stacker compiled a list of 55 dog breeds that originated in the United States, using various sources such as the American Kennel Club and Vet Street, which were last updated in 2019. Researching the dogs’ histories we’ve identified when the breeds first existed, when they were first documented, and when they were first recognized by the AKC or United Kennel Club (if applicable). The dogs have been listed in alphabetical order, from the Alapaha blue blood bulldog to the white shepherd. A handful of the dogs on our list have long been extinct, like the Hare Indian dog and the Hawaiian poi dog, while a few remain incredibly popular with modern families, like the puggle and the Cocker spaniel. A few, like the Australian shepherd, may even have origin stories that surprise you.
So whether you’re a canine lover or simply appreciate all things home-grown, read on to discover the origin stories of every American dog breed.
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Alapaha blue-blood bulldog
While it is thought that the Alapaha blue-blood bulldog has been driving cattle and guarding homesteads in the Southern United States for some 200 years, there is no official documentation of the breed from before 1979. Experts agree that the aloof, self-assured pups probably descended from various crosses between a variety of types of bulldogs brought to the country by some of the earliest settlers.
Alaskan klee kai
“Klee kai” is an Eskimo term that means “little dog,” a fitting name for these miniature huskies. The companion-sized pooches were originally bred by Linda Spurlin and family in the 1970s, only becoming available to other owners in 1988. While the breed is not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, it is becoming an increasingly popular family dog.
Among the oldest sled dogs of the Arctic, Alaskan Malamutes are thought to be descendants of Paleolithic hunters’ domesticated wolf-dogs. First recognized by the AKC in 1935, the breed has been making themselves useful pulling heavy loads over long distances and locating seal breathing holes for some 4,000 years. Gentle and great with kids, Alaskan Malamutes make a great addition to any family.
First recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1999, American bulldogs have been a mainstay of American farms for hundreds of years. These tough dogs earned their keep doing tasks like driving cattle to market and catching bulls for castration, and are often employed as working dogs today.
According to the United Kennel Club, the American bully was first developed as a natural extension to the American pit bull terrier over 100 years ago. In appearance, the breed closely mirrors their American pit bull terrier relatives, although the influence of other genetic relatives like the American bulldog, English bulldog, and Olde English bulldogge can be seen as well. The American bully was officially recognized by the UKC in 2013.
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American cocker spaniel
Known in America simply as a cocker spaniel, this beloved breed is known nearly everywhere else as the American cocker spaniel in order to distinguish it from its close cousin the English cocker spaniel. Spaniels, a breed used to hunt game, were first mentioned as early as 1300 and were imported to America sometime in the mid-1800s. American breeders concentrated on giving life to smaller, solid-color pups instead of the leggier, spotty version preferred by the British.
American English coonhound
American by birth and English by ancestry, American English coonhounds were devised by early American settlers to trail and tree raccoons. The pups were derived from English foxhounds (another breed known for their hunting and trailing skills) sometime in the early 1880s. The athletic dogs thrive best under the care of experienced dog owners and are thought, by some experts, to be the fastest of the coonhound breeds.
American foxhounds are almost as old as the country itself, with founding families like the Washingtons, Jeffersons, and Lees playing a key role in the breed’s development. These formerly English families brought over the hunting dogs pre-Revolution in order to continue their beloved tradition of foxhunts. Over the years, refinements were made to the breed, and by the time of the Civil War, American foxhounds were a completely distinct breed from their English cousins.
American hairless terrier
American hairless terriers are the only hairless breed indigenous to the United States. The dogs are a naturally occurring offshoot of a rat terrier, a feisty breed named for its ability to exterminate disease-riddled rats. Rat terriers were first brought to the United States in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1970 that the first hairless pup was born (to coated parents) in Louisiana and it wasn’t until 1983 that a pair of hairless siblings were born and the breeding could begin in earnest.
American leopard hound
While American Leopard Hounds are among the oldest of the tree dog breeds in America, very little is definitively known about their origins. It is thought that their predecessors were brought to America by Spanish conquistadors and then were bred either with dogs native to Mexico or with a variety of other transplant breeds. Still, by the 18th century, the breed was well established in North Carolina and began to spread throughout the Southern United States, popular as both a hunting and family dog.
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