14 Dog Breeds You've Never Heard Of (but Will Soon)

Are you familiar with the Italian Bergamasco, the patient sheepdog pictured here? Or the powerful hunting dog, the Dogo Argentino?

These are just two of the fourteen dogs who are hoping to become fully recognized by the American Kennel Club in the next few years. Before the AKC fully recognizes a breed, the dog and its parent club must go through an application stage called the Miscellaneous Class. The requirements are daunting. The parent club has to submit a detailed breed history, various photographs of the puppies and dogs, and strict breeding and judging standards. But for these devoted breed proponents, the payoff is worth the effort. Full recognition gives their dogs the opportunity to compete at the AKC dog shows and be in competition to win the coveted Best in Show prize. For now these breeds are working toward the date when the 14-member AKC Board of Directors vote to award them full recognition. You may not know these dogs today, but there's no doubt you'll be seeing their names in the coming years.

AKC Miscellaneous Class Breeds


Alice van Kempen, Animal Photography


If you're looking for a loyal sighthound with a protective streak, then the svelte, elegant Azawakh may be your match. The aloof breed hails from the Sahel region of Africa, a desert area that encompasses parts of Mali and Niger, including a region called the Azawakh Valley. There, the Azawakh protected the nomadic Touareg people and guarded their tents; he also played a role in hare, antelope and wild boar hunting. Because the Azawakh is so devoted to his people, he might bark at strangers, and he requires extensive socialization in puppyhood so he can adapt to new situations later in life. Since he has thin skin and not much body fat, the Azawakh would not do well in extremely cold or wet conditions — he'll thrive in a home with abundant exercise and a comfortable place to rest.

Belgian Laekenois dog breed

Tim Hagendoorn, Animal Photography

Belgian Laekenois

The rough-coated Belgian Laekenois is the rarest of the four Belgian herding breeds, and the only one without full AKC recognition. He's an alert, medium-sized dog with prick ears and a square body, plus a tousled coat that gives him something of a boyish charm. The Laekenois has a protective personality, and might be possessive of his favorite family members, so early socialization is key. Thanks to his impressive herding heritage, he must be taught not to chase or nip at the heels of children or other animals. Watch closely, and you might see him move in a curve instead of a straight line, like he's circling a flock — this is also a quirky feature of his herding past.


Eva-Maria Kramer, Animal Photography


The Bergamasco's stunning coat looks like it requires expensive professional grooming, but don't be fooled — her hair is much easier to care for than you think. The Bergamasco's corded or matted fur is actually a combination of three different types of dog hair — confusingly called dog hair, goat hair and wool — that weld together into mats. That long mop of hair protects her eyes from the sun and her skin from mosquito bites. Grooming this dog might seem like a daunting task, but her hair care is relatively simple. Just remember to clean her face after meals to prevent a wet wool odor, and maintain the natural oils in her coat by not using shampoo to bathe her. Appearances aside, the Italian Bergamasco is a patient sheepdog who excels at obedience, hiking and even therapy visits with hospital children or people with disabilities.

Boerboel Face Side View

Alice van Kempen, Animal Photography


Weighing in at 145 to 155 lbs., the Boerboel is one of the most athletic breeds in the mastiff category. This is a very dominant dog, so the breed is best for people who have large-dog experience. In her homeland of South Africa, the Boerboel worked as a farm dog, aggressively guarding her land, herd and human family. The breed arrived in the United States in the early 1980s. With her short wash-and-wear coat, the Boerboel requires only basic grooming. Due to her guard dog instincts, it's critical that these canines are introduced to new sights, sounds, people and situations as early and as often as possible.

Chinook Dog Breed

Electricsheep, Flickr


Bred as a versatile sled dog, the friendly Chinook is best known for his love of children. His name means "warm winter winds" in the Inuit language, and he lives up to it. He excels at mushing, hiking, sledding and skijoring, a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by dogs. The breed sports a thick, tawny-colored double coat that sheds lightly every day. He also wears drop or prick ears, but you won't be able to tell which until he's 4 to 6 months old. In 1927, a team of 16 Chinooks, including the first dog in the breed (whose name was "Chinook") accompanied Admiral Richard Byrd on his first expedition to Antarctica.

Cirneco dell'Etna dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

Cirneco dell'Etna

The rare Cirneco dell’Etna has a fascinating history: She's believed to have descended from dogs left behind by the Phoenicians along the coast of Sicily. Depictions of the breed appear on Sicilian coins minted as early as the 3rd century B.C. She's named for Sicily's Mount Etna, and silently hunted rabbits, hares and even birds in her native Italy. This dog is a spectacular jumper, so be prepared to install a high yard fence and watch what edibles you leave out on the counter — a short baby gate isn't going to keep this canine from traveling to where she wants to go. With her thin coat and bony body, the Cirneco isn't built to handle extremely cold weather; you'll also need to watch for muscle and toe injuries from running.

Dogo Argentino

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

Dogo Argentino

In 1920s Argentina, a young man named Antonio Nores Martinez dreamed up a dog who could hunt big game, control vermin and guard property in his country's diverse terrain: mountains, lake country and harsh plains. The Dogo Argentino fulfilled that dream, but wasn't officially recognized in Argentina until after Nores Martinez's death in a robbery. The breed features a huge head and a smooth white coat that sheds heavily and requires weekly brushing. This powerful dog can weigh up to 100 lbs., and has an extremely strong prey drive, so he's not a good choice for a first-time dog owner. He needs a firm leader who can provide constant training, adequate exercise and appropriate outlets for his energy.

Peruvian Inca Orchid dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

Peruvian Inca Orchid

When Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru, they stumbled across strange, hairless dogs lounging in orchid-scented homes. They named them "perros flora," Spanish for "flower dogs." Called the Peruvian Inca Orchid in English, this physically sensitive breed comes in hairless and coated varieties. The fur of the coated dogs comes in many lengths and textures, and some canines have a narrow patch of hair atop the head, not unlike a mohawk. The hairless dogs require moisturizing lotion, dog-safe sunscreen and some kind of sweater in the winter. Peruvian Inca Orchids are also emotionally sensitive, so use positive reinforcement and kind words in training.

Portuguese Podengo Pequeno  dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

Portuguese Podengo Pequeno

In his native Portugal, the three sizes of the Podengo are considered one breed. But here in the U.S., the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno — "pequeno" is Portuguese for "small" — is his own breed, separate from the medium and large sizes of the dog. The Pequeno measures 8 to 12 inches in height and 9 to 13 lbs. in weight. He's a pack dog, bred in Portugal and Spain to hunt rabbit. When trained well, the rustic little Pequeno has a friendly, positive attitude and gets along well with other dogs. He recovers quickly from fear, and his hearing and sense of smell are extremely sensitive. He succeeds in agility competitions, and will thrive in any environment, as long as he exercises every day.

Pumi on Leash

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography


The energetic Pumi is a Hungarian herding breed who loves to work. From competing in agility competitions to simply lounging on the couch, this dog is down to do whatever you want to do. The Pumi grows to between 22 and 30 lbs., and requires daily exercise, like jogging, hiking or chasing tennis balls. You can care for his beautiful corkscrewed coat at home with biweekly combing, but remember not to blow-dry his gorgeous locks — air-drying will do the trick. Pumik (plural for Pumi) are typically reserved around strangers, but warm up quickly. They get along well with children and other pets if raised with them. The breed also has a tendency to herd ducks, cats, other dogs and, if you can believe it, people.

Rat Terrier Dog Breed

Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

Rat Terrier

The all-purpose Rat Terrier can proudly claim to be made in the USA. Her popularity soared in the early twentieth century on American farms, where she hunted small game and killed rats and other vermin. She comes in miniature and standard sizes, and is a blend of Smooth Fox Terrier, Greyhound and Beagle, among other breeds. This dog is silly, fearless and vocal, and is known to be calmer than other terrier breeds. One of her famous fans was President Theodore Roosevelt. But if she's bored, a Rat Terrier can easily tear up a home as majestic as the White House. Engage this agile and athletic dog in constant games, exercise and training, and she'll learn to mind her manners.

Jack Russell Terrier

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

Russell Terrier

The feisty Russell Terrier, like many of the terrier breeds, was originally employed for vermin control. Don't be fooled by his little frame: Although he only weighs 14 to 18 lbs., his intensity for life is huge. He's an active and intelligent dog with a strong hunting instinct, so early socialization and firm, consistent training are a must. He thrives in family with an active lifestyle, and is very devoted to the people he loves. Enter him in agility and Earthdog competitions and watch this little terrier put his big energy to work. He is a distant cousin to the Jack/Parson Russel Terrier.

Sloughi dog breed

Eva-Maria Kramer, Animal Photography


The sleek Sloughi is a smart and affectionate sighthound who is built for speed. In his native North Africa, he lived with the nomadic Berber people and hunted jackals, gazelles and desert hares. His strong prey drive is still very much apparent, so make sure you're there to supervise the Sloughi around other pets. He quickly forms an unbreakable bond with his family, which makes rehoming a Sloughi very difficult. He's also fast in mind and body, so make sure your yard is secure — an underground electric fence won't stop this breed from chasing squirrels across the street.

Wirehaired Vizsla Laying in Grass

Sam Clark, Animal Photography

Wirehaired Vizsla

The history of the Wirehaired Vizsla remains somewhat mysterious, because many records of his existence didn't survive World War II. Development of the breed began in the 1920s in the Austria-Hungary region by hunters and falconers who wanted a different version of the Vizsla, the national dog of Hungary. They bred a dog with the hunting qualities of the original Vizsla, but added a heavy, dense wire coat so the dog could better withstand cold winters. Aside from coat texture, the Wirehaired breed is a bit taller and more laid-back than her Vizsla cousin. She has a high drive to please, and some call her a "Velcro dog" because of how she sticks to her person. Whether you want her to hunt waterfowl or work as a therapy dog, your wish is her command.

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